The “G9 and Family” (G9 an fanmi – G9) is a criminal federation of nine of the strongest gangs in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. Founded in June 2020 by former police officer turned gang leader Jimmy Chérizier, alias "Barbecue," the coalition allowed member gangs to expand their territory and offer politicians a unified weapon with which to suppress their opposition.
Formerly linked to since-assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale – PHTK), for whom the G9 is alleged to have ensured votes and quelled social unrest in gang-controlled neighborhoods, the coalition now threatens to challenge the Haitian state itself, with Chérizier calling for a “revolution” in June 2021.
Jimmy Chérizier’s criminal career dates back to at least 2017. That year, in November, Chérizier the police officer took part in a supposed anti-gang operation in the Grand Ravine neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, which ended in the extrajudicial execution of at least 14 innocent civilians.
A year later, in November 2018, Chérizier was allegedly involved in murdering up to 71 more people in what became known as the La Saline Massacre, the worst to rock Haiti in more than a decade.
He was promptly fired and a warrant issued for his arrest. Yet Chérizier would evade capture, even participating in another massacre in Bel-Air in 2019 and a coordinated multi-gang attack in May 2020 in the Cité Soleil commune, a politically strategic area.
He was allegedly able to do all this because of the material, logistical and financial support provided to gangs by the government of President Moïse, which enabled and encouraged these state-sponsored massacres through transfers of money, weapons, police uniforms, and government vehicles, according to one report.
At the time, President Moïse was facing constant protests demanding his resignation by Haitians who blamed him for the country's dire economic crisis, rampant corruption, gasoline shortages, and rising violence.
Hence, when Chérizier resurfaced in a June 2020 Youtube video to announce the formation of the G9 alliance, the new coalition was immediately suspected of representing a formalized continuation of the status quo: namely, political figures wielding gangs to repress their opponents and maintain social order in poor neighborhoods.
Taking place within a context of gang proliferation and escalating political violence, Chérizier presented the coalition as a necessary measure to restoring peace in the large neighborhoods.
In that, it failed utterly. According to Vice News, Haiti saw a 400 percent increase in kidnappings between 2019 and 2020, which, despite being allegedly facilitated by gang members using police uniforms and police vehicles, led President Moïse to request support and solidarity from the Haitian people.
Further bouts of violence resulted from internal clashes within the increasingly tense G9 federation, with Chérizier having to play peacemaker after the Grand Ravine gang launched attacks on the rival gang-controlled neighborhood of Martissant in mid-2021.
Most recently, in July 2021, the G9’s alleged political sponsor, President Moïse, was assassinated in his private residence by unidentified armed men. The G9 had already somewhat distanced itself from Moïse, with Chérizier filming a video in June in which he called for a revolution against the opposition, business sector and Moïse’s party, yet it remains unclear what this will mean for the federation.
At present, the G9 remains a local or at most regional criminal actor, with no links to transnational criminal activities like drug trafficking. This is not only because member gangs are focused on national politics, but also because each group remains financially independent from the coalition, limiting larger-scale criminal investments.
As such, their main revenue stream is extortion. This takes several forms, from outright predation to criminal governance. On the one side is the charging of “protection payments” on local businesses, street vendor stands, and public transportation drivers, as well as the kidnapping for ransom of wealthy and poor alike. On the other is the takeover of public services such as electricity or water provision in exchange for payment.
Regional arms trafficking, or more specifically arms distribution, may also be one of the G9’s emerging criminal activities, though there is not enough evidence to say for sure. The federation is thought to use its government contacts to remain consistently supplied with small arms and ammunition, keeping it better equipped than the police, but it is also theorized that it sells spare weapons on to small gangs within its broader “G20” criminal network (see “Allies and Enemies”).
As an urban phenomenon, the G9 is heavily concentrated in Haiti’s capital: Port-au-Prince. Different member gangs control different neighborhoods, with members granted varying access to each other’s territory. For example, one gang’s kidnapping operations may receive logistical support from other gangs in the federation, including the use of popular abduction sites such as Grand Ravine and Village de Dieu.
While the true extent of their reach is unknown, the Fondasyon Je Klere (FJKL) has reported that the G9 is known to occupy the Belecourt sector of the Cité Soleil district of Port-au-Prince, the Chancerelles, Delmas, La Saline, Martissant and Pont Rouge neighborhoods, the Fontamara suburb of Port-au-Prince, the Waf Jérémie slum, as well as Rue Saint-Martin and Rue Porcelaine.
Rezo Nòdwès, a local Haitian media outlet, has also reported that the G9 maintains control of Belekou in the Cité Soleil district of Port-au-Prince, the Grand-Ravine commune, and the Village de Dieu. According to Rezo Nòdwès, the G9 has made the Waf Jérémie neighborhood in the center of Port-au-Prince its operational headquarters after taking control of the neighborhood in the aftermath of the Pont Rouge Massacre in May of 2020.
In a June 2020 report by the FJKL, it is suspected that the G9 is attempting to organize all criminal organizations in the working-class neighborhoods of Western Haiti, before spreading to other parts of the country and expanding their criminal coalition.
Allies and Enemies
With over 150 active gangs in Haiti, the G9 are bound to have critical allies and dangerous enemies.
Most crucially, are the eight leaders and gangs of the G9 itself, besides Chérizier and his Delmas gang: James Alexander, alias "Sonson,” of the Baz Krache Dife gang; Ezeckiel Alexandre of the Baz Pilate gang; Christ Roy Chery, alias “Krisla,” of the Nan Ti Bwa gang; Albert Stevenson, alias “Djouma,” of the Simon Pelé's gang (now arrested); Serge Alectis, alias “Ti Junior,” of the Baz Nan Chabon gang; Jean Emiliano Micanor, alias "Micano," of the Waf Jérémie gang; Cendy Marcellin, alias "Zoé," of the Nan Boston gang; Andris Icard, alias “Iska,” of the Belekou gang.
After that, the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) has reported that eleven other criminal organizations in Port-au-Prince maintain friendly relations with the G9 and even provide support when necessary. The relationship between the G9 and these eleven other organizations is oftentimes referred to as the “G20”.
Going wider still, there are the alleged political connections to police officers and government officials within the Moïse administration, who were suspected of granting members of the G9 immunity from law enforcement authorities - since so few have ever been arrested. Even after Moïse’s assassination, many of these individual ties are likely to remain in place.
Finally on the regional or national level, the Fondasyon Je Klere (FJKL) has reported that the G9 has aspirations to work with criminal organizations outside of Port-au-Prince in order to spread their “movement” across the country. Among the potential candidates for this unholy partnership, are the 400 Mawozo Gang of the Ganthier commune in central Haiti and the Savien Gang of the northern Artibonite Department of Haiti.
As for enemies, the G9 is confronted by several pro-opposition gangs, such as the Cité Soleil-based Fanmi Lavalas, which Chérizier attacked in a multi-gang assault in May 2020 prior to the formation of the G9.
In some instances, the G9 can even be its own enemy. Made up of criminal organizations from Port-au-Prince, it is no surprise that some of the organizations that are now working together were once formidable enemies. Despite the overarching message of the G9 “movement” and its desire to acquire more power, the long-held rivalries between the criminal organization of the G9 occasionally resurface and lead to infighting.
In June of 2021, the Grand Ravine gang and Ti Bwa gangs of the G9 fought viciously against each other over a territory dispute. The Ti Bwa gang had taken control of districts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Martissant from the Grand Ravine gang, now an ally in the G9 organization. The Grand Ravine, despite its newfound friendship with the Ti Bwa, fought its own ally in an effort to recoup what was once their territory. This forced Chérizier to act as a negotiator between the two criminal organizations in order to salvage the G9 and ensure its survival.
As of July 2021, the G9’s future is uncertain.
On the one hand, the coalition has likely lost an important protector and may no longer be a palatable or even, given its volatility and infighting, useful partner for any future PHTK leader. In particular, should the G9 splinter further, its individual gangs and members would be unlikely to enjoy the same level of political protection given their reduced ability to serve government interests.
On the other hand, the longstanding impunity the G9’s founder and member gangs have enjoyed has made them powerful criminal actors, equipped with serious weaponry and the militarized organizational structure within which best to use them. It is even conceivable that the death of President Moïse will benefit the G9 by exacerbating Haiti’s pre-existing governance vacuum, allowing certain groups or leaders – such as Jimmy Chérizier -- to further penetrate the capital’s economic, social and political domains.