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Haiti: Who is the leader of the “Barbecue” gang?

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Former police officer Jimmy « Barbecue » Chérizier, leader of the “G9 and Family” alliance, is surrounded by gang members after a press conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 5, 2024.

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He describes himself as a revolutionary. He poses as a defender of working-class neighborhoods and presents himself as a counterweight to the Haitian elites. The international community sees him instead as a dangerous criminal who brandishes the threat of “civil war.” Who is Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, the powerful gang leader credited with Haiti's most recent escalation of violence?

Tuesday, in front of the press, Jimmy Chérizier, surrounded by his hooded men, issued a warning that was serious to say the least. If [Prime Minister] Ariel Henry does not resign, if the international community continues to support him, we are heading straight towards a civil war which will lead to genocide.

Little known internationally, “Barbecue”, whose pseudonym dates back to his adolescence, when he sold grilled meat in the streets of the capital, nevertheless has a long track record of violent events in Haiti.

Originally from the district of Delmas, in Port-au-Prince, and former officer of the Haitian national police, Jimmy Chérizier, now aged 46, is suspected of having played an important role in several brutal attacks in the capital in 2018 and 2019.

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On the international stage, Jimmy Chérizier is known as Haiti's most powerful and feared gang leader, sanctioned by the United Nations for “serious human rights violations.” (Archive photo)

He was also ousted from the forces of the 27 ;order after participating in a 2018 massacre of civilians in a Port-au-Prince slum that left 71 dead, including residents burned alive in their homes.

While he always denied his involvement in the attack, the United States subsequently sanctioned the former officer, 2020.

After being excluded from the police, in 2020 Jimmy Chérizier created an alliance made up of the nine most powerful gangs in the capital, which he named G9 and Family.

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Today'consisting of&# Around 1000 men, the alliance is mainly made up of former police officers, former security agents and street children. It commits, among other things, murder, theft, extortion, rape, targeted assassinations, drug trafficking and kidnapping.

It's not Jimmy Chérizier as such which is the most to fear, but the coalition of these armed criminal groups, because all together, they constitute a fairly large force.

A quote from Étienne Côté-Paluck, independent journalist in Haiti

The G9 alliance is propelled towards international notoriety in 2022, after having took control of Haiti's main oil port, paralyzing fuel distribution and plunging Haiti further into chaos.

This episode sparked calls for a multinational force to be sent to help the overwhelmed Haitian police – a mission still awaiting deployment.

A sign of his influence, Jimmy Chérizier became the first to be targeted, in October 2022, by the brand new UN sanctions regime against Haitian armed bands (travel ban, asset freeze, targeted arms embargo).

Despite everything, Barbecue continues to commit acts that threaten the peace, security and stability of Haiti, commented last September by the UN committee of experts responsible for monitoring the application of sanctions.

Jimmy Chérizier would have benefited in particular from favors from ex-president Jovenel Moïse and the police. His alliance allegedly received money, weapons, police uniforms and government vehicles from senior officials in the Moïse government, which allowed him to carry out massacres.

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Members of the gang led by Jimmy Chérizier , aka Barbecue, carry a photo of assassinated President Jovenel Moïse during a march to demand justice for his assassination, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 26, 2021.

“Barbecue” and the G9, however, suffered a setback when their alleged political godfather was assassinated in July 2021.

According to InSight Crime, 50% of G9 funding came from government money before the assassination of Jovenel Moïse. Subsequently, government funding reportedly fell by 30%. This would also have encouraged the leader to continue his fight against the people who had inherited political control of the country.

These gangs were set up by those in power. The way this regime operates, when it is illegitimate, is to give itself armed brigades to protect itself.

A quote from Frédéric Boisrond, sociologist

Gangs in Haiti are now considered a significant threat, continues Mr. Boisrond. The gangs are better equipped and have a better strategy than the Haitian police. The latter is poorly prepared and poorly trained to wage war.

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Jimmy Chérizier is considered a hero in his hometown, and several residents consider him their protector. (Archive photo)

However, neither American sanctions nor UN sanctions will have had the last word on the trajectory of Jimmy Chérizier, who often presented G9 as a means of restoring peace in Port-au-Prince.

We are fighting for another society, another Haiti which is not reserved for the 5% of people who hold all the wealth, but a new Haiti where everyone can have food and drinking water, a decent house for live, another Haiti where we do not need to leave the country.

A quote from Jimmy Chérizier, in an interview with Al Jazeera in 2021

Tuesday, during his press briefing, he reiterated his position as defender of the working classes and counterweight to the country's elites. There is no question of a small group of rich people living in large hotels deciding the fate of the inhabitants of working-class neighborhoods, he proclaimed.

While Jimmy Chérizier raises his voice, Prime Minister Ariel Henry is still on the list of major absentees since his trip to Kenya last week to solicit police forces.

According to the Dominican media CDN, the Prime Minister's private plane landed at Puerto Rico due to tensions in Haiti.

Since then, no sign of life.

With information from Danielle Kadjo, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Al Jazeera, BBC and InSight Crime

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116