(FILE) A person holds a gun on a street in Petiónville, on August 18, 2023, in Port-au-Prince (Haiti). Thousands of Haitians live in makeshift camps without basic services, forced to leave their homes due to the war between gangs fighting for new territories, without the Government coming to their aid. EFE/ Johnson Sabin

Drugs, arms and human traffickers ravage Haiti, UN says

Milo Milfort

Port-au-Prince, Oct. 19 (EFE). – Insecurity, violence and the trafficking of weapons, drugs and migrants plague Haiti and jeopardize its social and economic development, according to the latest report of the United Nations Group of Experts released Thursday.

“Insecurity, the institutional vacuum and the weakness of border controls favor the interests of criminals, particularly drug traffickers, who are intensifying their operations,” the experts denounce.

They warn that the Haitian crisis is also affecting criminal activity in the region, as the demand and circulation of illegal firearms in the poorest country in the Americas fuels trafficking in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

Gun trafficking, a driver of gang expansion

Firearms in circulation in Haiti reached 600,000 in 2022, up from 291,000 in 2018, most of them illegal.

There is a constant demand for firearms and ammunition by both gangs and civilians, and very high prices are paid for them.

This has led to the emergence of numerous small transnational networks (the so-called “ant trafficking”), due to the lucrative business that arms trafficking represents.

For example, 5.56 mm semi-automatic rifles cost between $5,000 and $8,000, while a 9 mm pistol can cost between $1,500 and $3,000 and the ammunition cartridge can cost $3 to $5.

“The trafficking of arms and ammunition to Haiti is one of the main factors driving the expansion of gang territorial control and the extreme levels of armed violence in the country, and constitutes a threat to regional stability,” the document warns.

In view of this situation, the Group of Experts considers that stopping the flow of arms and ammunition must be a priority for the Haitian authorities and for the States of the region as a whole, and stresses that the provisions of the selective arms embargo must be applied urgently and strictly.

Drug trafficking hub

Drug trafficking has also found fertile ground in Haiti, given the low number of seizures, mainly due to “the involvement of certain corrupt economic and political actors in the country, who rely on the authorities in charge of border control, law enforcement and certain members of the judiciary,” the experts denounce.

Some businessmen and politicians, they add, place their cronies in key positions of authority and take advantage of the numerous “blind spots” that exist in the country, allowing them to move drugs with little interference, even in collusion with the gangs.

Despite its limited operational capacity, the Haitian Office to Combat Drug Trafficking seized approximately 104.7 kilos of marijuana and 5. 4 kilos of cocaine in the first half of 2023.

An examination of the seizures revealed that there are multiple routes of the drugs in Haiti, although the south is the main entry point.

The report also refers to the smuggling of migrants, which has become “a lucrative business facilitated by a number of actors in Haiti and abroad, such as smugglers, corrupt officials in charge of issuing passports and visas, immigration officials, travel agencies, charter flights and boat builders.

The group of experts visited Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the United States to learn about the impact of the Haitian crisis on migrants and refugees.

In Haiti, particularly in Port-de-Paix, they saw the places where the boats used to transport migrants are built, boats that cost between $25,000 and $50,000 and are usually overloaded with a hundred people.

These people pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for a trip to the United States that can last a week if everything goes well and there are no mishaps.

Experts point out that “Haitian migrants in the region suffer discrimination and xenophobia because of their ethnicity, language and undocumented status. In addition, the lack of support systems places them in extremely difficult conditions and makes them more vulnerable to labor exploitation and criminal organizations. EFE mm/mcd