100220-N-9643W-097 PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (Feb. 20, 2010) Members of the Haitian National Police Force marching band stand at parade rest while awaiting the start of a reception for a Chilean flight crew at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. The U.S. military returned control of the airport to the Haitian government, Feb. 19, after more than a month after the Jan. 12 7.0 magnitude earthquake that cased severe damage in and around Port-au-Prince. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kim Williams/Released)

Overview:

The Haitian police (PNH) received government-funded equipment on Thursday to combat escalating gang violence. However, the situation remains precarious due to persistent threats to institutions and vulnerable Port-au-Prince neighborhoods.

PORT-AU-PRINCE—The Haitian National Police (PNH) received a shipment of materials and equipment at Toussaint Louverture International Airport on Thursday. This acquisition, funded by the outgoing government, comes as gang attacks on disadvantaged neighborhoods and institutions are escalating in the Haitian capital and its surroundings. However, neither the police institution nor the Haitian government has disclosed the nature of the materials received or the cost of the purchase.

On its Facebook page on April 25, the police general directorate stated that the new materials and equipment, ordered by the Haitian government and delivered with the help of the U.S. government, are intended to help bolster the law enforcement institution's operational capacity.

The PNH thanked the Haitian government for procuring these materials and equipment to bolster the institution and the American government for providing transportation. However, the police institution did not disclose when or where the Haitian government had placed the order.

Two airplanes landed at Toussaint Louverture International Airport on Thursday. One of them, an American air cargo, was received by PNH officers and soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH). The plane carried several pieces of police equipment.

This highly expected delivery comes at a time when gang violence in Haiti is escalating, with more than 2,505 people injured or killed in Haiti during the first quarter of 2024, according to a recent UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) report. This is a 53% increase compared to late 2023 and the most violent period since at least the beginning of 2022, reads the report.

Brazen attacks and the desecration of historical institutions continue

For nearly two months, news from Haiti has been dominated by ongoing gang attacks. Not a day goes by without reports of their criminal activities. They continue to kill, kidnap, burn, and vandalize crucial infrastructure. After vandalizing the medical and pharmacy faculties (FMP) of Haiti State University and the National Press of Haiti last weekend, the gangs targeted the premises of the oldest Haitian daily newspaper, Le Nouvelliste.

This 125-year-old newspaper, located on Rue du Centre, near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, was vandalized by gangs during the week.

“Faced with this horrific act with serious consequences, the management of Le Nouvelliste can only rely on the justice and police authorities, whose role is to protect the lives and property of citizens,” the institution’s direction said in a statement posted on its site on Thursday.

For several days, unidentified individuals have invaded the daily's premises, according to the management of Le Nouvelliste. These criminals vandalized the media institution's equipment and stole furniture and raw materials necessary for printing the newspaper. In response to this incident, Le Nouvelliste announced that it will continue to inform the public through its digital version.

“We remain committed to our community and will continue to provide balanced and impartial coverage despite these challenges,”  said an editor for Le Nouvelliste.

This latest attack underscores the ongoing desecration of historical institutions. Despite their efforts, the police are still unable to restore peace to areas controlled by gangs, resulting in over 360,000 displaced persons due to unrelenting violence. Police officers are being killed, and police infrastructure is being vandalized and burned. Calls for the PNH to be reinforced with equipment and materials are growing louder daily.

U.S. government assistance package to PNH and TPC promises to bring peace

Last month, President Biden authorized Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide the Haitian National Police (PNH) with $10 million in aid, including weapons and ammunition, to combat armed gangs. This assistance package, sourced from Department of Homeland Security surplus inventories, may include body armor and helmets. The support aims to help restore security, order, and the rule of law in Haiti, protect civilians and support a Haitian-led peaceful transition of power.

“Today, the President approved an assistance package for Haitian security forces to help them protect civilians and critical infrastructure against organized and targeted gang attacks,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing on March 26.

We are in a security situation that blocks the entire economy of the country and decapitalizes the middle class. This is what we will do [restore security].”

Fritz Alphonse Jean, Montana Accord’s representative in the newly-installed presidential council

This marks an essential change in bilateral cooperation with the United States which until then was limited to providing Haiti with non-lethal equipment, vehicles, personal protective equipment and training.

Meanwhile, hope rests on the potential arrival of the multinational force authorized by the UN Security Council in October 2023, and on the newly installed Transitional Presidential Council (TPC) to restore security in the country.

“We are in a security situation that blocks the entire economy of the country and decapitalizes the middle class. This is what we will do [restore security],” said Fritz Alphonse Jean, representing the Montana Accord in the nine-member presidential council.

Régine Abraham, one of the council's two observers, highlighted in her inaugural speech on Thursday the TPC's commitment to stand with the population fleeing their homes and leaving the country due to insecurity. “This must not continue like this,” Abraham said. “We know it will not be easy, but together, we can restore the image of the country.”

I am Juhakenson Blaise, a journalist based in the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I cover the news that develops in this city and deals with other subjects related to the experience of Haitians for the Haitian Times newspaper. I am also a lover of poetry.

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