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Haiti's rum industry takes a hit as gangs torch sugarcane fields


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Haiti’s renowned rum has become the newest victim of violent gangs vying to control a growing number of businesses and territory in the troubled Caribbean nation.

At least eight hectares (19.8 acres) of sugarcane fields were torched in recent days as rival gangs fought near the Rhum Barbancourt distillery in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the company said in a statement Sunday.

Rum is derived from sugarcane. The number of acres burned would cover more than four soccer fields, but Barbancourt officials stressed the lost fields would not affect production.

The company’s foundation, however, said it would temporarily stop distributing free potable water, providing medical care, and offering the use of fields and basketball courts in order to protect the safety of its employees.

Haiti’s rum is considered one of the country’s most popular exports.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has noted that more than 800 people were killed, injured or kidnapped across Haiti in January, more than three times the number compared with the same month in 2023. Another estimated 300 gang members also were killed or injured last month, he said.

He said the recent intensity of gang clashes, which sometimes last several hours, “may indicate that some gangs have recently received new ammunition.”

Haiti also is recovering from a recent spate of violent demonstrations demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Türk said that at least 16 people were killed and nearly 30 others injured during the protests, mostly in confrontations with police.

Meanwhile, gang violence continues unabated.

“Every day that goes by, new victims are reported,” Türk said late last week as he urged the swift deployment of a U.N-backed Kenyan police force that has been stalled in court.



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