According to reports, the directive from the FBI comes after a surge in violence enacted by warring gangs in the Caribbean nation, putting stress on the embattled national police force. It issued the warning to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, particularly those living in South Florida. The bureau’s office in Miami cites a major uptick in the report of kidnappings in Haiti it has received since the beginning of the year – an increase of 300 percent in the first three months of this year when compared to the same time period last year.
Haiti still has a State Department Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory. “While we understand that there are strong ties between Haiti and South Florida, before traveling there one should consider the trauma and financial costs of being kidnapped not only to themselves but to their family and friends as well,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Liz Santamaria said to the Miami Herald.
While the agency has not disclosed the exact number, it is believed that many of the victims kidnapped for ransom have ties to the U.S. The State Department has advised all citizens still in Haiti to leave immediately.
The violence between warring gangs has been prevalent in the capital city of Port-au-Prince since the beginning of the year. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 was the event that fractured Haiti’s government infrastructure – the judiciary branch is viewed as inherently corrupt, there are no elected government officials still serving and the National Police Force has shrunk from 15,000 members three years ago to 9,000. Observers estimate that gangs now control between 60 to 90 percent of Port-au-Prince.
The warning also comes as the United Nations Security Council recently received a report that conditions in Haiti are now similar to countries at war. “The people of Haiti continue to suffer one of the worst human rights crises in decades and a major humanitarian emergency,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his report.
“With the high number of fatalities and increasing areas under the control of armed gangs, insecurity in the capital has reached levels comparable to countries in armed conflict.” Guterres is expected to reiterate a demand for the creation and deployment of a special security force when the Security Council meets again today (April 26).