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Haiti reopens airport after months of gang violence. Where are the gangs now?

May 21

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Haiti’s main international airport in Port-au-Prince reopened Monday, May 20, three months after being forced to close due to escalating gang violence. Haitian gangs grew more powerful and independent since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Previously, the gangs relied on financial support from Haiti’s corrupt political and business elites, particularly during election times. Gangs used financial backing to influence votes to maintain power.

In recent years, however, these gangs funded their activities through kidnappings, extortion and drug trafficking, making them less dependent on political partners. According to the U.S. Justice Department, some groups acquired more sophisticated weapons and adopted a more militaristic stance. The gangs focused on national ambitions instead of typical turf wars. Gunfights became prominent in the streets.

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Tensions escalated in March after gangs stormed prisons, freeing thousands of inmates and prompting a mass exodus of tens of thousands of Haitian citizens.

Several groups then took control of the capital city and demanded the resignation of then-Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who ultimately stepped down. A transitional council with nine members now governs the country, with Henry’s former finance minister serving as interim prime minister. However, gangs continue to cause chaos.

In response, Kenya prepared to lead an international task force, approved by the U.N. Security Council, to deploy a police presence to help the transitional council restore stability.

“A bilateral reciprocal agreement was entered into between Kenya and Haiti which facilitates Kenya to be able to deploy, and we are in the process or government is in the process of finalizing preparation to deploy,” said Korir Singoei, the principal secretary of foreign affairs for Kenya. “I can tell you for sure that that deployment will happen in the next few days, few weeks.”

The militia-like gangs’ growing influence deepened Haiti’s political instability, complicating efforts to stabilize the country. Neighboring Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader announced Sunday, May 19, a government crackdown along its shared border, promising to finish a border wall.

Abinader, now in his second term, deported more than 250,000 migrants in 2023.

U.S. airlines JetBlue and American expect to resume flights to Port-au-Prince by early June.

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[KARAH RUCKER]

HAITI’S MAIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN PORT-AU-PRINCE HAS REOPENED THREE MONTHS AFTER BEING FORCED TO CLOSE DUE TO ESCALATING GANG VIOLENCE.

HAITIAN GANGS HAVE GROWN MORE POWERFUL AND INDEPENDENT SINCE THE 2021 ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOVENEL MOÏSE. PREVIOUSLY — THEY RELIED ON FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM HAITI’S CORRUPT POLITICAL AND BUSINESS ELITES — PARTICULARLY DURING ELECTION TIME. THE FINANCIAL BACKING WAS USED TO INFLUENCE VOTES TO MAINTAIN POWER.

HOWEVER IN RECENT YEARS THESE GANGS FUND THEIR ACTIVITIES THROUGH KIDNAPPINGS, EXTORTION, AND DRUG TRAFFICKING MAKING THEM LESS DEPENDENT ON THEIR POLITICAL PARTNERS.

ACCORDING TO THE US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT — SOME GROUPS HAVE ACQUIRED MORE SOPHISTICATED WEAPONS WHILE ADOPTING A MORE MILITARISTIC STANCE – FOCUSING ON  NATIONAL AMBITIONS AS OPPOSED TO TYPICAL TURF WARS. GUN FIGHTS HAVE BECOME PROMINENT IN THE STREETS.

TENSIONS ESCALATED IN MARCH AFTER GANGS STORMED PRISONS, FREEING THOUSANDS OF INMATES PROMPTING A MASS EXODUS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF HAITIAN CITIZENS.

SEVERAL GROUPS THEN TOOK CONTROL OF THE CAPITAL CITY AND DEMANDED THE RESIGNATION OF THEN-PRIME MINISTER ARIEL HENRY, WHO ULTIMATELY GAVE INTO THE GROUPS’ DEMAND..

A TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL WITH NINE MEMBERS NOW GOVERNS THE COUNTRY —  WITH HENRY’S FORMER FINANCE MINISTER SERVING AS INTERIM PRIME MINISTER. BUT GANGS ARE STILL BRINGING CHAOS.

IN RESPONSE, KENYA HAS BEEN PREPARING TO LEAD AN INTERNATIONAL TASK FORCE, APPROVED BY THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL, TO DEPLOY A POLICE PRESENCE  IN AN EFFORT TO HELP THE TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL RESTORE STABILITY.

[KORIR SINGOEI]

“A bilateral reciprocal agreement was entered into between Kenya and Haiti which facilitates Kenya to be able to deploy, and we are in the process or government is in the process of finalizing preparation to deploy. I can tell you for sure that that deployment will happen in the next few days, few weeks.”

[KARAH RUCKER]

THE MILITIA-LIKE GANG’S GROWING INFLUENCE HAS DEEPENED HAITI’S POLITICAL INSTABILITY, COMPLICATING EFFORTS TO STABILIZE THE COUNTRY. NEIGHBORING DOMINICAN REPUBLIC PRESIDENT LUIS ABINADER ANNOUNCED SUNDAY A GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ALONG ITS SHARED BORDER PROMISING TO FINISH A BORDER WALL.

ABINADER – NOW IN HIS SECOND TERM – DEPORTED MORE THAN 250-THOUSAND MIGRANTS IN 2023.

US AIRLINES JETBLUE AND AMERICAN ARE EXPECTED TO RESUME FLIGHTS TO PORT-AU-PRINCE BY EARLY JUNE.

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FOR STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS I’M KARAH RUCKER.