Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 41: Criminal Insurgency and ‘Revolution’ in Haiti?
John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker
Gang violence in Haiti is spiraling out of control as rival gangs fill the void in governance fueled by chronic insecurity, corruption, and violence. The resulting instability places gangs in conflict with each other and the state as they compete for territorial control. The outbreak of gang violence is exacerbating the situation, leading to a crisis disaster. This humanitarian crisis includes extreme gang violence, attacks on police stations and health care providers, while internally displaced persons converge with the Covid-19 pandemic and hurricane season to elevate insecurity. One gang leader, an ex-police officer Jimmy Chérizier, known as “Barbecue” the head of G9 Fanmi ak Alye (G9 Family and Allies) has called for ‘revolution’ to solve the situation.
Key Information: Mary Webster, “Haiti Gang Led by an Ex-Cop Declares ‘Revolution’ as Violence Surge Fueled by Poverty.” Latin Post. 25 June 2021, https://www.latinpost.com/articles/150821/20210625/haiti-gang-led-ex-cop-declares-revolution-violence-surge.htm:
A Haiti’s gang led by an ex-cop has declared this week that they are going to launch a revolution against the country's business and political elites, further escalating the violence surge in the Caribbean nation…
…Haiti's rival gangs battle with one another or the police for control of the streets, displacing thousands and pushing the country into a humanitarian crisis.
Former police officer Jimmy Cherizier, alias “Barbecue,” has formed the so-called “G9,” which is a federation of nine gangs last year
Cherizier told local media outlets in the slum of La Saline on Wednesday, June 23, that the G9 had become a revolutionary force to deliver Haiti from the opposition, the government, and the Haitian bourgeoisie.
Key Information: “Deadly surge in gang violence in Haiti’s capital displaces nearly twice as many people in June than in all of 2020.” Reliefweb. 25 June 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/deadly-surge-gang-violence-haiti-s-capital-displaces-nearly-twice-many-people-june-all:
An estimated 13,600 people have fled their homes in Port-au-Prince since 1 June to escape clashes between rival gangs.
Civilians have been threatened, injured, sexually assaulted or killed, and homes have been looted and burned, according to OCHA and local partners. Humanitarian access is a serious challenge and assistance continues to be delayed by ongoing shootings and roadblocks, which have paralyzed the economy, interrupted movement and restricted essential supplies of food, medicine and fuel. There are reports of wounded people dying because they could not get to the hospital.
In the Capital, armed groups have attacked businesses, stealing food and other supplies, and burned down a camp hosting hundreds of people with disabilities who found refuge there following the 2010 earthquake. They have been relocated to Pétion-Ville municipal school in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, threatening the spread of Covid-19. With hospitals over-run and the arrival of new variants of the virus, infection and fatality rates have risen in the last month. The pandemic has also aggravated the country's high levels of food insecurity and inflation rates.
Stability in Haiti is likely to deteriorate in the coming weeks with gangs expected to fight back to regain territorial control. The Caribbean hurricane season, which started on 1 June, also increases the risk of further displacement. In 2020, IDMC recorded 13,000 displacements due to disasters in the country, mostly linked to hurricanes Isaias and Laura.
Key Information: “Haiti gang leader launches ‘revolution’ as violence escalates.” Reuters. 24 June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haiti-gang-leader-launches-revolution-violence-escalates-2021-06-24/:
One of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders warned this week he was launching a revolution against the country's business and political elites, signaling a likely further escalation of violence in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Violence has spiked in Haiti’s capital in recent weeks to what the United Nations has called “unprecedented levels” as rival groups battle with one another or the police for control of the streets, displacing thousands and worsening the country's humanitarian crisis.
Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, a former police officer, heads the so-called G9 federation of nine gangs formed last year.
Surrounded by gang members wielding machetes and guns, he gave a statement to local media outlets in the slum of La Saline on Wednesday, saying the G9 had become a revolutionary force to deliver Haiti from the opposition, the government and the Haitian bourgeoisie.
Key Information: “Haiti - FLASH : «Barbecue» affirms that the «G9» is now a revolutionary force (Video).” Haiti Libre. 24 June 2021, https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-34053-haiti-flash-barbecue-affirms-that-the-g9-is-now-a-revolutionary-force-video.html:
The ex-policeman, Jimmy Chérizier aka “Barbecue” became Gang leader and leader of the gang coalition “G9 fanmi and allies” actively sought but circulating with impunity... in fatigues and surrounded by many very motivated armed men, in a video that has gone viral on the internet announces that the G9 coalition is now “a revolutionary force”.
“Barbecue” calls on all its supporters to take up arms and be ready for the revolution “[...] Revolisyon an kòmanse, prepare zam nou.”
G9 Leader «Barbecue» (Jimmy Chérizier) calls for ‘revolution’
Source: Screen shot, “Barbecue jimmy cherisier ak g9 revolisyon an komanse [BBQ Jimmy Cherry and the g9 revolution has begun].” YouTube. 23 June 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YueKF_cFeo&t=62s.
Key Information: “Thousands of women and children flee Haiti gang violence, Unicef says.” The Guardian. 15 June 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/15/haiti-gang-violence-women-children-port-au-prince-unicef-flee-homes:
Escalating gang violence has pushed nearly 8,500 women and children from their homes in Haiti’s capital in the past two weeks, according to Unicef.
Officials say the gangs’ fight over territory in Port-au-Prince has forced hundreds of families to abandon burned or ransacked homes in impoverished communities, with many of them staying in gymnasiums and other temporary shelters that are running out of water, food and items like blankets and clothes.
Bruno Maes, Haiti’s representative for the UN’s children agency that issued the report late on Monday, compared the effect to guerrilla warfare, “with thousands of children and women caught in the crossfire”…
…Pierre Espérance, executive director of the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, said gangs control about 60% of the country’s territory and that 12 massacres have been reported since 2018 in disadvantaged communities. However, he said he was especially worried about the most recent upswing in violence…
…In addition to infiltrating rival shantytowns, gangs have targeted police stations in recent weeks, killing several officers. They have also raided businesses and fired on a car dealership on Monday as customers and employees fled. Hours later, Haiti’s national police said they had the situation under control and were collaborating with citizens “to thwart the attempts of these armed gangs wanting at all costs to create a climate of terror in the country”.
Key Information: “Gangs raid police stations for weapons in Haiti as deadly violence surges.” Reuters. 7 June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/gangs-raid-police-stations-weapons-haiti-deadly-violence-surges-2021-06-07/:
Gangs raided multiple police stations for weapons in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, in deadly attacks over the weekend as violence between armed groups flared, with intense conflict in one southern neighborhood forcing thousands to flee.
Attackers raided six police stations over the weekend, killing three police officers and burning their bodies in one attack, local news outlets reported. In another, a police inspector who refused to hand over weapons was shot to death…
…“The phenomenon of gangsterization is taking on more and more alarming proportions,” the office of civil protection said, adding there were conflicts in at least three other neighborhoods of the capital. “The security forces are on their knees.”
Third Generation Gangs Analysis
Chronic insecurity in Haiti is boiling over as gang conflict and chronic state insolvency bring overt violence to the fore in the fragile island nation. In the past weeks, the situation has led to one gang leader—Jimmy Chérizier, aka “Barbecue,” the leader of the G9 gang—to openly call for revolution.
The G9, formally the G9 Fanmi ak Alye (G9 Family and Allies) is one of about 95 gangs battling for supremacy in the slums of Port-au-Prince. The current situation highlights the consequences of this sustained urban insecurity:
Around a third of Port-au-Prince’s territory is affected by the criminal activity and violence propagated by an estimated 95 armed gangs. Since 1 June, a significant upsurge in deadly clashes between these rival gangs in the metropolitan area, triggered by a reconfiguration of gang alliances and ongoing territorial disputes, continue to fuel widespread insecurity and displacement, with devastating consequences for the civilian population. The situation has worsened over the last five days and will likely continue to deteriorate in the coming weeks, as gangs are expected to fight back to regain territorial control, potentially triggering new population movements.
An estimated 1.5 million people are affected by the current outbreak of violence. This includes 1.1 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, with an estimated 17K internally displaced persons (IDPs). Ongoing clashes are interrupting the provision of humanitarian aid, accelerating the flow of IDPs, and eroding state solvency:
The territorial control of gangs had already led to the desertion of the commercial district in downtown Port-au-Prince. Gangs are strengthening their control over a critical area covering hundreds of hectares of an industrial zone, with warehouses and factories that are at the heart of Haiti’s economic life, especially along the road to the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, where there is a high concentration of car dealerships, commercial bank branches and businesses. Armed groups have attacked businesses, stealing food and other supplies, while warehouses continue to be targeted by looters. According to initial estimates, losses to the looted food warehouses amount to several million dollars in goods and equipment.
In the current situation, humanitarian workers are also targets of the gang violence. For example, “The French medical charity Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontière is temporarily closing one of its health facilities in Haiti after doctors and patients were the target of an armed gang attack over the weekend.” In February 2021, over 400 inmates escaped a Haitian prison in an attempt to free a gang leader, Arnel Joseph, who virtually ruled Village de Dieu (Village of God) as a criminal enclave near Port-au-Prince. Twenty-five persons were killed in that incident, including Joseph and the prison director.
In April 2021, G9—in conjunction with their ally the Spit Fire gang—allegedly attempted to take over Bel Air, a shantytown in Port-au-Prince, burning down houses and displacing residents. While the death toll in that assault is unsettled, a similar attack last year (August-September 2020) left at least 22 dead and burned down at least 20 homes.
The G9 Alliance: G9 Fanmi ak Alye
The G9 alliance has distinct political dimensions. According to a UN report by the Bureau intégré des Nations Unies en Haïti (BINUH), the G9 alliance (G9 Fanmi ak Alye or G9 an fanmi) was forged on 10 June 2020. Initially the alliance consisted of nine gangs but subsequently expanded to 15 gangs in several neighborhoods, including Cité Soleil and Bel Air in metropolitan Port-au-Prince. The BINUH report noted that:
The G9, which was reportedly formed at the instigation of former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier – who is suspected of being implicated in the emblematic cases of Grand Ravine (2017), La Saline (2018) and Bel-Air (2019) – is notorious because of the diversity of its membership, its influence over vast swaths of territory in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and its narrative as a social movement fighting for better services and opportunities in poor neighbourhoods. Its creation raised concerns among political and civil society actors about the detrimental impact partisan gangs can have on State institutions.
The G9 alliance is a fragile coalition that seeks to exploit the political vacuum in both Haiti’s criminal and conventional spheres of power. Like other third generation gangs (3 GEN Gangs), it seeks power and stability to gain impunity and sustain territorial control. Gangs in Haiti are the main source of both organized crime activity and insecurity. Armed urban gangs in Port-au-Prince are “involved in drug and weapons trafficking, racketeering, and territorial wars. Murder, rape, and kidnapping are among their methods.”
In addition, like other 3 GEN Gangs, it has mercenary and political antecedents. Gangs in Haiti specifically have been used as instruments for political consolidation. These gangs, known as baz or base gangs, are political instruments. Starting as youth groups, then transitioning to street gangs, they are transitioning into third generation gangs with political and territorial objectives. That is, they are transitioning into criminal armed groups (CAGs).
As David Becker noted:
[President] Aristide resorted to distributing weapons to youth groups (known as bazes or bases) in exchange for their support. Weapons provided to defend Aristide also gave the groups the wherewithal to commit crimes and dominate neighborhoods. With his departure, these gangs (which at that point were fully involved in criminal activity) quickly established control.
Historically, Haiti has been challenged by gangs, warlords, and corrupt politicians. As Marc Lacey noted in 2007, “For years, street gangs have run Haiti right alongside the politicians. With a disbanded army and a corrupted wreck of a police force, successive presidents have either used the gangs against political rivals or just bought them off.” That was before the UN sent in peacekeepers during the June 2014-October 2017 MINUSTAH operation. Currently, the ongoing urban gang warfare is fueling a complex humanitarian emergency. Critical supply chains and lifelines are challenged and food security (and starvation) join human security challenges. Looting, gang blockades, seizures of fuel depots, armed assaults—including attacks on police stations—complicate matters. As a recent Vice article reported:
The slums of Port-Au-Prince have become a fuming warzone in recent weeks as gangs grapple for control. The Ti Lapli and the Krisla gangs are fighting over territory and resources such as weaponry and fuel, as another group of gangs, called the G9, takes advantage of the chaos to expand its influence, according to local media, social media and police reports.
This crime war situation resembles the fourth variety of ‘criminal insurgency’ described by Sullivan in 2012:
The State Implodes: Fourth, criminal insurgency may result when high intensity criminal violence spirals out of control. Essentially this would be the cumulative effect of sustained, unchecked criminal violence and criminal subversion of state legitimacy through endemic corruption and co-option. Here the state simply loses the capacity to respond. [...] This could occur in other fragile zones if cartel and gang violence is left to fester and grow.
The situation in Haiti is critical. Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier’s ‘Revolisyon’ is a poignant example of the current state of gangsterism in many parts of the world. Gangs (CAGs) are altering the configuration of the state by expanding their territorial control beyond criminal enclaves into all facets of governance. State fragility is morphing into state transition and reconfiguration. These challenges of sovereignty and governance present a complex array of issues for states, their police and military, the populace, and indeed the gangs themselves. This complex set of challenges can be expected to expand as the drivers of instability (pandemics like the Covid-19 situation and climate change) merge with the crime wars and criminal insurgencies now and in the near future.
“Deadly surge in gang violence in Haiti’s capital displaces nearly twice as many people in June than in all of 2020.” Reliefweb. 25 June 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/deadly-surge-gang-violence-haiti-s-capital-displaces-nearly-twice-many-people-june-all.
“Gangs raid police stations for weapons in Haiti as deadly violence surges.” Reuters. 7 June 2021,https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/gangs-raid-police-stations-weapons-haiti-deadly-violence-surges-2021-06-07/.
“Haiti - FLASH : 1/3 of Port-au-Prince serves as a battlefield for nearly 95 gangs.” Haiti Libre. 25 June 2021, https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-34065-haiti-flash-1-3-of-port-au-prince-serves-as-a-battlefield-for-nearly-95-gangs.html
“Haiti - FLASH : «Barbecue» affirms that the «G9» is now a revolutionary force (Video).” Haiti Libre. 24 June 2021, https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-34053-haiti-flash-barbecue-affirms-that-the-g9-is-now-a-revolutionary-force-video.html.
“Haiti gang leader launches ‘revolution’ as violence escalates.” Reuters. 24 June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haiti-gang-leader-launches-revolution-violence-escalates-2021-06-24/.
Lillian Perlmutter, “Gang Wars in Haiti Are Pushing People Towards Starvation.” Vice. 30 June 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/jg8d3k/gang-wars-in-haiti-are-pushing-people-towards-starvation.
“Thousands of women and children flee Haiti gang violence, Unicef says.” The Guardian. 15 June 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/15/haiti-gang-violence-women-children-port-au-prince-unicef-flee-homes.
Mary Webster, “Haiti Gang Led by an Ex-Cop Declares 'Revolution' as Violence Surge Fueled by Poverty.” Latin Post. 25 June 2021, https://www.latinpost.com/articles/150821/20210625/haiti-gang-led-ex-cop-declares-revolution-violence-surge.htm.
 See “Haiti - FLASH : «Barbecue» affirms that the «G9» is now a revolutionary force (Video).” Haiti Libre. 24 June 2021, https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-34053-haiti-flash-barbecue-affirms-that-the-g9-is-now-a-revolutionary-force-video.html.
 See “Haiti - FLASH : 1/3 of Port-au-Prince serves as a battlefield for nearly 95 gangs.” Haiti Libre. 25 June 2021, https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-34065-haiti-flash-1-3-of-port-au-prince-serves-as-a-battlefield-for-nearly-95-gangs.html.
 State solvency is the sum of legitimacy and capacity. Insolvency results when chronic insecurity combines with a lack of state capacity, corruption, and impunity eroding perceived state legitimacy. See John P. Sullivan, “From Drug Wars to Criminal Insurgency: Mexican Cartels, Criminal Enclaves and Criminal Insurgency in Mexico and Central America. Implications for Global Security,” Working Paper No9. Paris: Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme. April 2012, https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00694083/document and John P. Sullivan, “How Illicit Networks Impact Sovereignty,” Chapter 10 in Michael Miklaucic and Jacqueline Brewer, Eds. Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization. Washington, DC: National Defense University Press: 2013, https://www.academia.edu/3245714/How_Illicit_Networks_Impact_Sovereignty.
 Jacqueline Charles, “Haiti gang violence forces Doctors Without Borders to close ER, hold off COVID treatment.” Miami Herald. 28 June 2021, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article252423828.html.
 “Prison director and gang leader among 25 killed in Haitian jailbreak.” Associated Press via The Guardian. 26 February 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/27/prison-director-and-gang-leader-among-25-killed-in-haitian-jailbreak.
 Onz Chéry, “Battle for Bel Air Turns Fatal as Residents Resist Gang Takeover.” The Haitian Times. 2 April 2021, https://haitiantimes.com/2021/04/02/battle-for-bel-air-turns-fatal-as-residents-resist-gang-takeover/.
 “Haiti’s Gangs unite, political actors talk of unity.” The Haitian Times. 6 July 2020, https://haitiantimes.com/2020/07/06/haitis-gangs-unite-political-actors-talk-of-unity/.
 See “Bureau intégré des Nations Unies en Haïti/United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) “ Report of the Secretary General. 25 September 2020, p. 4/29. S/2020/944, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N20/241/75/PDF/N2024175.pdf?OpenElement.
 See Parker Asmann, “Is Haiti's G9 Gang Alliance a Ticking Time Bomb?” InSight Crime. 23 Juky 2020, https://insightcrime.org/news/analysis/g9-gang-alliance-haiti/ and Maria Paula Saenz, “Haiti's Mighty G9 Gang Alliance Tries to Keep it Together.” InSight Crime. 14 June 2021, https://insightcrime.org/news/haitis-mighty-g9-gang-alliance-tries-keep-together/
 See John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, Eds. Strategic Notes on Third Generation Gangs. Bloomington: Xlibris, 2020, https://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Notes-Third-Generation-Gangs/dp/1796095613.
 Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. “Haiti: The security situation, including crime and kidnappings; measures taken by the government and other stakeholders to fight crime (2014-June 2018).” 19 June 2018, HTI106116.FE, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5b3dd86f4.html.
 See John P. Sullivan, “The Challenges of Territorial Gangs: Civil Strife, Criminal Insurgencies and Crime Wars.” Revista do Ministério Público Militar (Brazil), Edição n. 31, November 2019, https://www.academia.edu/40917684/The_Challenges_of_Territorial_Gangs_Civil_Strife_Criminal_Insurgencies_and_Crime_Wars.
 David C. Becker, “Gangs, Netwar, and ‘Community Counterinsurgency’ in Haiti.” Prism: The Journal of Complex Operations. Vol. 2, no. 3, p. 137. January 2013, https://nacla.org/news/2021/political-anatomy-haiti-armed-gangs.
 Marc Lacey, “U.N. Troops Fight Haiti Gangs One Street at a Time.” New York Times. 10 February 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/10/world/americas/10haiti.html.
 The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti – MINUSTAH) sought to stabilize the situation in Haiti. It was authorized by the Security Council in Resolution 1542 and supported the Haitian National Police, especially in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake where its operations were expanded in Security Council Resolution 1908. Its challenges in controlling the criminal armed groups persist. See MINUSTAH Fact Sheet at https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/minustah.
 Lillian Perlmutter, “Gang Wars in Haiti Are Pushing People Towards Starvation.” Vice. 30 June 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/jg8d3k/gang-wars-in-haiti-are-pushing-people-towards-starvation.
 Op Cit. Sullivan, Note 6.
 On crime wars, see: Robert Muggah and John P. Sullivan. “The Coming Crime Wars.” Foreign Policy. 21 September 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/21/the-coming-crime-wars/; on pandemics, see: John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, Eds. Covid-19, Gangs, and Conflict. Bloomington: Xlibris. 2020, https://www.amazon.com/Covid-19-Gangs-Conflict-Journal-El-Centro/dp/1664124349; on climate change, see: Nathan Jones and John P. Sullivan, “Climate Change and Global Security.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 13, no. 4: pp. i-iv, https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1899&context=jss.
For Additional Reading
Djems Olivier, “The Political Anatomy of Haiti’s Armed Gangs.” NACLA. 2 April 2021.
Chelsey L. Kivland, Street Sovereigns: Young Men and the Makeshift State in Urban Haiti. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020.
Athena R. Kolbe, “Revisiting Haiti ́s Gangs and Organized Violence.” HASOW (Humanitarian Action in Situations Other than War). Discussion Paper 4, June 2013.
David C. Becker, “Gangs, Netwar, and ‘Community Counterinsurgency’ in Haiti.” Prism: The Journal of Complex Operations. Vol. 2, no. 3. January 2013.
John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Drug Cartels, Street Gangs, and Warlords.” Small Wars & Insurgencies. Vol. 13, no. 2, 2008: pp. 40-53.