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A special envoy with the United Nations has stated that the rising level of gang violence in Haiti is threatening the country’s stability, echoing statements by the Secretary-General in a new report.

According to reports, the last three months of violence perpetrated by gangs in Haiti have been some of the worst seen in decades. As a result, according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, their efforts to combat illegal trafficking and to help the country’s government maintain certain functions, including the judiciary have been severely impacted. “The situation is grave,” he remarked in an internal report.

“Years of hard-fought recovery gains are being undone, and Haitians are grappling with setting the country back on a path to democracy,” United Nations Special Representative Helen La Lime said as she briefed the Security Council on Tuesday (Jan. 24). She would go on to state that there were 2,100 murders and some 1,300 kidnappings recorded in Haiti last year, with the battle for turf between the G-Pep and G9 coalitions causing havoc in neighborhoods like Petionville and Cité Soleil.

This included rampant sexual violence against women, with 40 women being assaulted in one stretch in October in the Croix-des-Bouquets area. “This violence is part of well-defined strategies designed to subjugate populations and expand territorial control,” La Lime related. The international body estimated that gangs controlled 60% of the capital city of Port-au-Prince last December.

Secretary-General Guterres admitted that there is uncertainty concerning the nation’s electoral calendar for the year because of the impact of the violence, in addition to growing difficulties in helping schools to remain open and keeping roads open to facilitate the transport of needed food and fuel to northern districts because of gang blockades. “Amid the ongoing cholera outbreak, the lack of fuel has further undermined access to health services owing to restrictions on movement and to the impact of fluctuations in the supply of water and electricity on the functioning of medical facilities,” the report said.

Despite the gloomy news, Special Representative La Lime lauded the Council’s acceptance of enforcing new sanctions on those supporting criminal violence and activity in Haiti. She also reiterated a call for an international specialized force to assist the Haitian National Police, especially to aid the small progress the country’s made toward a stable electoral process for the next two years. “Haitians overwhelmingly want this assistance so they can go about their daily lives in peace,” she told the members.

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