Haitian politician Eric Jean Baptiste killed in apparent gang attack

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The leader of a prominent Haitian political party was killed in an alleged gang attack in the capital on Friday, the latest casualty of the Caribbean country’s spiraling security crisis.

Lottery tycoon Eric Jean Baptiste and a bodyguard were killed in Laboule 12, a leafy hilly area of ​​Port-au-Prince, after attackers opened fire on their car, officials said. Jean Baptiste, 52, led the Center-Left Assembly of the National Progressive Democratic Party and once sought the presidency of Haiti.

Ricardo Nordain, a party official, said Jean Baptiste’s armored car overturned when it was ambushed.

“It represented a lot,” Nordain said. “His murder shows that we have no leadership in this country.”

Gangs have long had a presence in Haiti, but their power has increased in recent years amid a broader deterioration in democratic institutions and security conditions. United Nations agencies said this month that gang violence in the capital displaced some 96,000 people and that gangs used rape to terrorize the local population.

Haitian gangs use TikTok, Instagram, Twitter to recruit and terrorize

Laboule 12 crosses a gang called Ti Makak. The gang was involved in the assassination this year of a former Haitian senator. Three police officers were also killed there last month. The conflict that began in 2020 involved a land dispute between Little Monkey and an armed group backed by Jean Mossanto Petit, a businessman.

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The Haitian-based Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights said in a report last month that Ti Makak is carrying out more shootings and kidnappings to strengthen its position in the conflict. Nordain was asked if Jean Baptiste had conflicts with gangs, “Honest people will always have conflicts with gangs.”

Nordain said Jean Baptiste helped provide food, school supplies and drinking water to those in need and was running a pilot project with a law school in Jakmèl, a port city in southern Haiti.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Ariel Henry offered his condolences to the family of Jean Baptiste.

“The horrific assassination of political leader Eric Jean Baptiste and his bodyguard was once against plunging the Haitian nation into turmoil,” he said in a tweet. “We strongly condemn this heinous crime against this patriot, this moderate politician who is committed to change.”

Haiti is confronting a meeting of humanitarian, security and political crises that put it at risk of anarchy and which prompted Henry to appeal to the international community to deploy an armed force to restore order.

For weeks, the G9 gang federation blocked access to seaports and the Varreux gas terminal, the source of 70 percent of Haiti’s gas, forcing businesses and hospitals to reduce hours or close and jeopardizing access to food and clean drinking water amid a situation. resurgence of cholera that killed dozens.

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Cholera resurfaces in Haiti as gangs block access to water, hospitals

Thousands of Haitians have poured into the streets in recent weeks to protest the insecure situation and Henry’s government. Critics say he has delayed progress toward new elections to replace President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated last year, so he can stay in power.

The protests followed the government’s announcement that it would no longer subsidize fuel prices, sparking widespread anger in a poor country where inflation is about 30 percent and a record 4.7 million people face hunger.

A regional leader described the crisis gripping the country as a “low intensity civil war”.

The United States imposed visa restrictions this month on Haitians it says are involved in gang activity, including financial and political backers, and the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution imposing an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on leaders. Haitian gangs.

The resolution named Jimmy Cherizier, a former policeman who heads the G-9 gang federation, as one of its main targets. The United States imposed sanctions on Cherizier, also known as “Barbecue,” in 2020 for his role in leading “coordinated, brutal attacks on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.”

Henry’s request for a foreign security force proved more controversial – in Haiti and abroad.

The United States supports sending international forces to Haiti, the proposal says

The country has a long history of foreign intervention that critics say has further destabilized the country. During these recent interventions, UN peacekeepers faced allegations of sexual abuse and the organization apologized for its role in a cholera outbreak that killed 10,000 people.

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Some Haitians believe that Henry, whom critics accuse of having done little to respond to the security crisis, is asking for outside help to stay in power. A Chinese delegate to the United Nations this month questioned whether such a force would be supported by Haitians – or whether it would instead trigger more unrest.

The United States has proposed deploying a multilateral force, led by another country, to Haiti to lift the gas blockade and address the humanitarian crisis, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Canadian authorities last week to discuss the issue.

A Canadian delegation traveled to Haiti in recent days to conduct an “assessment mission” on the humanitarian and security crisis, but Canadian officials did not commit to whether the country would join or lead the proposed US force.

Meanwhile, humanitarian and security emergencies continue to deepen.

Roberson Alphonse, a well-known Haitian journalist from the newspaper Le Nouvelliste, was attacked in his car this week by armed assailants. He recovered. In one of his last tweets, Jean Baptiste mentioned the attempt on Alphonse’s life.

“Life expectancy in Haiti is 24 hours,” he said. “Who will be next? Will he have the same luck?”

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