Accession Number:



Gangs, Netwar, and "Community Counterinsurgency" in Haiti

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Journal Article

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National Defense University Fort Lesley J. McNair United States

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After his tumultuous on-againoff-again administration, President Jean-Bertrand Aristides sudden departure from Haiti in 2004 left the country in chaos. The economy was in shambles, tourism and investment had flatlined, and an armed band marched on the capital with the support of large parts of the population. Other elements of the population violently protested Aristides departure while looting what they could. While the Haitian government always was most notable for its absence, Aristide managed to politicize the police force while reducing it to a fraction of its original size. Society was more polarized than ever. Early on, Aristide resorted to distributing weapons to youth groups known as bazes or bases in exchange for their support. Weapons provided to defend Aristide also gave the groups the where withal to commit crimes and dominate neighborhoods. With his departure, these gangs which at that point were fully involved in criminal activity quickly established control over parts of Port-au-Prince and zones in other cities such as Cap Hatien, Gonaves, and Jacmel. Even as late as 2006, 2 years after the arrival of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti MINUSTAH, there were still several recognized zones mostly slums or low-income neighborhoods scattered around the country where the government was not present and was actively resisted. The situation was volatile, and the continued inability of the government or the United Nations UN to establish more than nominal stability in many urban neighborhoods left open the question of who was really in charge. Violent crimes and kidnappings were increasing precipitously in 2006, despite efforts of the international community to rebuild the police and the use of UN forces to patrol the streets. The problem was not that criminal gangs were so strong but rather that the Haitian state was so fragile.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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