Former police officer Jimmy Chérizier, alias "Barbecue," is one of Haiti’s most important gang leaders. He is best known for establishing the “G9 and Family” (G9 an fanmi – G9), a criminal federation of nine of the strongest gangs in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince.
Chérizier has collaborated with the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale – PHTK) and police. But more recently, he posed challenges to the Haitian state, calling for revolution in June 2021. He is now positioning himself to take advantage of a power vacuum left by former President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, through an alliance with political elites formerly aligned with Moïse.
Jimmy Chérizier’s criminal career dates back to at least 2017, during his time as a police officer.
He came on to the map in November 2017, when he participated in a supposed anti-gang operation that led to the extrajudicial killing of at least 9 innocent civilians in the Grand Ravine neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
A year later, Chérizier allegedly participated in the La Saline Massacre with his Delmas 6 gang, the Cité Soleil gang, Baz Pilate and Ti Bwa. Witnesses reported he was spotted talking with former government official, Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan and other gang leaders during the attack.
However, he evaded capture and participated in a four-day attack across Port-au-Prince's Bel-Air neighborhood in November 2019. Chérizier and members of four gangs -- Delmas 6, Base Nan Chabon, Krache Dife and the St Martin Street Gang – set houses ablaze and killed at least 24 people.
Ahead of these massacres, Chérizier received material, logistical and financial support from senior officials in the government of President Jovenel Moïse. He received money, weapons, police uniforms, and government vehicles to carry out the attacks.
A senior government official told InSight Crime that before Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, 50 percent of the G9’s funding came from government money, 30 percent from kidnappings and 20 percent from extortion. However, after the killing, government funding dropped by 30 percent.
The massacres - which largely targeted opposition neighborhoods across Haiti's capital - served mutual benefits for senior state officials and Chérizier. The government could crack down on opposition strongholds. Meanwhile, Chérizier could increase his influence as leader of the Delmas 6 gang, a role he has repeatedly denied.
At the time, Moïse faced constant protests demanding his resignation. Haitians blamed him for the nation's ongoing economic crisis, rampant corruption, gasoline shortages, and rising violence.
Before the creation of the G9 in 2020, Barbecue had become powerful enough to take over duties assigned to the police. Less than 24 hours after an anti-gang operation in Village de Dieu was announced by the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Joseph Jouthe, Jimmy Chérizier claimed that him and other 19 police officers could clean up the Village de Dieu community.
In May 2020, Chérizier was linked to further attacks in the capital. He and allied gang leaders allegedly close to the government held a “preparatory meeting” to “organize simultaneous attacks” across several Port-au-Prince neighborhoods, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau National de Défense des Droits de l'Homme -- RNDDH) revealed.
Days later, Chérizier and a number of gangs he had united attacked the Pont-Rouge, Chancerelles, La Saline and Fort Dimanche neighbourhoods to expand territorial control, with the support of national police. A number of individuals were burned and shot to death, and scores of houses were incinerated.
The attacks were an immediate precursor to the G9 and Family's formation, which Chérizier announced in a video uploaded to YouTube in June 2020. He presented the gang alliance as a way to restore peace across Port-au-Prince. Instead, the coalition has allowed gangs to expand territorial control and offered politicians a unified weapon to stamp out opposition.
Chérizier has faced a number of challenges as the coalition's leader. One of these has been internal clashes. In mid-2021, he played peacemaker after the Grand Ravine gang launched attacks on the neighborhood of Ti Bwa, which is controlled by the gang of Chrisla.
Tensions between the G9 and Family and state officials have also risen. In late June 2021, Chérizier and his men marched through the streets of La Saline, brandishing weapons they had previously kept hidden.
Chérizier then called for revolution against the opposition, business sector and ruling party in a video, flanked by dozens of heavily armed masked men. He later added that he and his allies were “ready for war.”
Days later, Chérizier marched down the streets of the Lower Delmas district of Port-au-Prince with hundreds of people, to honor Moïse.
He now looks set to take advantage of the power vacuum that has been left behind. "Everyone needs to wait on my order before we respond to the killing of Jovenel Moïse,” he said during the march.
In October 2021, he forced acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry to flee from the scene of a ceremony, which Chérizier officiated surrounded by armed gunmen.
Chérizier’s main role on Haiti's criminal landscape has been to lead the G9 gang alliance.
He has stepped in as a peacemaker to quell internal divisions, and mobilized gangs to commit targeted killings. He has long acted as a bridge between the capital's gangs and state officials, allegedly bringing both parties together to commit state-sponsored massacres.
Member gangs of the G9 and Family are largely focused on extortion. They take “protection payments” from local businesses, street vendor stands, and public transportation drivers. They also carry out kidnappings for ransom. In other cases, the gangs have taken over public services such as electricity or water provision for payment.
Members of the alliance may also be involved in regional arms trafficking, although this remains unclear. Previously, state officials have provided gangs with weapons to carry out targeted massacres. Chérizier has been a key intermediary in this process.
Chérizier's activities have largely been concentrated in neighborhoods across Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, through his role as the G9’s leader. However, the extent of his geographical reach is unknown.
His influence across the capital has grown in recent years, as member gangs of the G9 have expanded their territorial control. For example, after the Pont-Rouge massacre in May 2020, the Waf Jérémie neighborhood in the center of Port-au-Prince became the coalition's operational base.
The G9 reportedly occupies a number of other neighborhoods under Chérizier. These include 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.
Local media outlets have 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.
Reports have suggested that the coalition intends to expand into other parts of Haiti with Chérizier at the helm.
Allies and Enemies
As leader of the G9 and Family, Chérizier relies on the support of a number of powerful allies.
“With all the power he has, everyone would want him on their side,” a local community leader from an area of Port-au-Prince where the G9 alliance is active told InSight Crime on the condition of anonymity.
Other G9 gang leaders have acted as his principal allies. These have included 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.
Chérizier has worked closely with these leaders to achieve territorial expansion and attack rivals.
Eleven other criminal organizations in Port-au-Prince also maintain friendly relations with the G9. They provide support to Chérizier and other gang leaders when necessary. This union is sometimes referred to as the G20.
Beyond the slums of Port-au-Prince, Chérizier has allies in high places. He was previously linked to assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and the ruling PHTK party.
Under Chérizier, the G9 is alleged to have ensured votes and quelled social unrest. In return, state officials are suspected to have granted members of the G9 immunity from law enforcement. Even after Moïse’s assassination, Chérizier is still likely to maintain some of these ties.
Paid only $200 a month which often arrives late, many active police officers choose to join the G9 and work for Barbecue, who pays them $1,000 every month, according to a senior government official in Haiti. They reportedly facilitate his travel and ensure his safety, including during the course of criminal activities.
He is also well-positioned to work with new allies if the G9 is to expand. The 400 Mawozo gang of the Ganthier commune in central Haiti and the Savien Gang of the northern Artibonite Department of Haiti could be useful allies.
Chérizier’s power and public profile also mean he has a number of enemies. These have evolved over the years.
As a consequence of the creation of the G9, alias “Gabriel,” created the Gpèp on November 2020. The Gpèp is a gang alliance that represents the political opposition: some of its members are the gangs of Bel-Air, Grand Ravine, and Cité Soleil. Gabriel and Barbecue are sworn enemies.
While Barbecue used to maintain close ties with the nation’s ruling party, in June 2021 he called for a revolution against them, the opposition and the business sector.
Pro-opposition gangs and their leaders have also shared hostile relations with Chérizier. Battles have regularly ensued between Chérizier’s men and rival groups. For example, in May 2020, Chérizier attacked the Cité Soleil-based Fanmi Lavalas in a multi-gang assault.
Chérizier might also count former members of the G9 as enemies. The Grand Ravine gang reportedly left the alliance in early 2021, as a result of internal clashes. In October 2020, the gang's leader appeared on a radio broadcast, saying he kidnapped a top lottery executive because Chérizier was not providing for him financially.
Jimmy Chérizier no longer enjoys immunity nor the protection of his political godfather, Jovenel Moïse. Even though he appears to have gained more power after the creation of the G9 gang alliance, he has gained enemies as well. His prospects could go one of two ways.
The creation of the G9 has given Jimmy Chérizier enough power and independence to become an influential criminal leader in the political scenario.
As Barbecue aims to change his criminal reputation into a revolutionary one, he might gain legitimacy and with it, leaders of the political and economic elite could become his enemies.
His statement in another video shared by a local media outlet is no different, except for the active police officer that accompanies him in this apparition; “Today, at this very moment, I was in the streets because the revolution to free the country has started (at this moment a police in gear appears). We also greet the policemen who are joining the movement.”
Jimmy Chérizier’s attempt to make of the G9 a revolutionary movement rather than a criminal one illustrates how gangs have become more autonomous from the political elite. Even though Barbecue can’t pursue political positions due to his arrest warrant, he does have the capacity to place someone chosen by him in the political sphere. However, with his godfather Jovenel Moise out of the radar, his political allies are less; in fact, even the economic elite has put a price on his head.
For now, the chaos President Moïse's death has left behind looks set to allow Chérizier to further penetrate the capital’s economic, social and political domains.