The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Population Caught Between Two Fires, Gangs and the Police

Jun 3, 2024

This article is translated from the May issue, #314 of La Voix des Travailleurs (Workers Voice), the paper of Organisation des Travailleurs Revolutionaires (Organization of Revolutionary Workers), a Trotskyist group active in Haiti.

With the new wave of insecurity provoked by the coalition of armed gangs, the population of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. On a daily basis, they are subjected to violence and aggression of all kinds by gangs, but also fall victim to bullets fired by the police, who are supposed to come and protect them.

In neighborhoods where gangs reign and live, local residents are generally forbidden to move on pain of execution, because in reality they are used as human shields by the bandits in their clashes with police forces or rival armed gangs.

Moreover, when the police arrive in a neighborhood to settle scores with bandits, local residents, siding with the police, want to see the bandits fall victim to police fire. But this is not always the case, as local residents are often the victims of police intervention.

Residents of Bon Repos, Croix-des-Bouquets, Bas Delmas, etc., often express their anger at this situation. “When they come to Mariani, we sometimes see more civilians than bandits on the ground. The presence of the bandits is a threat to us, but so are the exchanges of fire with the police,” says a local resident in annoyance. “Bullets kill, no matter whose hand is holding the weapon. And we’re in the middle,” says a Bon Repos shopkeeper.

Last month, after the murder of a policeman by local gangs, special police units were quick to come and avenge their brother-in-arms. They were still firing in all directions more than two hours after the execution of the policeman. The bandits who had perpetrated the act having already fled, passers-by and local residents fell victim to police bullets. In addition to the corpses of civilians on the ground, one man was shot while sitting in his home in Centre-Ville. “People can’t even stay in their homes anymore, even though they (the police) know exactly where to go to find the bandits,” says one of his relatives, deeply affected by the bereavement.

In his public statements, the spokesman for the “Viv ansanm” gang coalition, Jimmy Chérizier, aka Barbecue, has made no secret of the fact that the poor in the neighborhoods are the main victims of his movement. He couldn’t care less and said without hesitation that it doesn’t bother him at all. The PNH (Haitian National Police) spokesman never says that. Quite the contrary, in fact. But every time the forces of law and order intervene, the result is the same: it is local residents who fall victim to their murderous bullets. In the eyes of the inhabitants of these lost territories, the police are bandits in uniform. And they’re not wrong!