The US Is the Haiti of Tomorrow

The US Is the Haiti of Tomorrow 

3 March 2024

Haiti violence: Gangs free 4,000 inmates in mass jailbreak

Armed gangs have stormed the main prison in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, releasing many inmates. 

The vast majority of about 4,000 men held there have now escaped, a local journalist told BBC News.

Among those were gang members charged in connection with the 2021 killing of President Jovenel Moïse.

Violence in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, has worsened in recent years. Gangs aiming to oust PM Ariel Henry control 80% of Port-au-Prince.

The latest upsurge in violence began on Thursday, when the prime minister travelled to Nairobi to discuss sending a Kenyan-led multinational security force to Haiti.

Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier (nicknamed “Barbecue”) declared a co-ordinated attack to remove him.

“All of us, the armed groups in the provincial towns and the armed groups in the capital, are united,” said the former police officer, who is thought to be behind several massacres in Port-au-Prince.

Kenyan police to tackle Haiti gang violence

Haitian capital taken hostage by brutal gangs

Haitians flee surging gang violence in capital

A wave of shootings left four police officers dead and five injured. The French embassy in Haiti advised against travel in and around the capital.

Haiti’s police union asked the military to help reinforce the prison, but the compound was stormed late on Saturday.

On Sunday the doors of the prison were still open and there were no signs of officers, Reuters news agency reported. Three inmates who tried to flee lay dead in the courtyard, the report said.

One volunteer prison worker told the Reuters journalists that 99 prisoners – including former Colombian soldiers jailed over President Moïse’s murder – had chosen to remain in their cells for fear of being killed in crossfire. 

Haiti Crisis: Can Kenya Succeed Where Others Failed?

Violence has been rife since President Moïse’s assassination. He has not been replaced and elections have not been held since 2016.

Under a political deal, elections were to be held and the unelected Mr Henry was due to stand down by 7 February, but that did not happen.

In January, the UN said more than 8,400 people were victims of Haiti’s gang violence last year, including killings, injuries and kidnappings – more than double the numbers seen in 2022. 

Memphis mayor meets with gang leaders to request ceasefire in effort to curb city’s gun violence

Mayor describes talking to gang leaders in effort to curb crime

A record-breaking 398 people fell victim to homicides in Memphis last year – a noticeable jump from the 190 reported five years ago. And with more than 600 major violent crimes so far in 2024, including at least 40 homicides, Tennessee’s second-most populous city is off to another turbulent start.

The Justice Department underscored these worrying trends recently when it said violent crime in Memphis had reached a 17-year high.

In an effort to curb criminality, Memphis Mayor Paul Young, who took office in January with a focus on public safety, recently met with some of the city’s highest-ranking gang leaders in Memphis and crafted a ceasefire between the groups for seven days.

“My ask for them in that conversation was, ‘Can we get a seven-day ceasefire? Just seven days where there’s no shooting, no killing?’” the mayor said during a youth development panel discussion, CNN affiliate WMC-TV reported. “And they said, ‘Yeah, we would be willing to do that,’ and they gave me a couple of caveats.”

Some of the requested terms included assurances their rival gangs would agree to the ceasefire, as well as help getting well-paying jobs and the training needed to access them, WMC-TV reported.

Only 1% on path toward a living wage

Young told CNN Saturday that what he described as an endemic issue of car break-ins in Memphis has stemmed in part from a lack of job opportunities for gang members. Those break-ins are part of more than 3,500 major property crimes reported in January, according to the Memphis Police Department.

“What they said was … ‘Our young guys just need something to do; they steal cars because it’s fun, because there’s a lack of activities in their communities,’” Young said. “They need ways to earn income.”

More than 45,000 out-of-school and out-of-work young adults ages 16 to 24 live in the greater Memphis area, nearly half of whom live in poverty, according to Memphis nonprofit The Collective Blueprint.

The group says by the time those young adults turn 28, only 1% of them will be on the path toward a living wage.

During the recent panel discussion, Young cited a study that aligns with his hopes for Memphis’s at-risk youth, including young gang members.

The Chicago-based study found violent crime arrests among young adults who received job or internship opportunities went down by 45% over the first year.

When asked if he was able to achieve a seven-day ceasefire, Young said the city did not observe any shootings from the gang groups whose leaders attended the initial meeting.

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