Although you can't see the borders in Port-au-Prince, you still need to be aware of them. Your life could be in danger. Rival gangs are randomly raping, killing, and kidnapping people in the Haitian capital. They delineate their borders with blood. If you enter a gang's turf, you run the possibility of being gone forever.
This busy city's inhabitants have a mental map of it, dividing it into green, yellow, and red sectors. Yellow can be safe today but deadly tomorrow, while green designates gang-free areas. Red is a no-go area. The grassy area is getting smaller as armed gangs tighten their grip.
Human rights organizations in Haiti estimate that armed groups terrorize and control at least 60% of the capital city and its surroundings. They control the points of entry and exit and encircle the city. Additionally, the UN reports that nearly 1,000 individuals were killed in this nation by gangs between January and June of this year.
Port-au-Prince is encircled by the crystal-clear waters and verdant hills of the Caribbean. Its surroundings are hot and uninteresting. In other places, the debris is knee-deep and serves as an abhorrent monument to a failed country. Gangs rule the area around the parliament, the last head of state was slain while in office, and Ariel Henry, the US-backed prime minister, is both unelected and incredibly unpopular.
The state is essentially nonexistent because of the overlapping crises that the people are experiencing. 4.7 million Haitians, or over half the nation's population, suffer from acute hunger.
20,000 people in the capital are reportedly facing famine-like conditions, according to the UN. A first for the Americas, this. Cholera, a fatal disease, is resurfacing. But armed gangs are the largest issue.
Morning hours between 6:00 and 9:00 are when most abductions occur. Many people are kidnapped as they commute to work. Other folks are targeted between 3 and 6 o'clock.
About 50 of our staff members live in our downtown hotel since it is unsafe for them to get home.
Here, few people venture out after dark. The manager of the building maintains he never leaves.
Between January and October 2022, 1,107 people were abducted.
The kidnapping business is expanding. According to the UN, 1,107 instances were documented between January and October of this year. It's a significant source of cash for several gangs. Ransoms can range from $200 (£164) to $1 million (£819,740). If the ransom is paid, the majority of captives are brought back alive, but they still endure pain.
Gedeon Jean of Haiti's Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights claims that men are "beaten and burned with materials like melted plastic."
He further noted, "gang rape targets women and girls. Relatives are motivated by this circumstance to raise funds to pay the ransom. Occasionally, kidnappers would call the family members so they could hear the rape taking place over the phone.”
People get around in an armored vehicles. That's typically saved for frontlines in conflict zones like Ukraine, but in Port-au-Prince, it's vital to deter kidnappers. Many people in this area cannot afford this protection. It is the most underdeveloped nation in the Western Hemisphere and is vulnerable to both natural and man-made calamities.
Kidnappers are members of rival gangs, which are primarily grouped under the G9 and G-Pep coalitions.
In late November, while en route to an early-morning appointment, reporters passed a crime scene in the middle-class neighborhood of Delmas 83. The street was covered in bullet shells that sparkle in the sunlight and a man is lying face down in a pool of blood in a back alley.
A gray 44-foot pickup truck with damage on one side has crashed into a wall. Next to it, an AK-47 is lying on the ground. Police were encircling the pickup with heavy weapons drawn, and several are wearing masks. On the path, onlookers congregate. They don't ask questions, even if they have any. Being quiet pays off when you reside in a gang's shadow.
According to the police, they engaged in a shootout with a bunch of kidnappers who were out early looking for their next victim. One of the groups was leaving a trail of blood as they escaped on foot. The alleged kidnapper was found in the alley and executed there.
The bad men and an officer engaged in combat. "One of them passed away," said a 27-year police veteran who wished to remain anonymous.
According to him, the capital's situation has never been worse.
Francois Sinclair, a 42-year-old businessman who was traveling in gridlock across town that morning, heard a flash of gunfire. He ordered his driver to turn around after noticing that two cars in front of him were being held up by armed men. But as they made an effort to flee, they were discovered.