Ten days ago, the peacekeeping force attached to the United Nations Mission in Haiti began incursions into gang infested neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, with orders to arrest leaders of the organized criminal groups that terrorize the impoverished Cite-Soleil neighborhood. As the AP reports, it would seem that this campaign has shown some early signs of success. Peacekeepers on Monday arrested one Johnny Pierre Louis, a gang leader wanted in connection to the reprisal murders of two other gang members who had agreed to participate in a UN sponsored disarmament program. The program, administered by MINUSTAH (as the UN’s Haiti mission is known), promises economic aid and job training in return for gang members relinquishing their arms. Though Louis was arrested, the shadowy top leader of the criminal network rooted in Cite-Soleil, who is known only as “Evans,” is still on the loose. However, according to a rather detailed article about the raids (from Jacqueline Charles of McClatchy newspapers) UN peacekeepers now control about 20% of Cite Soleil, including the school house that served as Evans’ headquarters. Evans is apparently on the run and has contacted Haitian authorities promising to turn over his guns.
These early tactical successes bode well for MINUSTAH’s decision to take more robust and assertive action against organized crime in Haiti’s slums. Of course, no one should be sanguine about the prospects for a swift turnabout in the quality of life in Cite-Soleil. Still, early returns would show that MINUSTAH’s forceful posture is paying off for the embattled residents of Haiti’s poorest district.