The leader of an armed gang in Haiti has threatened to take revenge if three “innocent” young people arrested last week are not released, highlighting the grip armed groups linked to organized crime have over the fragile state.
Pepage Pierre, alias “Ti Sam,” described by Haiti news source as the leader of the “rebels” in the town of Curtis, told journalists he was presenting an ultimatum following the apprehension of the three by the new police Maintenance of Order Unit (UDMO), reported Haiti Libre.
“If the authorities of Petit-Goave do no liberate these young people, we will be fiercer than bin Laden,” said Pierre. “Why are the forces of order choosing to arrest innocents when they know us and they also know where we are?”
If the threat was not heeded, Pierre’s group would start shooting at whoever crossed one of the island’s major highways, he said.
InSight Crime Analysis
While organizations such as the one run by Ti Sam often describe themselves as “rebel” forces, in reality the situation is far more complex. These types of group operate more as armed gangs that mix criminality, politics and social action to varying degrees.
According to a study by NGO Humanitarian Action in Situations Other than War (HASOW), the gangs can be broadly divided into four categories; urban gangs, which sometimes have political motivations, are often financed by local businessmen and mix crime such as extortion and contraband with social work and community organizing; groups run by former members of the Haitian armed forces, which have continued to operate as armed actors since the army stood down in 1995; private militias, which often crossover with private security companies and offer services in areas such as trafficking, extortion and union busting as well as security; and criminal networks, which are often linked to powerful and wealthy families and are involved in both legal and illegal business in areas such as imports/exports, arms trafficking, drugs and people trafficking, gambling, money lending, protection rackets and money laundering.
With a severely weakened state, these armed groups have become powerful actors in Haitian society with a foot in both the legal and the illegal world. They are also frequently employed by the country’s elite power brokers, especially politicians and political parties. This may have been the case in Petit-Goave, where the local deputy, Jacques Stevenson Thimoleon, has been accused of having a relationship with the Ti Sam’s gang and others operating in the area, reported Haiti Libre. Stevenson has denied the allegations.