New leaders take on Haiti’s chaos as those living in fear demand swift solutions to gang violence

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Ex-senator Louis Gerald Gilles, (from left to right), pastor Frinel Joseph, barrister Emmanuel Vertilaire, businessman Laurent Saint-Cyr, interim Prime Minister Michel Patrick Boisvert, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun, who is not a member of the council, former senate president Edgard Leblanc, Regine Abraham, former central bank governor Fritz Alphonse Jean, former diplomat Leslie Voltaire and former ambassador to the Dominican Republic Smith Augustin, pose for a group photo during an installation ceremony, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on April 25. (AP)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, April 27, (AP): It has been only a day since the transitional presidential council was installed in Haiti, and the list of demands on the Caribbean nation’s new leaders is rapidly growing. Haitians want security, food, jobs – and they want them now.
The members of the council, tasked with with bringing political stability to Haiti, are under immense pressure to produce quick results, despite a deep-seated crisis that has been years in the making.
Making Haiti safer is a priority. More than 2,500 people were killed or injured from January to March alone, and more than 90,000 have fled the capital of Port-au-Prince so far this year amid relentless gang violence.
“The task is really monumental,” said Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia.
Gangs have burned police stations, opened fire on the main international airport that has been closed since early March, and stormed the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.
Gangs now control 80% of Port-au-Prince, and though they have long depended on powerful politicians and the country’s economic elite for their survival, they are increasingly becoming self-sufficient.
“How you extricate yourself from that is very complicated,” Fatton said. “I don’t expect he presidential council to come up with a solution.”
However, the council could push for disarmament and find ways to ease poverty in the slums, he added. “Those gangs are simply not going to go away by simply saying, ‘We want you to be nice guys’.”
The nine-member council acknowledged the challenges it faces after it was sworn in early Thursday at the National Palace, located in an area in downtown Port-au-Prince that has been under attack by gangs in recent weeks.
Gunfire erupted during the ceremony as some officials looked around the room. Hours later, the new interim prime minister, Michel Boisvert, addressed the council.
“The task ahead is daunting,” Boisvert said. “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the population expects a lot from you … everything becomes a priority alongside security.”

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