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The inevitable failure of terrorist gangs in Haiti

  • May 14, 2024
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Par Patrick Prézeau Stephenson

Context of gangs in Haiti

In Haiti, armed gangs have gained increasing autonomy, attacking state institutions and paralyzing daily life in Port-au-Prince. This evolution of gangs, which now control around 80% of the capital, represents a significant transformation from their historical role as subordinate agents of politicians and economic elites. Today, they have become a force capable of openly challenging the state, demanding political changes and resisting international intervention.

Gang structure and goals

Major groups, such as the G9, led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, and the GPep, have evolved from mere involvement in criminality to actors with explicit political ambitions. These gangs, initially tools of politicians and businessmen, now seek to obtain a share of political power, influence made possible by their ability to generate independent income through illicit activities such as extortion, drug trafficking drugs and kidnappings.

Jimmy Chérizier, aka Barbecue, leader of the G9 gang federation in Haiti, continues to make headlines. In a recent interview with NPR, he painted a picture of rebellion against a political and economic elite perceived as corrupt. However, the actions of his gang and its allies raise crucial questions about the viability of their movement and the consequences for Haitian society.

Persistent gang forces

Barbecue united rival gangs under the banner “Viv Ansanm” (Living Together), showing an impressive coordination capacity. They managed to paralyze the capital and put pressure on existing political structures. However, the interview also reveals a more nuanced picture of their struggle, mixing political demands with undeniable acts of violence against innocent civilians.

Why these advances are doomed to failure

1. Lack of popular legitimacy: Despite their apparent strength, gangs do not enjoy popular legitimacy. Their reign is marked by violence and terror, which limits their ability to become legitimate political leaders. Their influence is more a manifestation of state weakness than of their own enduring political strength.
The demonstrations organized by coalitions of Haitian gangs, notably the G9 and G Pèp under the leadership of Jimmy Cherisier, alias “Barbecue”, in reaction to the announcement of the arrival of a multinational force supporting the National Police of Haiti, reveal significant flaws within these armed groups. By forcing the population of Carrefour to participate in these demonstrations under threat, the gangs expose not only their lack of popular support but also a certain anxiety in the face of organized and legitimate opposition. This mobilization strategy shows an internal divide, where some members seem reluctant to face a well-prepared international force. Furthermore, the use of intimidation tactics to round up protesters highlights gangs’ reliance on violence to maintain control, highlighting their vulnerability to structured interventions aimed at restoring order and security [1].

2. Internal and international resistance: Growing resistance against gangs, both locally and internationally, is a major obstacle. Growing resistance against gangs in Haiti, both locally and internationally, poses a major challenge to their continued power. At the local level, Haitian civil society’s exasperation with gang violence is increasing demand for a strong government response. Internationally, increased attention to the Haitian situation is pushing global organizations and foreign governments to provide greater support for Haitian security forces. This combined pressure could result in more robust interventions, notably by the Multinational Mission to Support the National Police of Haiti (MSS), increasing the likelihood that the ability of gangs to operate freely will diminish.

3. Lack of cohesion and internal rivalries: Alliances between gangs, such as the one formed under the banner “Viv Ansanm” to counter international intervention and push for the resignation of Prime Minister Henry, are often precarious and prone to betrayal. These internal rivalries could lead to implosion or fragmentation, diminishing their ability to act in a unified manner.

4. Systemic socio-economic challenges: Socioeconomic challenges such as high unemployment and lack of education in Haiti create a fertile environment for gangs, which offer immediate sustenance but cannot provide lasting solutions for the population. Their reliance on illicit activities reinforces cycles of poverty and violence, preventing essential investments and worsening economic problems

5. Pressure for a political solution: The crisis in Haiti requires a political solution including government reform and national reconciliation. In this framework, gangs, as undemocratic actors and perpetrators of acts of terror and violence, will likely be excluded from the political process, thereby reducing their future influence.


In conclusion, although gangs in Haiti present a serious and immediate security challenge, their long-term prospects as political forces are limited. The lack of popular support, internal divisions, international pressure, and the socio-economic challenges inherent to their methods of governance are all factors that condemn them to failure. For Haiti, the path to stability requires an integrated approach that combines political reform, strengthening the rule of law, and socio-economic initiatives to address the deep roots of conflict and violence.


[1] Haiti – FLASH: Gangs worried about the arrival of the multinational force
13/05/2024 https://www.haitilibre.com/article-42323-haiti-flash-des-gangs-inquiets-de-l-arrivee-de-la-force-multinationale.html

Contact Media Patrick Prézeau Stephenson: Editor [email protected]

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