Haitian Gang Boss Leads His Country Towards Anarchy


Haiti is teetering on the edge of anarchy. Even before Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation last Tuesday, March 12, it was clear that no one had control of the country. 

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Protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry cause chaos in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

The resignation of the interim Prime Minister was demanded by gang boss and former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier, who is better known by his street name, Barbecue. Now, the gang boss, and self-proclaimed revolutionary, has refused attempts by foreign nations to solidify plans for an election and return to order. 

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Gang boss Jimmy Cherizier, “Barbecue,” is currently the most powerful man in Haiti after forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The former prime minister left Haiti the 29 of February to seek foreign assistance in Kenya. While abroad he secured a United Nations-backed multinational security force designed to fight gang prevalence in Haiti. It was after securing this deal, including a Kenyan police force of 1000 officers, that Henry was prevented from returning home by gangs which laid siege to Haiti’s main airport. 

The overdue exit of interim Prime Minister Henry, who assumed power following the assaination of President Jovenel Moїse in 2021, was a major instigator of the takeover by Barbecue’s gang coalition, G9 Family and Allies . Many, including Haitian civil society members, felt that Henry had abused his position by repeatedly postponing elections under the premise that the country remained too unstable.

Barbecue, claiming he wants a revolution, has stated, “It’s not just people with guns who’ve damaged this country – it’s politicians too.”. Considering Haiti’s long and repetitive history with corrupt politicians, Barbecue is not mistaken that politicians, like gangs, have deeply harmed the country. Many politicians and elites in Haiti have used the gangs to maintain their power. Barbecue’s own gang, G7 was closely linked to the political party of Jovenel Moїse, Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK).

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Prior to the assassination of Jovenel Moїse, activists called out the president’s involvement with gangs. 

Barbecue portrays his gang coalition takeover as a moral cause. In a statement 

delivered to the media he said, “Now our fight will enter another phase – to overthrow the whole system, the system that is five percent of people who control 95 percent of the country’s wealth,” and seems to want to be perceived as a Robin Hood like figure. On separate occasions he has even compared himself to prominent revolutionaries like Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro. 

In reality Barbecue is not redistributing wealth and much of the gangs’ activities are funded by the extortion and kidnapping of civilians.  Additionally, the increase in violence has led to over 360,000 displaced people and a humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates that gangs currently control  80% of the capital city, Port-au-Prince making it extremely difficult to bring in the necessary aid.

 Although it is likely foreign intervention will take place in Haiti to reestablish democracy, it is extremely unclear as to when this will occur. Barbecue remains unwilling to negotiate and holds a strong stance against foreign intervention. Moreover, the UN backed Kenyan police force is on hold until the installation of a new constitutional authority.  

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Many Haitians are against foreign intervention; this picture taken at a protest in 2022 in Port-au-Prince, shows protestors carrying a coffin covered in American, Canadian and French flags.

The United States is not deterred by Barbecue’s resistance and is keen to return the country to a stable democracy, although they should do so cautiously. Previous American interventions in Haiti including their occupation of the country from 1915-1934 have consistently resulted in handing power to poor leaders and suffering for Haitians.  Alongside the United States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Haitian leaders are working together to find a solution. It’s crucial that action is taken soon to restore order to Haiti, as four million people are in need of food aid.

If history can teach one lesson to those attempting to solve this crisis through foreign intervention it is that the only hope for Haiti to break from its cycle of corruption-fueled instability, is for Haitians to be at the centre of the solution.

Cover Image: Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier stands defiantly in front of his gang.

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