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ILLICIT ACTIVITIES OF HAITIAN GANGS

Steven Cortez, SOUTHCOM Team

Week of Monday, December 6, 2021


Haiti’s Borders[1]


Haiti is experiencing the repercussions of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in July 2021 and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August 2021.[2] After the president’s assassination, there has been a rise in kidnappings, violent crimes, and obstruction of fuel access by gangs operating in the country.[3] Approximately 40 percent of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, is controlled by a coalition of gangs known as the G9 Alliance.[4] The illicit activities of Haitian gangs continue to negatively impact Haitian society and prevent humanitarian aid from reaching those affected by the earthquake.[5] Both events have likely been causes of the increase in gang activity in the country. The recent surge of gang violence highlights the need for the Haitian government and nearby countries such as the US to address the ongoing security threat. Incidents involving gang activity will likely continue to affect Haitians and foreign nationals.


After the earthquake in August 2021, Haitian gangs looted numerous aid shipments, giving them control over the flow of humanitarian aid into the country.[6] As foreign aid continues to arrive in Haiti, this will likely remain an issue. Haitian security forces and aid workers likely lack training and equipment to protect resources from looters. Haitian gangs can very likely target aid workers with impunity because of the lack of police presence in the country. This type of illicit activity almost certainly prevents humanitarian aid from reaching individuals impacted by the earthquake. Haitians will almost certainly feel the depletion of humanitarian aid through limited access to water, food, and medical resources that have been taken by Haitian gangs. Criminal groups will very likely continue to use this as a source of income to finance operations.


In recent months, Haitian authorities have arrested multiple US citizens transporting small arms from the US into Haiti’s capital.[7] This almost certainly suggests gang violence is escalating as the flow of weapons is likely consistent with the rise in violence across the country. The Haitian weapons market is likely rapidly expanding, likely leading to a devolving situation that poses a risk to Haitians and the international organizations operating in the country. Criminal groups operating in the Caribbean region will likely start assisting Haitian gangs in arms trafficking, which would almost certainly put Haitian security forces at a disadvantage. Gangs that can secure agreements with foreign criminal actors will likely begin to take greater control and successfully counter Haitian security forces seeking to maintain order. If the flow of weapons from foreign countries continues, violence in Haiti will likely increase.


In 2021, about 50 percent of G9 Alliance’s funding came from the Haitian government, 30 percent from kidnappings, and 20 percent from extortion, but since President Moïse’s assassination, government financing shrunk by 30 percent.[8] The G9 Alliance likely increased illicit activities to compensate for the reduction of government financing. This likely led to individual gangs acting independently outside of the alliance to generate revenue. This almost certainly raises the risk of civilians in Haiti being targeted by both the G9 Alliance and gangs acting independently. The large amount of government revenue that was previously financing the G9 Alliance’s operations almost certainly demonstrates the close relationship between the G9 Alliance and the Haitian government. Haitian gangs will very likely continue exploring tactics such as kidnapping and looting to finance their activities. There is a roughly even chance that the G9 Alliance will split into independent gangs due to competition among them, likely leading to violence over territory and power. Independent gangs within the G9 Alliance likely see an opportunity to dominate Port-au-Prince and control the revenue earned from illicit activities.


In November 2021, the G9 Alliance blocked trucks from reaching the Varreux fuel terminal outside of Port-au-Prince for nearly a month.[9] This almost certainly disrupted Haitian life as it exacerbated supply-chain problems. If the G9 Alliance continues to seize control of fuel terminals, Haitians will likely continue to endure widespread fuel shortages. The G9 Alliance likely impacts Haitians in Port-au-Prince more than other gangs in the country because of their ability to blockade fuel terminals, which puts them in control of Haiti's main source of energy. Limited energy will very likely jeopardize crucial aspects of Haiti’s infrastructure such as the ability to transport aid and run hospitals that rely on fuel generators. It will almost certainly raise the cost of fuel in the country which will become a greater economic burden for Haitians. This incident will very likely embolden the G9 Alliance to repeat this tactic to leverage its power for greater financial influence over Haitian society. This incident demonstrates the need for security forces to address the issue of gangs in the country because of the impact they have on the functionality of Haitian society.


The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has attempted to call attention to the rise in kidnappings of women and children in Haiti.[10] Kidnappings almost certainly make conducting humanitarian relief efforts riskier for organizations such as UNICEF. While it is very unlikely that UNICEF can address this concern alone, it can very likely bring international awareness to the issue through its advocacy networks and call for action to decrease kidnappings. International awareness will likely encourage human and economic support which will almost certainly allow the organization to assist individuals and reduce kidnappings. Through UNICEF’s advocacy efforts, kidnappings will very likely remain a focal issue, and organizations will likely work to develop policy reforms to address the issue.


On December 6, 2021, the US advised Americans to leave Haiti, warning them of a potentially deteriorating security situation and the rise of kidnappings.[11] The warning almost certainly suggests that the US is considering withdrawing diplomats and officials from the country if the instability continues. The warning will likely reduce the already limited American presence in the country as US citizens leave Haiti. Haitian security forces will likely be unable to prevent foreign nationals from becoming victims of gang violence because of the major influence the G9 Alliance has over officials in Port-au-Prince.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) SOUTHCOM Team recommends the Haitian security forces begin training with US special forces to counter gangs in the country. There should be a greater emphasis on disrupting the flow of weapons from foreign States to Haiti and on the security of potential kidnapping victims. Haitian security forces would likely be more effective at preventing violence and kidnappings if they were trained to take back control of the cities and monitor zones used for smuggling. CTG also recommends that the US emphasize the need to reduce corruption throughout the Haitian government. Addressing the high levels of corruption would likely dissuade Haitian gangs from seeking to influence politics in the country and improve the Haitian government’s ability to recover from instability. The SOUTHCOM Team will continue to monitor developments and emerging threats related to gangs operating in Haiti. The SOUTHCOM Team will continue to use Open-Source Intelligence to provide optimal recommendations for key stakeholders. The SOUTHCOM Team will also collaborate with other CTG Teams to create well-rounded, up-to-date analysis of Latin America.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a subdivision of the global consulting firm Paladin 7. CTG has a developed business acumen that proactively identifies and counteracts the threat of terrorism through intelligence and investigative products. Business development resources can now be accessed via the Counter Threat Center (CTC), emerging Fall 2021. The CTG produces W.A.T.C.H resources using daily threat intelligence, also designed to complement CTG specialty reports which utilize analytical and scenario-based planning. Innovation must accommodate political, financial, and cyber threats to maintain a level of business continuity, regardless of unplanned incidents that may take critical systems offline. To find out more about our products and services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.


________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1] “Haiti’s borders” by Google Maps

[2] Kidnappings Triple in Aftermath of Assassination of Haiti’s President, Bloomberg, October 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-08/kidnappings-triple-in-aftermath-of-assassination-of-haiti-leader

[3] Gangs complicate Haiti effort to recover from assassination, Associated Press, July 2021, https://apnews.com/article/health-caribbean-coronavirus-pandemic-united-nations-haiti

[4] Desperate Haitians suffocate under growing power of gangs, Associated Press, October 2021, https://apnews.com/article/business-caribbean-port-au-prince-haiti-gangs-8793b917718e5f67f27317e765c410aa

[5] Gangs complicate Haiti effort to recover from assassination, Associated Press, July 2021, https://apnews.com/article/health-caribbean-coronavirus-pandemic-united-nations-haiti

[6] Truce or No Truce: Gangs in Haiti Control Aid Movement, Insight Crime, August 2021, https://insightcrime.org/news/truce-or-no-truce-gangs-in-haiti-control-aid-movement/

[7] US Guns Flow into Haiti, Fuel Gang Violence, Insight Crime, November 2021, https://insightcrime.org/news/us-guns-flow-into-haiti-fuel-gang-violence/

[8] Jimmy Chérizier, alias 'Barbecue’, Insight Crime, October 2021, https://insightcrime.org/caribbean-organized-crime-news/jimmy-cherizier-alias-barbecue/

[9] Haiti gangs to lift fuel terminal blockade amid shortages, Reuters, November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/haiti-gangs-lift-fuel-terminal-blockade-amid-shortages-2021-11-12/

[10] UNICEF sounds alarm over abductions of women and children in Haiti, United Nations, October 2021, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/10/1103852

[11] US citizens urged to leave Haiti, The Hill, November 2021, https://thehill.com/latino/581181-us-citizens-urged-to-leave-haiti


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