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Nation & World

Haitians Fear Gang Violence, But Are Also Wary Of International Intervention

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A team of U.S. officials is now helping Haiti investigate who killed the country's president last week. But despite calls from Haiti's interim government for security assistance, the U.S. is not currently pledging military support. Security is the top issue for many Haitians right now, according to Yvens Rumbold. He's director of communications for Policite, a public policy think tank in Haiti. He says many Haitians remain suspicious of international peacekeeping intervention, but he also rarely leaves his house because street violence has grown drastically in the last three years.

YVENS RUMBOLD: Well, it is mostly gangs against gangs, but also gangs against the population. Because, like, last week, there was a nurse who was helping someone in an ambulance, and she was shot to death. And this is a true fear because so many people have died. We have, like - for the last three years, at least 470 people have died due to the violence and massacres in the neighborhoods, and 83 people have disappeared. So it's not, like, only because of the political vacuum. We are not sure if the national police can stand against the gangs.

CORNISH: Can you talk about what international peacekeeping efforts have been like in Haiti? What is the history there?

RUMBOLD: Well, it is a long and sad history of U.N. and U.S. intervention, even France and Canadian intervention in Haiti. We are - we don't have, like, right now the feeling of satisfaction after all of these interventions. The last one is the U.N. one. That started in 2004 after President Aristide went to exile, and it lasted 13 years.

CORNISH: So there is this U.N. mission in 2004 that many Haitians believe brought a cholera outbreak to the country. There was also reports of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers. So would Haitians welcome international peacekeeping support right now, or are people too suspicious?

RUMBOLD: Of course, you all know about the cholera outbreak that the U.N. peacekeepers brought to Haiti, but this situation has left Haitian very skeptical about any U.N. intervention in the future. You're not going to find the civil society, the Haitian civil society, the organized groups requesting an intervention whatsoever.

CORNISH: What are you going to be looking for over the next few days and weeks? We started this conversation with you saying that things can unravel quickly.

RUMBOLD: We don't know. Like, what we are hoping for is for the actual people that are fighting for the power in Haiti right now - they can have a consensus to have kind of a transition government so they can lead us to elections. Not this year - it's not going to happen this year, but maybe next year or the year after. That is what we are hoping for.

CORNISH: So elections in the next two years, you're saying. That is the hope.

RUMBOLD: Yes, that is the hope. We don't think that the actual - this interim government will be able to mobilize the Haitian population to go to vote because they can't resolve the security problem. The main problem for us right now is the security problem, the security issue. If we don't trust the government to organize, to resolve the security issue, we're not going to trust them in organizing elections in Haiti.

CORNISH: What are people saying in this moment?

RUMBOLD: All eyes are right now on the assassination of the Haitian president. It's not on COVID. It's not on the food. It's not on the crisis that is going on. It's on the assassination of the president. Like, everyone wants to know who was behind the commando, who deals with the people that came to Haiti, when. And there is kind of a mixed feeling because we don't trust the government. We don't trust it. We don't know if the actual interim government is telling the truth. That's the main problem. And of course, because of the incompetence of the Haitian police right now, we cannot truly say that all the information that we get from the police is truthful.

CORNISH: Yvens Rumbold, thank you so much for speaking with us.

RUMBOLD: Thank you very much for your time.

CORNISH: Yvens Rumbold is director of communications for Policite, a public policy think tank in Haiti. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.