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The state of Haiti 1 year after the prime minister was assassinated


It's been a year since Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated, and the country is sliding deeper into political chaos and deadly violence. The capital, Port au Prince, is now divided among rival gangs, and their grip on Haiti has only tightened. Jacqueline Charles is Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald, and she's just returned from Haiti and joins us now. Welcome.


FADEL: So can you describe what you saw on your recent visit?

CHARLES: Well, I can tell you that the capital is a metropolis that functions only by daylight. People no longer leave home before sunrise. And as soon as it hits 3 o'clock, what you see is people racing to go back home. Where I was staying, I just remember, like, at 2 a.m. in the morning, you could hear a pin drop because there was not a car on the streets. And I've been on the streets in Haiti at that time, around 3 a.m., but not anymore. And it's not to say that gangs only kidnap people at night because there are a lot of kidnappings that happen also in the daylight. But people are just feeling that they have to fend for themselves and do what they can to keep themselves safe, either from being killed or kidnapped.

FADEL: Wow. So are these gangs just unchecked? Where are the security forces?

CHARLES: The security forces are there, which is basically the police, but their numbers have been dwindling. There are only 12,000-plus police officers for a country with approximately 12 million individuals. And basically, you know, they just haven't been able to keep them in check, so to speak. You know, while they're at one part of the capital trying to address one issue, you have another gang that's trying to take control of another area. We've just seen this in the last couple of weeks, the city of Tabarre, where the U.S. Embassy, ironically enough, is located - gangs have been trying to move into that area and basically extend their grip. So it's been very difficult for a police force. At the same time, they've had police officers that have left. I have spoke to a number of cops. We went on a ride-along with them. They said that they want to fight back. They are not afraid to confront the gangs, but they don't have the equipment. They don't have the weapons. They don't have the ammunition.

FADEL: And what do Haitians say about their future with these mass killings, kidnappings, assaults?

CHARLES: Haitians have a very hard time seeing a future today. People are leaving. Those without visas are getting on boats. We today have the largest Haitian migration crisis by boat from the island since 2004. Those with visas are flying to the Dominican Republic or even here to the United States. What you have is a huge migration that's going on, and a lot of it is really unaccounted for because, you know, it's a hard - difficult to check. But they are leaving. They're migrating. And those who are left there, well, they're doing what they can. You have families that are separated because people live in one city, and they have to work in another.

FADEL: In the few seconds we have left, should the international community be doing something?

CHARLES: Well, that is - people would like to see the international community do something. But the question is, what should it be doing? And how should it be doing it? There's a lot of debate about this. The U.N. mandate is coming up for the 15, the political office, and whether or not there should be - the Dominican Republic has asked for troops. Others have said no troops. So that's the real question today for the international community.

FADEL: Jacqueline Charles is Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. Thank you so much.

CHARLES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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