Port-au-Prince (Agenzia Fides) - More than 500,000 illegal firearms could be in circulation in Haiti. This is the figure given in the report published yesterday, March 3, by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drug Trafficking and Crime) entitled "Haiti's Criminal Markets: Mapping Trends in Firearms and Drug Trafficking". The reported figure refers to 2020 and was published by the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (CNDDR). However, this assessment is considered approximate; what is certain, according to the UNODC, is that "while the number of weapons circulating in Haiti may never be known, the vast majority of them are illegal".
"The main source of firearms and ammunition in Haiti is in the United States, particularly in Florida", the report said.
The weapons are purchased by intermediaries and front men in states of the Federation that have lax laws on their sale, then shipped to Florida from where they travel to the Caribbean state. “Weapons are shipped in containers directly from South Florida ports, hidden inside consumer products, electronic equipment, clothing liners, frozen food, or even the hulls of cargo ships. Upon arrival in Haiti, the cargo is unloaded and transferred to end users through a series of intermediaries".
"Weapons purchased for $400 to $500 from federally licensed gunsmiths or gun shows in the United States can be resold for up to $10,000 in Haiti," UNODC said. Criminal gangs increase the demand for more powerful weapons such as AK47s, AR15s and Galil rifles which therefore have even higher prices. US authorities themselves have said they have seen an increase in the illicit trafficking of weapons to Haiti, including sniper rifles even in 50 caliber (capable of firing up to 1,500 meters and piercing armor) and even a belt-fed machine gun. Weapons of war used in the conflicts between the 150 to 200 criminal gangs that operate in the country.
Other routes taken by arms traffickers are the neighboring Dominican Republic and, to a lesser extent, Jamaica, which, as a note in the report points out, has also "seen a sharp increase in seizures of firearms these last years". According to Jamaican police, seizures of firearms in the first six months of 2022 compared to 2021 increased by 37%.”
Haiti is a transit and sorting point for cocaine from Colombia destined for the US and Canadian markets, and cannabis from Jamaica, primarily destined for the Dominican Republic tourist market.
The illegal economy now seems to dominate the country, a phenomenon that goes hand in hand with the privatization of security. “Although it is not possible to verify this independently, specialists estimate that there could be 75,000 to 90,000 people working for a hundred private security companies in the country, which is at least five times the number of police officers," the report said. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 4/3/2023)
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