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Taking back control: Legalize Haiti’s gangs, some say

A gang member patrols in Cité Soleil slum

A gang member patrols in Cité Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Sunday July 12, 2015. ( Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

The Haitian Times
By J.O. Haselhoef

This story is part of a special investigation into Haiti’s gang crisis and potential solutions. To view the full series visit our special section, Gangs in Haiti: A deeper look.

In 2007, Ecuador legalized gangs in a major shift called “The Citizens’ Revolution” that aimed to turn the country around. Gangs remade themselves as cultural associations, registered with the government and, thereby, qualified for grants and social programming benefits. By 2017, the homicide rate went from 22 murders per 100,000 to five per 100,000 people, according to David Brotherton, a sociologist and criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“[Governments] want quick solutions — the ‘magic-bullet-as-a-band-aid’ solution, because the problem becomes highly politicized,” Brotherton said, speaking on the nonprofit news podcast, Who What Why, in 2019. “But the problem is a social problem, also an economic problem, a cultural problem, and so on and so forth. Therefore, it’s a very complex problem.”


As the violence on Haiti’s streets attributable to “gangs” reaches unprecedented levels, The Haitian Times digs into four answers to the question so many Haitians ask — “How do we get rid of these gangs?” This installment explores the idea of recognizing and legalizing gangs as groups serving legitimate purposes in their communities to reduce clashes.

To view the full story, please subscribe to The Haitian Times. You can choose a $60 Annual Subscription or a $5 Weekly Pass.

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