Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and its road to democracy is still uphill. The United Nations Security Council is considering transitioning the country to a UN presence that goes beyond a peacekeeping mandate. To this end, the Haitian National Police has been strengthened: as of September 2018, there were 14,911 police officers, of whom 1,483 were women.
But the picture is unstable: in October 2019, the general election was postponed indefinitely, leaving the country without a parliament since January 2020. Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe resigned, as the country was experiencing a spike in killings and kidnappings, as it prepared for the next constitutional referendum and general election within the year. He was replaced by Jovenel Moïse, who immediately faced a wave of protests, which were violently repressed. When also asked to resign, Moïse reacted strongly: “I am not a dictator. My mandate ends on February 7, 2022”.
In February 2021, the Haitian judiciary declared Moïse’s presidency illegal and declared his position as head of the government had been terminated.
Haiti has had a high turnover of Prime Ministers, eight since 2015. The opposition blames the government for focusing exclusively on organizing the referendum in June and the election in September, and does not recognize Moïse’s legitimacy, also refusing to participate in the drafting of the new Constitution. Concerns were also expressed by the United Nations office in Haiti, which commented that the consultation process for the drafting of the new Constitution is “not sufficiently inclusive, participatory or transparent”.
Meanwhile, the ransom kidnappings have increased, and armed gangs have acquired growing influence.
In the Caribbean country, over 500,000 illegal weapons are in circulation.
The kidnapping of seven members of the Catholic clergy (including five Haitians and two French), a priest, and a nun, caused a sensation: the Catholic Church of Haiti reacted harshly, with a statement that speaks of Haiti’s “descent into Hell”. The kidnapping of the priests took place on Sunday 11 April in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets, near the capital Port-au-Prince, where the seven prelates were headed to the parish of Galette Chambon, in Ganthier, to participate in the installation of Father Jean Arnel Joseph as parish priest. The kidnappers demanded a large sum of money for their release.
In the following days, the Haitian Catholic community expressed its indignation at the so-called “kidnapping dictatorship” in Haiti through a national strike of Catholic activities on 15 April and a closure of Catholic schools for three days. Three of the abductees had already been released by 23 April.
Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic, faced with the wave of protests and the possible increase in the flow of Haitians fleeing the crisis, has strengthened the border with Haiti: 10,000 soldiers have been deployed to four key points, along with drones and cameras.