Haiti Under Siege by Criminal Gangs

Coadjutor Archbishop Paints Bleak Picture

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, MAY 27, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Haiti has become a victim of organized Haitian criminal gangs expelled from the United States, Coadjutor Archbishop Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince said.

Since February, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide became president for the second time, Haiti has been suffering from political violence that has left three people dead and dozens wounded. «Ordinary» murders are virtually beyond control, the archbishop said.

The country is enduring an institutional crisis, following the November elections that returned Aristide to power, despite the fact that the elections were declared fraudulent by the opposition Convergence coalition.

Archbishop Miot told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that the social root of the problem is even deeper: Haiti has been in a phase of political transition since 1986, without any political, social or development plans.

Political corruption has caused a freeze in international funding and investments, the archbishop said. The poor now flock to the capital, which has 2 million inhabitants, with a 40-year-old infrastructure that was adequate for 500,000. Or the poor leave the country for the Dominican Republic, the United States or Canada. They cannot remain in these countries, unless members of their family are already established there.

The Haitian criminals, who have been expelled from the United States, arrive on the island «without cultural or affective roots, and act with a new mentality,» Archbishop Miot lamented. «The gangs are made up of these new professionals. They are well armed, know how to shoot, assault and kidnap. They existed before, but now they have reached unheard-of proportions.»

The Catholic Church has tried to promote national dialogue between Aristide´s Lavalas Family party and the opposition — an effort that is virtually impossible with Aristide´s return to power, the archbishop explained.

The Church is also trying to work with youths, Archbishop Miot said. He added: «We try to make them understand that we count on them to construct a new society.»

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