Gang Warfare Erupts in Haiti

Gang Warfare Erupts in Haiti

Fighting between rival gangs in the capital city of Haiti has killed 20 people and forced many others from their homes.

Chen Mechan (Bad Dog) and 400 Mawazo are the two primary gangs fighting for power in Port-au-Prince. “It seems like this country has no authorities. No one came here to see us. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here or how long this is going to last,” one homeless resident said. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse earlier this year created a power vacuum which, so far, no one has been able to fill.

The government simply does not have the resources to deal with this latest crisis. One government official said his agency was trying to give food and toiletries to displaced residents. “We hope the situation will not worsen,” he remarked without much optimism.

How We Got Here

Scarcity of resources and an indifferent government are nothing new for Haitians. The residents of this island country have lived with these things for a very long time.

Let’s start with resource scarcity. The Spanish colonized Haiti when Columbus stumbled upon the island in 1492. But as the western third of Hispaniola became a haven for pirates and bandits, the Spanish focused their efforts on the eastern two-thirds. 

In 1625, the French renamed the colony Saint Domingue and began exploiting it mercilessly. A 1788 census identified 25,000 Europeans, 22,000 creoles (free blacks), and 700,000 African slaves. That 700,000 figure is misleading, because about a third of African slaves died within five years of their arrival in Haiti. 

The 1789 French Revolution inspired local French and free blacks to organize slave armies. By 1791, these armies, under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture and a shadowy voodoo priest known as Boukman, expelled the French. But by that time, the international slave trade was waning, and the French had little use for a colony which had nothing of any value.

However, the French were still interested in money. A few years later, Charles X dispatched a fleet of warships to reconquer Haiti. Charles relented after Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer agreed to pay the astronomical sum of 150 million francs. As late as 1900, reparation payments made up 80% of Haiti’s national budget. Haiti finally paid off the bribe in 1947.

So, the people of Haiti were free, but they had basically nothing on which to live. The ongoing economic crisis fed an ongoing political crisis.

10 years after repayment was completed, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier won a presidential election, and he never left office. Duvalier and his son who succeeded him were brutal dictators. But they were anti-Communist, which was enough to win support from Cold War-era America. Jean-Claude Duvalier went into exile in 1986, but not before about 50,000 Haitians had died.

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. A 2010 earthquake killed about 250,000 people. When UN peacekeepers arrived, they contaminated the country’s largest river. An ensuing cholera epidemic sickened about one million people. As political turmoil continued, another devastating earthquake hit the country in August 2021, as it struggled to recover from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bottom line is that Haiti has a long history of selfish leaders. The private military contractors who serve in Haiti must deal with the unfeeling government and the lack of resources on a daily basis.

Contractors in Haiti

Contractors cannot do anything about the lack of resources in Haiti. But they can do something about the lack of security.

That security usually does not involve kicking in doors and other violent measures. There is already enough of that stuff in Haiti. Instead, contractors provide security through deterrence. Many private military contractors are ex-law enforcement officers. So, they know how to make people feel safe without scaring them, and they know how to deter evildoers without lashing out at them.

The United States did not establish formal diplomatic ties with Haiti until 1862. Before then, the land of the free and the home of the brave, like many other Western countries, did not want to be affiliated with a slave republic. Since then, the American government has invested heavily in Haiti, both economically and politically. Private military contractors protect these assets when the poorly-trained and ill-motivated national security forces refuse to do so.

Food and aid distribution is still a big issue in Haiti. That 2010 earthquake was a long time ago now, yet many Haitians still have not moved into permanent housing. The influx of foreign money draws scammers from all over, including from within the government. Private military contractors provide security at distribution points and help keep a lid on such corruption.

Injury Compensation Available

All these activities are risky. Training accidents are quite common, and no matter how strong the deterrent is, some conflict is almost inevitable. When private military contractors are injured overseas, the Defense Base Act replaces their lost wages and pays their medical bills. Wage replacement is usually two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of a temporary disability. The medical bill payment benefits include not only hospitalization, but also all other reasonably necessary medical costs.

To get the ball rolling, most victims must promptly report their injuries to their supervisors. This requirement is relatively straightforward in trauma injury cases, like a fall or car crash. 

But this rule is more problematic in occupational disease claims, like hearing loss. Most victims do not immediately see doctors in these cases. By the time their injuries become serious, the claims deadline has usually passed.

Fortunately, a discovery rule variant normally applies in these situations. Victims need not report occupational diseases until they learn the full extent of their injuries and they connect that injury to their work environments.

A settlement conference usually comes next. After a third party mediator reviews the medical records and other paperwork, they meet with both sides and try to forge a settlement. If there is no question whatsoever about the victim’s injury and the insurance company’s liability, the matter often settles at this point. But these clear-cut cases are few and far between.

Most DBA claims proceed to an administrative law hearing. An ALJ considers legal arguments and allows attorneys to introduce evidence and challenge evidence. Many claims settle right before an administrative hearing because the insurance company does not want to roll the dice at trial.

For more information about DBA medical benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.