THE Haitian RC Bishops’ Conference has expressed alarm at the increasing gang violence and “general deterioration” of the situation in the country.
A war between Haitian gangs has left hundreds dead since it was reignited early last month. On Wednesday of last week, the violence spread to the capital, Port-au-Prince. Several people died (numbers are yet to be confirmed) when gang members opened fire on one another and on the police in the streets. The temporary Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption was severely damaged by an arson attack during the clashes.
The Bishops said in a statement last Friday: “Gangs kidnap, destroy, kill, burn, and then challenge the established powers, who seem totally overwhelmed by what is happening.”
The United Nations estimates that more than 200 people were killed in Haiti between 8 and 17 July. It is one of the poorest nations in the world, and has been struggling with a collapsing economy, political instability, and rising insecurity, exacerbated since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year (News, 16 July 2021).
The Haitian bishops called for border controls to reduce the illegal trafficking of firearms, small weapons, and ammunition, used by criminal gangs, as well as effective prosecution of the perpetrators.
“We ask ourselves: why does the State not act to restrain criminal activities with the necessary rigour within the rule of law, so criminals can do no harm? Is it impossible to neutralize the sources that supply arms and ammunition to groups and individuals, or do untouchable people benefit from them?”
The bishops continued: “The time has come to wake up from our torpor, to say with all our strength: no to insecurity! No to kidnappings! No to the legalization of the activity of armed gangs! No to any project of annihilation of the state!”