HomeCaribbeanJimmy Chérizier, alias 'Barbecue'
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Jimmy Chérizier, alias 'Barbecue'

CARIBBEAN / LATEST UPDATE OCTOBER 20, 2022 EN

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.

Barbecue 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 and demanding the resignation of interim President Ariel Henry. He continues 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.

History

Barbecue’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, Barbecue 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.

This was the worst massacre to rock Haiti in more than a decade, with at least 71 people killed. Barbecue was fired a month later, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

However, he evaded capture and participated in a four-day attack across Port-au-Prince's Bel-Air neighborhood in November 2019. Barbecue 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, Barbecue 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 Barbecue. The government could crack down on opposition strongholds. Meanwhile, Barbecue 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, Barbecue claimed that him and other 19 police officers could clean up the Village de Dieu community.

In May 2020, Barbecue 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, Barbecue and a number of gangs he had united attacked the Pont-Rouge, Chancerelles, La Saline and Fort Dimanche neighborhoods 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 Barbecue announced in a video uploaded to YouTube in June 2020. He presented the gang alliance 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.

Barbecue has faced several 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, Barbecue and his men marched through the streets of La Saline, brandishing weapons they had previously kept hidden.

Barbecue 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.”

On July 7, 2021, Barbecue and the G9 faced a turning point when their alleged political sponsor, President Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in his private residence.

Days later, Barbecue marched down the streets of the Lower Delmas district of Port-au-Prince with hundreds of people, to honor Moïse.

He has since taken 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 Barbecue officiated surrounded by armed gunmen.

In November 2021, Barbecue and G9 led a blockade of Terminal Varreux, Haiti’s largest oil terminal. The blockade was part of a coordinated effort by criminal groups to restrict access to fuel across Haiti to destabilize the government. The chaos and shortages which followed the blockade crisis demonstrated just how much power Haiti’s gangs had accumulated.

Barbecue returned to the headlines in May 2022, when a brutal 12-day gang war erupted in the northern communes of Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s single largest gang, 400 Mawozo, invaded the Cul-de-Sac plain neighborhood, a sector controlled by G9. Within hours of the attack, Barbecue and hundreds of his men swarmed the neighborhood to fend off 400 Mawozo.

Barbecue has been a centerpiece of proposed sanctions from countries around the region. In 2020, the US Treasury Department placed sanctions on the gang leader, and in September 2022, the Dominican Republic banned a range of Haitian criminal figures from entering the country, including Barbeque.

In October 2022, Barbecue was a central target of potential UN Security Council sanctions, after Barbecue and G9 fighters blocked the entrance to Terminal Varreux for the second time in less than a year, once again catalyzing a massive fuel crisis and paralyzing the country’s economy.

Criminal Activities

Barbecue's main role in 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. Barbecue has been a key intermediary in this process.

With Barbecue at the helm, G9 has been linked to the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale – PHTK), while the gang’s rival, G-PEP, is broadly supported by PHTK's political opponents. Since the assassination of Moïse, Barbecue cut ties with the PHTK and has gained significant political capital in the areas of Port-au-Prince G9 controls.

Not only has Barbecue cast himself as a defender of the former president's legacy, but he has outright rejected Henry’s legitimacy, consistently demanding his resignation. The blockades of Terminal Varreux, prolonged war with G-PEP, and rampant violence have increasingly destabilized Henry’s government, and have led Barbecue to be sanctioned by several governments.

Geography

Barbecue’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.

The city's Lower Delmas neighborhood has long been a stronghold for Barbecue. It is home to his Delmas 6 gang.

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 few other neighborhoods under Barbecue. 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.

G9 also controls Cul-de-Sac plain, an area southwest of Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighborhood controlled by 400 Mawozo. In April 2022, G9 suffered an attack on the vast area from 400 Mowozo, but in a 12-day gang war, Barbecue and his men held off the offensive.

Reports have suggested that the coalition intends to expand into other parts of Haiti with Barbecue at the helm.

Allies and Enemies

As leader of the G9 and Family, Barbecue relies on the support of several 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.

Barbecue 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 Barbecue and other gang leaders when necessary. This union is sometimes referred to as the G20.

Beyond the slums of Port-au-Prince, Barbecue has allies in high places. He was previously linked to assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and the ruling PHTK party.

Under Barbecue, 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, Barbecue 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.

Barbecue’s power and public profile also mean he has a few enemies. These have evolved over the years.

As a consequence of the creation of the G9, alias “Gabriel,” created the GPEP in November 2020. The GPEP 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 Barbecue. Battles have regularly ensued between Barbecue’s men and rival groups. For example, in May 2020, Barbecue attacked the Cité Soleil-based Fanmi Lavalas in a multi-gang assault.

Barbecue 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 Barbecue was not providing for him financially.

Prospects

Barbecue 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 Barbecue 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 police in gear appears). We also greet the policemen who are joining the movement.”

Barbecue’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.  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. 

While Barbecue’s true political intentions are unknown, he now has significant power in the formal political system. With the support of voters in the areas of the city that Barbecue controls, he could feasibly run for a parliament seat in the future, securing him immunity for crimes. Targeting of key pieces of infrastructure, such as Terminal Varreux, around Port-au-Prince means Barbecue has several bargaining chips in negotiations with the government, awarding him significant political leverage.

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