Frustrated at the growing gang violence in Haiti, UN peacekeepers
decided to try the gangbusters approach. So for the last two months, the
peacekeeping troops have gone after the gangs, in particular the gang leaders.
The gangsters responded by finding new hideouts. But the most damaging response
by the criminals was to find journalists, and tell the reporters what they
wanted to hear. Since the gangsters operate out of the densely populated slums
of the capital, peacekeeper visits are accompanied by a great deal of gunfire,
and dead civilians. The gangsters told the reporters that the UN was
deliberately aiming at civilians, in an attempt to terrorize the civilians who
supported the criminals (who, in their own eyes, were legitimate freedom
fighters against the foreign occupiers.) The gangs thoughtfully produced some
dead women and children for the reporters to examine. One question reporters
were reluctant to get answers for was, who actually killed the civilians?
Rumors were already in the air that the dead civilians were conveniently shot
by gangsters, to provide the media with some compelling images for
the evening news back home.
the last three years. the criminal gangs of Haiti have become less political,
and more just criminal and mercenary. Former president Arsitide, forced out of
office three years ago, because of his use of gangs as political enforcers,
went into exile, and a $100 million is missing from the government treasury.
The gangs make economic growth impossible, and play a major role in keeping
everyone poor. It's believed that at least 20,000 police are needed to regain
control of the streets from the gangs, but only 7,000 cops are available. The
UN also has 1,750 foreign police available, who are limited by their limited
language and cultural skills. The 7,300 UN peacekeepers really can't police,
and are instead used for general security and raids on major gang operations.
It would take 3-4 years to recruit and train 20,000 police. Even then, given
Haiti's two century history, there's no assurance that this large police force
would not be as corrupt as in the past. The biggest problem in Haiti is that no
one has any new ideas that seem likely to break the cycle of corruption, poor
government and poverty that has cursed the country since its founding.
street growing violence is largely a result of the government strategy of
initially trying to negotiate with the gangs. Warlords and private armies are
an old Haitian tradition. Your armed followers were the core of your political,
and economic strength. Many Haitians feel comfortable aligning themselves with
a gang, and dying in defense of their crew. The government doesn't want to take
on the gangs with force, if only because the gangs have more firepower. Even
with the UN peacekeepers, the gangs, as a whole, still have an edge. Although
the gangs are divided by politics, business interests, and personal
animosities, they will form a loose coalition to oppose any government attempt
to put all gangs out of business. But the UN is determined to give it a try, go
after the gangs, and break their power. The UN is trying to beat two centuries
of Haitian history and tradition. Can the gangs really be reduced to impotence?
The UN has given the peacekeeping force another eight months to work at it. But
the gangs can go underground for eight months. The UN is mostly concerned about
the more blatant crimes, like the 2,000 or so kidnappings in the last year, and
the groups of young me roaming the city looking for people-of-means to mug. The
real money for the gangs comes from drugs. Some fifteen percent of the cocaine
for North American goes through Haiti. Of course, much of the profits from that
ends up with corrupt government officials. But the gangs know they cannot
survive a firefight with the better armed and trained peacekeepers, but they
can wait them out. Eventually the UN will get tired of it all, leave, and the
gangs will still be there.