Cycles of Despair

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The gang warfare that has claimed more than 230 lives in Haiti recently has also threatened to cut off energy imports vital to transportation and electricity generation. As Agence France-Presse reported, the black market in gasoline in the Caribbean nation has become massive while gas stations go dry and gangs rule the streets.

Hospitals are working at half capacity as they conserve fuel and wait for medicine shipments. The World Food Program warned of a hunger crisis as a result of the troubles and disruptions to supply chains bringing basic goods to the country.

The United Nations Security Council threatened to impose sanctions on gangs and human rights abusers in the country, added Al Jazeera. A New Yorker magazine writer described a Haitian friend’s experience in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets: “She is accustomed to nightly rounds of gunfire from rival gangs but one night last February she woke up and found a bullet on the floor of her bedroom.”

These developments are the latest tribulations for a country that, as the New York Times recently reported, has suffered a long history of colonization, slavery, exploitation, poverty and, unsurprisingly given all of those factors, political instability. Even so, the country is proud of its legacy stemming from the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) – possibly the most successful slave insurrection in human history.

But the violence and associated economic collapse in Haiti today specifically stem from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in early July last year. After his death, rival gangs began fighting for control of neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

The investigation into Moïse’s death hasn’t inspired confidence in the Haitian justice system either. Haitian authorities have arrested more than 40 people, including top police officers and former Colombian soldiers, the Associated Press explained. At least two were extradited to the US to face charges connected to the killing. But investigators still haven’t identified or arrested everyone involved in the killing or explained why Moise’s elite security detail failed to protect him.

Street violence hasn’t made the job easier. In fact, many Haitians might end up receiving more justice in US courts, where investigations into the assassination are proceeding at a faster pace than those in the Caribbean nation, noted Voice of America.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is serving as acting president, has yet to call elections so that voters can elect someone to replace Moïse. The government didn’t hold parliamentary elections in 2019 as it was supposed to. Then Moïse shuttered parliament in early 2020 and ruled by decree until his assassination. Now the vacuum is real and widening, feeding the cycle of despair.

Stopping it will be hard. Putting the country back together again will be even harder.

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