Arms trafficking to Haiti on the rise, says UN

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Arms trafficking to Haiti is on the rise, according to the UN

Security forces arrest two young men suspected of carrying firearms in a hot zone of the capital Port-au-Prince. (File photo)

Increasingly high caliber weapons are being smuggled into Haiti in greater quantities as violence reaches levels not seen in decades, according to a UN report consulted on Saturday by AFP.

Pistols and sometimes even heavy machine guns are being smuggled in today, amid a rapid and unprecedented deterioration in security, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) wrote.

Haiti has been stuck for years in a deep economic, security and political crisis. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 worsened the situation.

The number of recorded homicides rose from 1,141 in 2019 to 2,183 in 2022 and that of kidnappings from 78 to 1,359, with gangs controlling more than half of the national territory, according to the study which deplores the x27; effect of trafficking on multiple Haitian crises.

A police officer cries in front of the coffins of three colleagues who died on duty. (File photo)

To draw its conclusions, UNODC relies on a recent increase in firearm seizures, intelligence reports and court decisions.

The UN body conducted 45 interviews with political leaders, development agencies, experts, members of civil society and also refers to facts reported by the media.

Its assessment should help provide support to the Haitian people, said in a statement Angela Me, head of the analysis service at UNODC, an office based in Vienna, Austria.

Most of the weapons come from the United States and transit first through Florida, where members of the Haitian diaspora often take care of hiding them in containers of articles of ;usual import.

Rickson Beaubrun, a boy from Cité Soleil, is treated at a Doctors Without Borders clinic after being injured by a stray bullet, while he slept in his bed.

Handguns, sold for less than $500 legally in the United States, can be purchased for up to $10 000 dollars in Haiti. Gangs favor AK-47 rifles, AR-15s and Galil assault rifles.

Porous borders, lack of Customs and Coast Guard resources , which have only one ship in working order, corruption and intimidation are put forward as the main obstacles to a reversal of the trend.

Des investments in community policing, criminal justice reform and the fight against corruption are key to restoring lasting security, the report concludes.

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