“We are the masses and we are abandoned,” he told The Washington Post on Thursday, his voice shaking as gunshots rang out in the background.
Dozens of people have been killed amid violent clashes between warring gangs in Cité Soleil, the Haitian capital’s largest slum, and thousands more have been killed. trapped without food or water, exacerbating the spiral of insecurity and humanitarian crises in this beleaguered Caribbean nation.
The United Nations said at least 99 people have been killed and more than 130 injured since the current round of violence broke out last week.
Jöel Janéus, mayor of Cité Soleil, said gangs have burned most of the bodies and many families have few answers about the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s office and the interior ministry have been in contact with local officials, Janéus told The Post, but have taken little action to end the bloodshed. He said that he spent his own money on food and water for residents because the mayor’s office has no money.
Janéus said he was in hiding. “I’m getting a lot of pressure and threats,” he said.
The carnage in Cité Soleil, a community of more than 260,000 people on the Bay of Port-au-Prince, is part of a wave of violence and kidnapping for ransom by armed gangs amid worsening political instability following the murder still unsolved a year ago President Jovenel Moise.
The United Nations said this week that 1.5 million people in Port-au-Prince are trapped, “deprived of basic services and their freedom of movement,” by gang violence. The UN Security Council voted Friday to extend its political mission in Haiti. for another year
Violence in Cité Soleil erupted last week between feuding coalitions of gangs: G-Pèp and the G-9, a Federation of nine gangs led by Jimmy Chérizier. The United States has imposed sanctions on Chérizier, a former police officer who calls himself Barbecue, for allegedly leading armed groups in “coordinated and brutal attacks on neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.”
In a video shared on social networks This week, Chérizier held up a long gun and proclaimed: “The fight to liberate the country is launched against kidnappers and thieves.”
Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network said more than a dozen people have disappeared in Cite Soleil and more than 120 homes have been destroyed by arson or heavy machinery, which the National Center for Equipment alleges provided to the G-9.
Kington Louis, director general of the National Equipment Center, said The publication that the accusations are false. He said one of the porters at the center was kidnapped by gangs who killed the driver when he refused to do what they demanded.
Doctors Without Borders asked the gangs to spare the civilians. The organization He said the needs for food, water and medical assistance are acute in Brooklyn, an isolated Cité Soleil neighborhood that residents have been unable to leave since July 8.
“Along the only road into Brooklyn, we have found dead bodies that are decomposing or burning,” Mumuza Muhindo, the group’s chief of mission in Haiti, said in a statement. “It could be people killed during the clashes or trying to get out who were shot. It’s a real battlefield.”
A fuel terminal near Cité Soleil temporarily suspended deliveries this week, exacerbating fuel shortages across the country and sparking protests that blocked the capital’s main highways. Fuel deliveries resumed on Thursday.
Janéus, the mayor, has been personally affected by the spiral of insecurity. In November, armed bandits invaded his home in Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighborhood east of Port-au-Prince that is a stronghold of the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, and kidnapped his wife.
Friends, family and residents of Cité Soleil pitched in to help him collect the $40,000 ransom demanded by the gang. Janéus said he negotiated with Germine “Yonyon” Joly, the leader of 400 Mawozo, who ran the gang’s operations from a Port-au-Prince prison by cell phone.
Joly was transferred to the United States in May face charges for his alleged role in a criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws by smuggling firearms into Haiti and a conspiracy to commit hostage-taking in the kidnapping last year of 17 missionaries with an Ohio-based charity in Port au Prince.
“My three children are in the United States now,” said Janéus, “but my wife is with me in Haiti. Although she is seeing a psychologist, she is still unstable since the kidnapping.”
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