Nearly 150 killed in Haiti’s recent gang warfare
Nearly 150 people have been killed and scores wounded during gunfights between warring gangs in Haiti in recent weeks. Médecins Sans Frontières said that it had treated more than 96 people with gunshot wounds in its medical facilities in Port-au-Prince since 24 April. (Guardian)
The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, says armed violence has reached “unimaginable and intolerable levels” in Haiti and that the surge in violence is being fuelled by heavily armed gangs in Port-au-Prince. (United Nations)
The UN said that between April 24 and May 16, at least 92 people unaffiliated with gangs, and some 96 alleged gang members, were reportedly killed during coordinated armed attacks in the sprawling Haitian capital. Another 113 were injured, 12 reported missing, and 49 kidnapped for ransom, according to figures corroborated by UN human rights officers, although the actual number of those killed may be much higher.
The security situation has direct impact on the country’s political crisis, notes the Latin America Risk Report: “Even accepting some level of electoral weakness if Haiti holds elections this year, elections under the current levels of gang violence and influence would not be accepted by much of Haitian society. Solving the security situation must be a priority.”
Last week, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resumed negotiations with the opposition coalition, the “Montana Accord,” which favors the creation of a transition government to bridge the gap between the Henry government and a government to eventually be democratically elected. Negotiations between the Haitian government and the group had been on hold since February 14, reports the Latin America Risk Report.
Decolonization and Reparations
- Persistent corruption is one reason for Haiti’s apparently perpetual crisis. But a history of crippling reparations and later extractivist policies by French financial institutions are critical to understanding Haiti’s current woes. For generations after independence, Haitians were forced to pay the descendants of their former slave masters, the world’s first and only country to do so. Loans from French banks were used to finance these payments, what became known as Haiti’s “double debt” — the ransom and the loan to pay it — a stunning load that boosted the fledgling Parisian international banking system and helped cement Haiti’s path into poverty and underdevelopment, reports the New York Times, in a report that builds on existing academic research and original historical records.
- A New York Times investigation into historical records uncovers how Parisian bank Crédit Industriel et Commercial, which in 1880 set up Haiti’s national bank, choked Haiti’s economy, taking much of the young nation’s income back to Paris and impairing its ability to start schools, hospitals and the other building blocks of an independent country. Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates.
- The historical tie between debt and gunboat diplomacy is ugly, rooted in imperialist and racist encounters with western powers. Few examples better illustrate the point than Haiti, according to a Clauses & Controversies podcast featuring Laurent Dubois, a leading historian of Haitian colonial history.
- And the history continues to have significant repercussions: French diplomats admit that Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s sudden calls for reparations in 2003, a bombshell that became a hallmark of his presidency, played a role in his eventual ouster in a coup supported by France and the U.S., reports the New York Times.
- A group of U.S. Democratic lawmakers, including the House majority leader proposed a binding plebiscite to decide whether Puerto Rico should become a state or gain some sort of independence. The draft proposal would commit Congress to accepting Puerto Rico into the United States if voters on the island approve it. But even if the plan were to pass the Democratic-led House, the proposal appears to have little chance in the Senate, where Republicans have long opposed statehood, reports the Associated Press.
- The U.S. Biden administration announced a partial lifting of sanctions on Cuba last week. Changes will include restoring flights to Cuban cities other than Havana and reestablishing a family reunification program suspended for years. The changes also include relaxing the ban on remittances. The new policies follow the recommendations of a long-anticipated review of U.S. policy toward Cuba, launched after a Cuban government crackdown on widespread street protests on the island last summer. (See May 17’s Latin America Daily Briefing.)
- The U.S. Biden administration has several reasons for its newly announced (marginal) shifts towards moderation in its policies towards Cuba and Venezuela — including concerns over migration and oil shortages related to conflict with Russia. But officials could also be aiming to counteract the threat of a regional boycott of the upcoming Summit of the Americas, motivated by its stance towards these countries. (Latin America Brief)
- U.S. President Joe Biden’s new Cuba measures “appear driven by the confluence of the migration crisis and Latin America’s rebellion over U.S. Cuba policies,” writes William LeoGrande in World Politics Review. In fact, the growing chorus of regional dissent regarding the U.S. decision to likely exclude Cuba from the Summit of the Americas is nothing new. “Obama’s 2014 decision to normalize relations was heavily influenced by the public scolding he received from Latin American heads of state at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in 2012. Even close U.S. allies warned that unless Cuba was invited to the 2015 summit, they would not attend.”
- U.S. officials accused Cuba of creating controversy about its possible exclusion from the US-hosted Summit of the Americas next month to portray Washington as the “bad guy” and distract attention from Havana’s human rights record at home. Kerri Hannan, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said countries that have threatened to skip the regional meeting if Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are not invited should attend or else they would lose an opportunity to engage with the United States, reports Al Jazeera. (See last week’s Just Caribbean Updates)
- Guyana will be attending the Summit to discuss high-priority matters, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has said. “There are a number of issues that we have to discuss as a region including climate change, energy security and food security and we want to be part of those conversations.
Climate Justice and Energy
- The increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity since the 1980s can be robustly ascribed to variations in atmospheric circulation as well as sea surface temperature increase, according to a new study in Weather and Climate Dynamics.
- Expected accumulated damages from tropical cyclones could increase by up to 5% in 2030 and 150% in 2100 relative to 2020, due to increased cyclone intensity as a result of climate change, according to a Climate Analytics study. For some islands, a mix of adaptation measures, including grey infrastructure, nature-based solutions, improved infrastructure, and risk insurance, have the potential to avert economic damages from tropical cyclones.
- Guyana’s Shadow Oil and Gas Minister, David Patterson said an amended motion, seeking full spill insurance coverage by oil giant ExxonMobil will be resubmitted to the House this week. It is an opportunity to reverse the mistakes made regarding oil spill insurance, said the former head of Guyana’s environmental authority, Dr. Vincent Adams. (Kaieteur News)
- For the period April 28, 2020 to January 27, 2022, Guyana received US$81 million in royalty payments, scraped from the two percent deal it signed with ExxonMobil in 2016. However, Kaieteur News reports that between 2019 and 2020 alone, Guyana granted US$657 million in tax exemptions to Exxon.
- A recent Trinidad and Tobago government task-force report documented widespread abuse in state-run and funded residential children’s homes. The Judith Jones Task Force report detailed everything from drug transactions to rape of minors, writes Flora Thomas in Global Voices.
- Cuban lawmakers approved a new penal code last week. Some rights groups have criticized the reform, arguing its clause on foreign funding could be used to stifle dissent and independent journalism. The government said the new code is in line with the country’s new constitution approved by referendum in 2019, as well as international treaties. (Reuters)
- Haitian human rights group Héritage pour la Protection des Droits Humains has issued a statement condemning a tweet by a high-profile lawyer detailing a false and defamatory story about a group of homosexuals being caught having sex in a national historical site that went viral last month. This incident is the latest in a string of recent social media attacks on the queer community in the French-speaking Caribbean, after incidents in Martinique and Guadeloupe last month, reports Erasing 76 Crimes.
- Director of Empowering Queers using Artistic Learning (EQUAL) Anil Persaud has issued a call for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community to play a more meaningful and tangible role in Guyana’s development. (Alturi)
- A UK deportation flight to Jamaica took off last week with seven people onboard. Home Office deportation flights to Jamaica are among the most contentious carried out by the department, reports the Guardian, as many of those earmarked for removal have Windrush connections or have been in the UK since childhood, with children and other close relatives in the country.
- Engaging Migrants in Guyana is a guide for government and humanitarian organisations wishing to better include migrant voices in decision making. Through presenting eight tips and numerous recommendations, it is hoped that migrants can play a greater role in leading initiatives that seek to benefit their own communities. (Voices GY)
- Diana McCaulay (Jamaica) and Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St. Vincent and the Grenadines) were selected as winners of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for their respective regions. (Repeating Islands)
- 25 May — How do we get governments to commit to climate adaptation? — Caribbean Climate Network. Register.
- 26 May — Still Standing: Notes from the Ti Kai Project, Dominica — Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of London. Register.
- 30 May — The critical decade for climate: unpacking the IPCC Working Group reports — Constrain. Register.
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