Poverty and Gang Violence in Haiti TodayIn the months leading up to the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, plunged into chaos. Gang violence in Haiti gained ground in a climate of economic and political dissatisfaction. In the aftermath of both the shocking presidential assassination and the devastating earthquake of August 2021, Haiti’s gangs continue to seek ways to procure power. Human rights group Fondasyon Je Klere reports that more than 150 gangs currently exist in Haiti. Such a large number of gangs in a relatively small country begs the question: why are there so many gangs in Haiti?

The Short Answer: Poverty

The simple answer to this question is poverty. Poverty and gang violence in Haiti interconnect. There is mass discontent with the Haitian government and economy for failing to provide adequately for the Haitian people in the form of food and work. Food insecurity, job insecurity and unemployment ravage the country, which the natural disasters Haiti periodically experiences exacerbate. Thus, Haitian people, particularly young men, find what the government cannot provide for them in gangs.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 60% of Haiti’s 11 million people earning less than $2 a day and about 2.5 million Haitians earning less than $1.25 a day. According to the World Bank, the top 20% of the population holds more than 64% of the country’s income. This concentration of income is not well received among gangs that belong to poorer segments of Haitian society.

Poverty and Gang Violence

One particularly notable Haitian gang is G9, a federation of local gangs formed by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier. G9 discourages gangs from fighting one another and instead focuses their efforts on targeting the ruling class. Cherizier’s G9 has given Haitian youth the opportunity to satisfy their need for resources, protection and higher status – all things that the Haitian government and economy fail to provide for the youth. While gangs like G9 are a result of poverty, they also force families deeper into poverty. They ignite house fires in opposition neighborhoods and kidnap for ransom. The U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti reports an increase in the number of reported kidnappings from 78 in 2019 to 234 in 2020. There has also been a 20% increase in killings during that same time.

As areas that the August 2021 earthquake affected struggle to recover, gangs continue to push the country further into the depths of poverty by siphoning off critical aid. Gangs block roads, hijack trucks and steal supplies that are to go to those in dire need. While relief efforts have adapted by delivering aid via aerial vehicles instead, this method of delivery slows down the process of response and recovery in post-earthquake Haiti. Thus, poverty and gang violence in Haiti interact in a cyclical motion where poverty begets gang violence and gang violence begets further poverty.


Some of the underlying issues of poverty include a lack of education and a weak domestic economy. The Haitian government and international community may not be able to completely disarm armed groups. But through education they can disincentivize at-risk sections of the population from joining armed groups. More than 50% of Haitians lack access to quality education. The average Haitian age 25 and older has not received formal education for more than five years, and 39% of the adult population is illiterate. Sending young people to school lets them rely on education as the new tool for survival rather than guns.


USAID has been directly supporting 430 schools to improve literacy among students from grades one to four. It also created and distributed almost 500,000 books and workbooks, and approximately 24,000 teacher guides. Over the past 11 years, the agency has also provided for more than 60,000 students and 2,000 teachers with reading curricula that meet international standards for literacy and trained teachers on how to implement them.

Young adults also need an alternative source of revenue so that the prospect of joining a gang loses its luster. Approximately 40% of Haitians are unemployed and the economy is heavily reliant on foreign aid and remittances from abroad. USAID has been working to provide vocational training and practical skills training for business management. The agency provided $7.6 million to 47 small- and medium-sized enterprises allowing them to expand operations and hire more workers. As more jobs become available, more young men may join the workforce and avoid gang activity. This may shrink the power vacuum in Haitian society and decrease the number and/or strength of gangs like Cherizier’s G9.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Haiti has been consistently named the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck seven years ago and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 brought attention to this truth. With natural disasters like the two aforementioned raising media attention to philanthropic efforts, the question often remains: why is Haiti poor?

The question at hand can be addressed by looking at one of the key reasons: political instability. Haiti’s political history has been unstable and this is usually attributed to post-colonial tensions and leadership struggles. While the situation has improved in recent years, the periodic vacancies of positions within the cabinet and of the prime minister, as well as parliamentary debate can and have halted reconstruction efforts or poverty-reducing legislation. For example, the 2016 election process was delayed many times. This delay did nothing for the reported 55,000 people still living in makeshift camps after being displaced due to the rural housing damage caused by the 2010 earthquake.

The slow implementation of policies is often cited as a governmental failure, a failure that fuels crises. IRIN News notes the Haitian government’s wish to implement reforestation projects and other policies that would aid commercial farmers, but that corruption and donated resources not being properly distributed are hampering this effort. IRIN News quotes a Haitian farmer who states that “politicians have failed…Our leaders even had the audacity to take credit for efforts done by aid agencies and directed towards their friends.”

Because of this political instability and overall distrust for the political system, demonstrations are often held in Port-au-Prince. Haitians themselves are questioning: why is Haiti poor?

With new president Jovenel Moïse inaugurated in February 2017, many citizens are hopeful that he will follow through on his election promises of government reform and more democratic processes.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr


Earlier this week a two-day strike in Haiti shut down the capital, Port-au-Prince and several other major cities and towns. On Feb. 9 and 10, protesters blocked off all roads leading into the capital. This is one of numerous strikes and protests that have been recurring regularly for over a month. Some of the protests have demanded fresh elections and the resignation of the current president and prime minister, while others, including this one, have focused on the high cost of fuel.

Despite a global fall in oil prices, the cost of fuel in Haiti has remained high. While gas prices in the United States have fallen to roughly $2.44 a gallon, in Haiti they have averaged $4.62 a gallon. Following recent strikes and protests, the government agreed to lower the price to $4.25 a gallon, but this lags well behind the level at which prices have fallen worldwide and protesters remain unsatisfied.

Protesters organized by government opposition leaders and public transit unions are demanding a 50 percent cut in oil prices to $2.13 a gallon. Many complain that the high cost of fuel is driving up the cost of living and is exacerbating poverty in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Bus drivers complain that the high costs are preventing them from earning a living while commuters complain about the high cost of public transport. Additionally, the high cost of transporting goods has led to a rise in the prices of food and other important commodities.

The government has repeatedly claimed that it is unable to meet the protesters’ demands and cannot afford to lower the price of fuel by the amount demanded. Haiti relies heavily on Venezuela for fuel imports and currently owes the country $1.5 billion in debt as part of a preferential treatment deal. The government has been relying on oil sales to raise money to pay off this debt, and for this reason the government has said it cannot lower the price. The Prime Minister has said that “it’s not that we do not want to, it’s because we are not able to.”

But protesters, many of whom are already fed up with the current government which they view as corrupt and oppressive, remain unsatisfied with this explanation. It remains to be seen whether the two sides can reach an agreement.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Haiti Libre, BBC News, Global Research
Photo: Flickr

Plans are currently in the works to rebuild Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that reached a 7.0 on the Richter scale managed to destroy much of the city.

According to the Huffington Post, Harry Adam, the executive director of the company that handles public building and housing construction, claims the reconstruction will not be completed for another 10 years. The first half of the reconstruction will cost about $150 million, and officials have yet to release an estimate for the cost of the entire project.

While reconstruction may sound like a positive endeavor, the experience has not been so positive for many of the residents of Port-au-Prince. In fact, many of the city’s inhabitants were given only a day’s notice that their houses would be torn down before they were forced to evacuate from the area.

Consequently, many encampment zones have been popping up around the city. After these people were chased from their homes, they had nowhere to go and were forced to stay in friends’ apartments or live on the streets in tents and under tarps. Many were unable to gather their belongings before leaving, and when the bulldozers destroyed their homes, many were immediately plunged into poverty.

Not all government officials, however, are in favor of the capital’s reconstruction at the expense of its people. Senator Moise Jean-Charles told the Huffington Post that the construction company “only give[s] them a few minutes notice and then they start bulldozing? I consider that a crime. These families have nowhere to go and are now homeless again.”

Although some renters are being promised compensation, in order to receive the compensation they need to provide proof by way of receipts that they were paying all their housing expenses, which proves difficult for people who were forced to quickly evacuate.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Huffington Post, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Photo: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Haitian-VacationThe Caribbean has and will continue to be one of the most visited vacation spots. The beaches of Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Jamaica remain quintessential examples of the perfect island getaway with clear blue waters and continuous sunshine. One country, however, has fallen off its throne as a Caribbean hot spot: Haiti. Haitian Vacation has become one of the destination for people.

Along with the homes and lives the 2010 earthquake in Haiti swept away, it also took away the luxury and lure that once attracted tourists from around the world. Recently, however, the Haitian government has been focusing its efforts on revamping the country as a vacation spot. President Michel Martelly boasts of the dynamic music and the yearly celebration of Carnaval. “It’s probably the worst organized Carnaval…but it’s the best Carnaval…it’s fun, it’s crazy.” He is not blind to the issues facing this new campaign. The streets in and around Port-au-Prince are in horrible condition. Security warnings alerted visitors of the lack of medical care, high risk of kidnapping and theft, and overly expensive hotels.

Despite these issues, Martelly seems to be focusing on what the Haitians have been able to hold onto since the earthquake: their culture. Although it will take some time to establish basic amenities and safe traveling, tourists still have many reasons to visit Haiti. Many of the beaches offer the ultimate seclusion and beauty. For Stephanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s minister of tourism, visiting Haiti can actually serve as the best form of humanitarian aid. “Don’t just send money through a wire or through an NGO for us. Come and experience Haiti because we have so much to showcase.” It may be an extremely inappropriate time to use this phrase but in essence, people can kill two birds with one stone. The first bird being experiencing the island lifestyle and the second, but most important bird, knowing that every dollar you spend is going towards improving the country’s economy. Yes, even that delicious Piña Colada is in some way helping save a life and revive a once broken country.

President Martelly doesn’t seem to mind using the appeal of Haiti’s current situation to attract new tourists. And why should he? It is not a secret that Haiti has a long way to go, but being upfront about it all may ease the worries people have. The most noteworthy aspect of this entire campaign is that Haiti is using its natural and preexisting resources to revive itself. Yes, the revenue is coming from travelers, but the main point is that it is an internal effort on behalf of the Haitian people that are drawing them to the island.

The ministry of tourism, however, must prevent touristic spots from becoming too secluded and overprotected. The Royal Caribbean liner “Allure of the Seas” is ported in clear visibility to the struggling Haitians only a few miles away from the docks. The area is completely fenced off, limiting tourists’ interaction (read: spending money outside the private beach) with the rest of Haiti. Even worse, it eliminates the opportunity for many local vendors to reach a new market, especially for those who are not able to be ‘pre-screened’ by the government and Royal Caribbean. Although praised as a multi-million dollar source of revenue for the government and for building a local school, Royal Caribbean must seek to incorporate the entire surrounding area and give Haitians the opportunity to work alongside them.

All the work cannot be done by external sources though, and the Haitians must come to realize this quickly. One cannot begin to understand the daily obstacles and hardships they must go through to make a living, let alone survive. As much as the appeal of adventure and exploration of a third world country may entice some visitors, there can be no denial that most vacationers are not going to visit a country with “gray sludge overflowing from open sewers, piles of trash burning in ditches…[and] roads pocked with jagged potholes”. With what little energy and must are left, the Haitian government must figure out these glitches. Once the city becomes presentable, a Haitian vacation will no longer be based on sympathy but a true desire to experience a wonderful culture and its breathtaking beauty.

– Deena Dulgerian

Photo:Paradise in the World