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Haiti’s Proud Boys

If we measure a failed state by the cracks in the edifice of its power, reflected in brewing ideological civil wars, deadlocked assemblies, and increasingly insecure public spaces, we must recognize that the United States is not so unlike Haiti. Both have given rise to violent gangs with political ambitions.

LJUBLJANA – The way things are going in Haiti, violent gangs might not only gain an official government role; they might actually become the government. Following the gangs’ seizure of critical infrastructure and the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Haiti is exhibiting all the familiar features of a failed state. Its people are left with a tragic choice: continued rule by a corrupt “democratic” elite, or direct rule by gangs who present themselves as “progressive.”

With law and order having collapsed, CARICOM, the Caribbean regional intergovernmental organization, has announced an agreement to create a transitional council aimed at representing a wide swath of Haitian political and civil-society groupings. The council would wield some powers that typically belong to the (vacant) office of the president, including the power to name an interim prime minister. The resulting government would be expected eventually to hold elections, thus achieving a complete political reset.

But whom will these new arrangements include? Haiti has been under a state of emergency since armed groups attacked the country’s largest prison earlier this month, killing and injuring police and prison staff, and allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape. The gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier – himself a former police officer – took credit for the attack and called for the government to be overthrown. Gangs now control 80% of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, having seized the country’s main airport to block Henry’s return from a diplomatic mission to Kenya, where he was hoping to secure police reinforcements.