Telegraph from RE: Point of No Return?Being Young In Haiti Means Having Two Choices: Get A Passport Or Get A Gun!Yesterday, an event took place that has everyone in Haiti still in shock. A Swat team was sent into one of the most dangerous slums of Haiti, and they were ambushed. Even though the official numbers are 4 killed, some are saying that as many as 14 police officers were killed and videos of the brutal incident are all over social medial. What is making people angry the most is an audio from one of the police officers pinned inside an armored vehicle has also been making the rounds. In his tearful message, he mentioned that for two hours he called for backup and no one came to their rescue. He also regretted joining the low-paying police force because he realized the government doesn’t care about his life. Sadly, this young officer made that realization too late because he was killed in spite of this last desperate attempt to save his life. Understanding the gravity of the situation and how this might cause the police force to have low morale and to turn on him, the contested President of Haiti addressed the nation and promised to go after the gang members responsible. No one believed him!Ironically, this brutal murder of this young policeman and of his colleagues would not have happened had the same government cared about the hopeless young people.Haiti has the youngest population in the region with 50% being under the age of 25 years old. The social-economic situation is so desperate that being young and poor in Haiti often mean two choices: Get a passport and try any chances elsewhere, or get a gun and join a gang.The government in Haiti does not care about its citizens. It would prefer people leave Haiti and go elsewhere because by doing so they will at least sent crucial remittances back home that are extremely important for the country’s economy. As such, the Haitian government has made it easier for people to leave because they are one less mouth to feed.Neoliberal policies being imposed on Haiti dictate that a country must take advantage of what it is good at offering economically, and in Haiti’s case, that is cheap labor. Haitians discovered Brazil as a destination for potential success soon after the South American country lead the peacekeeping mission in 2004 to stabilize the country after the previous government was forced to leave. Chartered flights that didn’t exist prior to the 2010 devastating earthquake started to take hundreds of Haitians to Brazil to use them as cheap labor for the construction of 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic stadiums. At the time, Brazil’s economy was the strongest in the region, and the Haitians were welcomed. When the Brazilian economy collapsed after the 2016 Olympics and facing strong xenophobic sentiments, the Haitians started to move south to Chile which economy has since replaced Brazil’s as the strongest in South America. Now, Haitians are taking their chances anywhere but Haiti even putting their lives crossing borders by boat.As the social-economic situation worsened over the years, and with an unemployment rate as much as 35% among young people, if they are unable to leave Haiti, many see joining a gang as a real option. Being a gang member means having a gun that they can use to influence their financial gains through criminality. Hence, kidnapping for ransom is the business du jour where it has gone up 200% since last year. Joining a gang for a young person signifies they suddenly have the respect in a country that treats them as nobody if they don’t have economic resources. But gangs have important roles in the political situation too. To understand the gang problem in Haiti, it is best to analyze who benefits from it. Let’s look at the suspects:1) The right-wing Haitian government is full of Duvalieristes. In the past, the Duvalier dictatorship that was in power from 1957 to 1986 was known for the many atrocities committed by their paramilitary force known as the Tonton Macoutes. It is easier to escape international punishments by arming and outsourcing the job of the Tonton Macoutes to gangs affiliated to the government. They work to suppress anti-government voices and the government simply blames those acts on the criminals. 2) In the other hand, the opposition seems to also benefit from the gangs situation. Many opposition members are associated with criminal acts themselves. In fact, last month the son of an opposition leader was implicated in a kidnapping case, which has been silenced mysteriously. 3) This last suspect will take a bit longer to explain but it is very relevant. Haiti has been under some form of UN occupations on and off for about 30 years, and the budget for those missions averaged about $500 million a year, which is about $5 Billion to $15 Billion spent on personnel and not on the development of the country. This influx of UN money meant business opportunities for the elite class that didn’t exist before. Luxury apartments that are mostly now empty suddenly sprang up around chic neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince along with fancy expensive restaurants with prices comparable to New York City. In fact, every time the UN mission is reduced, crimes have gone up as if to give a reason to justify the UN presence in Haiti. Some in the elite business class also have their own private ports. In a country with hardly any existing border patrols to control the sea, air and land, most of the weapons getting into Haiti illegally have been alleged to arrive through private ports. Still knowing those facts, the government hasn’t done enough to investigate and to punish the culprits. With those usual suspects, it seems there is a concerted effort to justify and to keep a permanent UN presence in Haiti that is far from resolving the real problem of this country. Spending billions to have a UN presence in a country with deeply social-economical problem is not the answer. There needs to be a massive investment in social programs to improve the quality of life of the people. If these programs become reality, the young people wouldn’t need to leave the country or to join a gang. They need better alternatives that will allow them to exchange guns for books.
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