Home » Who is Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, the gang leader who sows violence and chaos in the streets of Haiti

Who is Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, the gang leader who sows violence and chaos in the streets of Haiti

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Who is Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, the gang leader who sows violence and chaos in the streets of Haiti

The dark legacy of Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Chérizier: the gang leader who sowed violence, corruption and chaos in Haiti

History has repeatedly shown that in times of desperation and social turbulence, figures emerge who present themselves as “unifiers” in the midst of chaos, seeking to champion noble causes and “fight for the common good.”

However, under the cloak of apparent benevolence, lies a much darker reality: these supposed saviors, far from seeking collective benefit, are driven by their interests and exploitation of the crisis for their own benefit.

Haiti does not escape this reality.

The Caribbean country has reached critical levels of armed violence, with criminal gangs that have intensified their activities to the point of uniting to form more dangerous and powerful coalitions.

This phenomenon has drastically changed the security landscape in this nation, leading to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who attempted to remain in power.

One of the characters who has gained notoriety and who has put a face to this scene of violence and chaos is Jimmy Chérizier, better known by his alias “Barbeque”, a former officer of the Haitian National Police who was born in Port-au-Prince on December 30, 1977 and became the leader of one of the most feared armed groups in the country and which has been identified by the UN and the United States Department of the Treasury as responsible for numerous atrocities, including massacres and brutal attacks that have exacerbated the crisis in the Caribbean nation.

Originally from the impoverished Lower Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Cherizier grew up the youngest of eight children. The death of his father when he was five years old left the family in a vulnerable situation, facing difficult living conditions in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the Haitian capital.

Chérizier’s foray into violence and organized crime dates back to his time as an agent with the Haitian National Police, where he planned and participated in the deadly attack against civilians in the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince in November 2018. This assault resulted in the death of at least 71 people and the destruction of more than 400 homes, in addition to the rape of at least seven women by armed gangs. It was classified as the worst massacre in the country in a decade.

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Shortly after, he was fired from the police force and an arrest warrant was issued against him, although he managed to evade arrest.

In November 2019, he was involved in an attack that lasted four days in the Bel-Air neighborhood of the Haitian capital, where together with members of several gangs he set fire to homes and killed at least 24 people.

“Barbecue”, defending himself against the accusations, maintained in an interview for Al Jazeera that his fight was against a corrupt system and denied being part of organized crime. Despite this, in 2020, he promoted the formation of G-9 and Familia, a coalition of nine gangs that demonstrated closeness to then-president Jovenel Moïse, evidencing complex power dynamics and alliances between politics and illegal groups in the heart of Haiti.

Chérizier received material, logistical and financial support from senior officials in Moïse’s government, who provided him with money, weapons, police uniforms and official vehicles to carry out the attacks, according to an investigation by the International Human Rights Clinic of the Faculty of Law from Harvard University.

These violent acts were advantageous both for certain members of the government and for “Barbecue.” On the one hand, the authorities could exercise stricter control over political dissidents. On the other hand, Jimmy Chérizier strengthened his dominance as leader of the Delmas 6 group.

In May 2020, the gang leader led several assaults in the neighborhoods of Pont-Rouge, Chancerelles, La Saline and Fort Dimanche, seeking to extend his territorial dominance with police support. The clashes resulted in multiple victims and the destruction of homes.

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Before the official formation of G-9 and Family, “Barbecue” released a video in June 2020, presenting the coalition as a means to pacify Port-au-Prince. However, the alliance facilitated the gangs’ territorial expansion and provided Haitian authorities with a tool to combat the opposition.

The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 marked a turning point for “Barbecue” and the G-9, as they attempted to capitalize on the resulting power vacuum, demanding that their guidelines be followed in response to the assassination.

In October of that year, he forced the then interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, to flee a ceremony after a shootout between gang members and security forces. In November, he led a blockade of the country’s main oil terminal, the Varreux Terminal, in an attempt to destabilize the government.

Chérizier has said in various interviews that his nickname comes from his mother’s sale of fried chicken in the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. However, some claim that it is because he usually burns the houses and corpses of his friends. victims.

“Their actions have directly contributed to the economic and humanitarian paralysis in Haiti,” the US Treasury Department said.

After the continuous attacks on government nerve centers and the decision to take the National Palace of Haiti by force, the violence of the gangs led by Chérizier led Ariel Henry to collapse.

The now former head of government, who assumed national leadership after the murder of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, faced pressure both nationally and internationally to promote a change of power that would contribute to mitigating the severe crisis and the overwhelming violence that is plaguing the nation.

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“Barbecue” threats with a civil war and the imminent arrival in the Caribbean nation of a multinational mission led by Kenya triggered the wave of violence in the region.

A recent bilateral agreement between Kenya and Haiti paved the way for the deployment of a contingent of 1,000 Kenyan police officers, a move supported by the UN since October last year.

The urgency of this intervention has intensified as a result of all these violent episodes led by “Barbecue” and other gang leaders, including the murder of four police officers and the assault of several police stations, which has plunged the country into a state of fear and chaos.

The assault on key entities and clashes in strategic areas of Port-au-Prince, which extend from Champ de Mars to Nazon, show the profound erosion of internal security.

Besieged by these acts of violence, Haitians add a new disruption to their already impoverished daily lives, resulting in the suspension of commercial and educational activities.

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