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DHS is trying to stop the steady flow of handguns from the United States to Haiti, according to NBC News

  • April 2, 2024
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“Arms trafficking through the United States is a major contributor to Haiti’s gang crisis and the ongoing instability plaguing the country,” said Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fla.

Are Haiti’s private ports subject to regular and strict inspections?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working to stop the illegal flow of high-caliber weapons from the United States to Haiti, as the Caribbean nation is gripped by violence and instability caused by armed groups and terrorists who want to integrate the Tèt Kale power.

A 2023 United Nations report identified the United States, particularly Florida, as the main source of guns and ammunition widely smuggled into Haiti. Now, as armed groups take control of large swaths of Port-au-Prince with fire from sniper rifles, machine guns and other powerful weapons, the United States is trying to seize the weapons at a southern facility of Florida before they left the country.

“These guns are falling into the wrong hands,” DHS Special Agent Anthony Solvere told NBC News. “They can cause incalculable damage. »

These “very powerful weapons,” he added, were far beyond what was traditionally seen in the Caribbean, indicating a dangerous escalation.

Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher at the Swiss think tank, Small Arms Survey, said the goal of traffickers is to camouflage shipments to evade authorities, who face the daunting task of screening millions of shipments at entry and exit from ports. “It works because authorities can’t control every shipment that comes in and out of U.S. ports,” he said.

Solvere, head of Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, explained the challenges of detecting these weapons leaving the country, adding that they could be hidden in a variety of ways, including inside consumer products, electronic equipment, clothing linings, frozen food products or even in the hulls of cargo ships. Some weapons were discovered hidden in wooden pallets disguised as humanitarian aid.

He said traffickers are likely exploiting a loophole that allows shipments with a manually marked value of less than $2,500 to avoid inspection, making such packages an ideal place to hide weapons.

The HSI findings highlight the urgent need for international cooperation and targeted enforcement measures to combat arms trafficking. With ongoing violence and political instability in Haiti, the UN report said, curbing the flow of illicit weapons is crucial to restoring stability and security to the region.

“The impact of arms smuggling is indisputable in situations like Haiti,” Schroeder said. “If you look at violence and the ability to challenge authority, it depends on access to illegal weapons. They couldn’t do what they’re doing now in terms of seizing control, effectively seizing and controlling territory, challenging control and terrorizing the population if they didn’t have access to these illegal weapons. »

Beyond efforts in Miami to stem the flow of guns and other weaponry to Haiti, a group of lawmakers introduced the Caribbean Arms Trafficking Causes Harm (CATCH) Act to curb the flow of illegal firearms that fuel violence and instability in the Caribbean region, particularly in countries like Haiti.

“Arms trafficking through the United States is a major contributor to Haiti’s gang crisis and the ongoing instability plaguing the country,” said Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fla. ., in a press release in March.

The bill, which she introduced in the House, specifically focuses on the challenges of gun trafficking to the Caribbean by requiring the Caribbean Firearms Prosecution Coordinator to report on the efforts of implementation and coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It builds on previous legislative efforts, such as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2022, which created federal criminal offenses for gun trafficking.

Gédéon Jean, founder and director of the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, highlighted the urgent need for international intervention to address growing violence and instability in Haiti, where gangs took control of significant territories. He highlighted the crucial role of foreign military deployment in supporting local law enforcement efforts to restore peace and stability.

“I don’t think the United States will deploy to Haiti, but the first thing Haiti needs right now is the deployment of foreign military personnel to help the police bring stability and security,” Jean said. “Haiti needs urgent aid. If there is no urgent intervention, the gang(s) will take total control of Haiti, and that is their intention. »

The United States plans to provide $200 million to the Multinational Security Support Mission to assist the Haitian National Police in various areas and encourages other countries to support the mission. Additionally, Biden approved a $10 million assistance package, which may include weapons, ammunition, body armor and helmets for Haitian security forces to protect critical infrastructure and support peaceful transition efforts.