The HAITI-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Border – Haiti has been an epicenter of suffering for many decades, and now the people are being suffocated by dangerous, powerful gangs.
It comes as Haiti's downward spiral into a failed state has intensified lately. In January, its last 10 elected senators stepped down, leaving the Caribbean country without a functioning government. The result is anarchy as armed and violent gangs rule the streets.
Deploying a special international force to Haiti could bring desperately needed respite, but analysts believe that without a long-term political solution, any new stabilization measures have little chance of putting a stop to the carnage.
Jimmy Cherizier, whose street name is Barbecue, is known as Haiti's most powerful and feared gang leader. In the neighborhood of La Saline, he's the closest thing to law these people know. Barbecue considers himself a community leader.
"I'm not a thief, I'm not involved in kidnapping, I'm not a rapist, I'm just carrying out a social fight to claim a better life for all the people in the world," he claims.
Internationally, better known as a criminal, his G9 gang took control of a Haitian fuel depot late last year. While it caused even more misery in a place already described by residents as "hell on earth," he says, they did it to try and force change.
Barbecue says, "You in your country, if you were living in these conditions as in La Saline, if you saw the conditions in which Delmas 2 people are living in, wouldn't you revolt?"
With little to no organized government, Haiti's embattled police force is virtually powerless. In January alone, 15 cops died battling the gangs. That sparked violent protests from the police themselves.
One masked demonstrator said, "We need a revolution, we need to have a bloodbath. We are in the streets to fight for our brothers and sisters who are victimized by the bandits and we have to take to the streets every day to get what we want."
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The violence has forced many U.S.-based missions here to severely curtail work in the country. In 2019, Dr. Doug Burbella was on his 35th mission trip here when gang members shot him at a roadblock. At the time, Burbella thought his life was over. Video from that terrible moment shows Doug saying goodbye to his family after he was shot.
Miraculously, he's made a full recovery, although his Haiti ministry is stalled because of the situation on the ground.
Burbella now says, "We're almost out of food, so we generally feed thousands of kids every day, and we can't get a shipping container from the port in Port-au-Prince, up to the northwest, it's impossible right now. Gas stations are closed so even if we had access to a truck and it made it through the roadblocks, we can't even buy fuel."
With options dwindling, many Haitians are fleeing across their shared border with the Dominican Republic, including some of Dr. Burbella's friends. "They are in fear for their lives. They watched people get killed in front of their house in Port-Au-Prince, so we helped them flee to the DR," he explains.
CBN News visited the main border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. A lot of people come across here during the day to shop in this sort of buffer zone between the two countries, but if they want to go any further into the DR they have to have a special visa. That's getting harder and harder to obtain because there are so many illegal immigrants inside the Dominican Republic, it's become too costly for them. And they are taking a very tough stand on those illegal crossers to the point that they are actually building a wall like we see on the U.S. southern border.
Today nearly 25% of the total population of the DR is made up of Haitians, over 2 million of whom are there illegally. The United Nations recently called for military intervention in Haiti, but the U.S. has already intervened here 19 times in Haiti's history, without much to show for it. For his part, Dr. Burbella says there's only one way things will improve.
"Apart from military intervention from another country, I would say revival. A good, old-fashioned revival would be the only thing I could see that could turn this country around," he says.
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