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‘Lawless’ Haiti plagued by corruption, and deadly gang violence fuels humanitarian crisis

The violence in Haiti has become so dire that the U.N. has called on the international community to send specialized forces to curtail gangs as kidnappings, torture and deaths spike.

The situation in Haiti has become so dire that the U.S., Canada and the U.N. have once again turned their attention to the Caribbean nation as gang violence reaches new extremes and violent deaths mount.

Haitian gangs have turned to extreme measures with atrocities akin to those reported during the genocide in Rwanda, according to a Haitian doctor in an interview from his home in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. 

Lawlessness, torture, civil war and "The Purge" were all used to describe what the reality looks like for people living within the western borders on the island of Hispaniola.

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"Even staying in your house, you don’t feel safe. What you see is people walking in the street with big guns. Guns like it is a war scene, they have M-16s, AK-47s, Galils. They have grenades, they have smoke, they have everything," the doctor, who wished to remain anonymous due to security concerns, told Fox News Digital.

A series of natural disasters since 2010, a crippling economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent assassination of then-President Jovenel Moïse has pushed Haiti into a state of chaos, and as a result, it is now the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere – and gangs have taken over.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have flocked to the U.S. border in desperate attempts to flee the poverty and violence in Haiti, but the level of danger in the Caribbean nation continues to rise to unprecedented levels.

"The gang’s control everybody," said Jack Brewer, founder of a global foundation that has been in Haiti since the devastating 2010 earthquakes. "Kidnapping, drug trafficking, human trafficking – that’s their business."

In a move to assert control over the people of Haiti, the gangs have resorted to extreme violence against the public and those they view as their chief threat: police.

Kidnappings have not only become a top earner for the gangs, they have perpetuated an ever-escalating situation of terror for Haitian citizens.

"It’s passing to another level," the doctor said. "Before, they used to kidnap people on the street. Now they are getting inside of people’s homes."

The doctor explained that initially people with well-paying jobs were targeted at their businesses for ransom payments, but as kidnappings became more prevalent, people stopped leaving their homes.

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The gangs instead have begun sending letters containing a threatening bullet, or even breaking into people’s homes to demand exuberant funds – and when families or individuals can’t pay up, the gangs resort to torture, burnings and murder, often right in front of family members.

"They kill you. They torture you," the doctor detailed. "There was a video of a man who was kidnapped. He couldn’t find the money, and they started burning plastic in his hand. Can you imagine the torture?"

Police officers have found themselves on the top of the list when it comes to the abuses handed down at the hands of the gangs. 

Fox News Digital reviewed numerous images and videos that allegedly depicted police officers who had been stripped of their clothing, beaten, killed and then apparently dragged through the streets before being left for the public to find. Due to the extremely graphic nature the footage and images, they were omitted from this report. 

Fox News Digital could not independently verify the individual identities of the men in the videos or images. 

The targeted killings have resulted in a near complete loss of the police force in Port-au-Prince explained the doctor.

"There is no police presence. There is no police," the doctor added. "Its completely lawless. If you call the police they’re not coming."

Another major issue with police officers having been targeted is that their uniforms, cars and weapons have been seized by gang members who disguise themselves as officers to pull people over and hold check points where people are then kidnapped or extorted for money.

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Corruption has played a major role in the loss of the police force and a loss in faith in the Haitian government. 

The U.N. estimated earlier this year that 70 percent of Port-au-Price was controlled by Haitian hangs, but the doctor said he believes it is more than this. 

"It's 99 percent," the doctor argued. "Even if you don’t see them with guns in the streets, they have spies, they put people on motorcycles to watch what is happening on your street, in your area, to inform them. They’re everywhere." 

The doctor explained that their massive presence is down to old methods the gangs allegedly used in the ghettos to influence elections and bar people from going to vote – a strategy that the doctor said also nods to the level of political corruption Haiti has endured for years. 

When pressed by Fox News Digital as to which politicians the Port-au-Prince native was referring to, the doctor pushed back and said, "The question is can you find a politician that is not corrupt?"

WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGE

Fox News Digital could not verify the accusations of corruption across the board in Haiti, though as of December, the U.S. Treasury Department had sanctioned at least four "corrupt Haitian politicians for their involvement in narcotics trafficking."

But drugs are not the only illicit contraband being trafficked across international borders. 

A United Nations report released earlier this month found that Haitian gangs are largely being armed through weapons trafficked from the U.S. – directly supplying the "higher-powered rifles" detailed by the doctor, like AK-47s, AR-15s and Galils, to the gang members.

"A network of criminal actors, including members of the Haitian diaspora, often source firearms from across the U.S.," the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime found. "Weapons are frequently procured through straw man purchases in U.S. states with looser gun laws and fewer purchasing restrictions."

"Once acquired, firearms and ammunition are then transported to Florida where they are concealed and shipped to Haiti," the report added. 

When pressed by Fox News Digital on how these weapons are able to then make it into Haiti at such alarming levels, Brewer explained that it was all too easy. 

"They’re clearing customs," Brewer said. "The custom’s officers are obviously in the pockets of the gangsters – everyone is. 

"The gang’s control everybody, the politicians control the gangs," he added, echoing accusations levied by the doctor. 

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The U.N. last week called on the international community to send in "time-bound specialized support force[s]" to help get control of the spiraling situation.

The U.N. said that in the first two weeks of March alone, at least 208 people in Haiti have been killed, 164 injured and 101 kidnapped – but the doctor suspects this was at the low end of what figures actually look like.

Despite urging from the U.N., the Biden administration has shown reserved when it comes to deploying boots on the ground in Haiti – a move the U.S. has made in the past and one that some Haitians have already condemned, according to local reporting last year. 

The United Nations first proposed sending in armed troops to get a hold of the situation in October – which the U.S. at the time said it backed so long as another partner nation led the way. 

In an October proposal, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that "a limited, carefully scoped, non-U.N. mission led by a partner country with the deep, necessary experience [was] required for such an effort to be effective."

But in his latest trip to Canada last week, President Joe Biden does not appear to have been successful in persuading Ottawa to lead the charge.

"We need specialized forces coming from the States … to destroy all the gangs," the doctor said, pushing back on some Haitian opposition to foreign forces on the island.

The doctor also said Haiti needs outside help to "screen" those in the government to determine who has and has not been involved in illegal and corrupt activities.

"We don’t know how to play this game. We don’t know what a democracy is. We cannot lead ourselves," the doctor added. "The trend is, ‘I’m leaving Haiti, or I’m going to die.’"

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