Renegades

Sinners and Saints in the City of Sun

As Haiti’s government retreats from its ever-expanding tent cities and slums, an enterprising gang of teenagers fills the void with a unique blend of violence and community aid.

Sinners and Saints in the City of Sun

Port-au-Prince, Haiti—

A shantytown that grew to a city-within-a-city of several hundred thousand, Cité Soleil is one of the largest slums in the Northern Hemisphere, by some accounts as dangerous as the infamous favelas of Rio. The streets here are controlled by various gangs, some more violent than others. The most hardcore control their turf using intimidation and violence, with guns smuggled in via the U.S. or South America.

For years, Haitian gangs have been active in Port-au-Prince, controlling various slums throughout the capital. The LP street gang is one of many fighting for control and survival.

Basha checks out one of the local schools in his controlled area.
Basha checks out one of the local schools in his controlled area.

Basha, the leader of LP, is a gangster, yes, but also a community organizer. His gang has the particularity to help locals from the same neighborhood by providing protection against other gangs, and also against the government.

Basha (left) rolls a joint with a local from the slum Cite du Soleil.
Basha (left) rolls a joint with a local from the slum Cite du Soleil.
Basha tells a local prostitute to go with him to one of the rooms upstairs.
Basha tells a local prostitute to go with him to one of the rooms upstairs.

As the Haitian government has largely failed its people following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, Basha and his sixteen-man group of soldiers have taken it upon themselves to help the people living within his zone of influence.

Basha is known to be quite the diplomat, which enables his group to operate virtually everywhere in Cite du Soleil, an ongoing battleground between gangs who settle scores and UN troops who often try to pacify the area.

A gang member connected with the LP Street gang makes sure no one is passing through their hideout while conducting their illegal activities.
A gang member connected with the LP Street gang makes sure no one is passing through their hideout while conducting their illegal activities.
Sam, the second in command of the LP Street gang talks to locals in the gang's controlled quarter of Port-au-Prince, making sure no trouble is looming. The LP leaders often deal with politicians in order to help with such things as removing the tent camps, or providing basis necessities like electricity, running water, and food.
Sam, the second in command of the LP Street gang talks to locals in the gang’s controlled quarter of Port-au-Prince, making sure no trouble is looming. The LP leaders often deal with politicians in order to help with such things as removing the tent camps, or providing basis necessities like electricity, running water, and food.

Basha’s right-hand man, Sam, who grew up in Florida, helps with everything from acquiring weapons and drugs to taking cuts on the profit from the local whorehouse. But the pair also lead other LP members around the tent camps, breaking up fights, easing tensions, and trying to have bathrooms built and electricity installed. Basha meets with ministers and officials, hoping to open their eyes to the plight of the people here.

An LP gang member checks out the street controlled by the gang from inside a wooden house used as some sort of headquarters.
An LP gang member checks out the street controlled by the gang from inside a wooden house used as some sort of headquarters.

In 2010, right after the earthquake, UN troops battled their way inside the area to flush out gang soldiers, killing dozens in the process. But the gangs have regained control, and today Cité Soleil is also a meeting ground for gangs when discussions are needed. The LP have, over time, established strong connections with the toughest gangs controlling the area. Deals are made, information is passed along, and everyone gets a cut of the action.

A mother who lives inside the slum Cite du Soleil kisses one of her children. For them, violence with guns and death is a part of everyday life.
A mother who lives inside the slum Cite du Soleil kisses one of her children. For them, violence with guns and death is a part of everyday life.
A member of the LP Street gang plays a tambourine-like instrument inside his tent.
A member of the LP Street gang plays a tambourine-like instrument inside his tent.
A member of the LP Street gang takes a rest inside a safe house where gang members regroup and relax.
A member of the LP Street gang takes a rest inside a safe house where gang members regroup and relax.

Despite the violence, the LPs are hopeful that Haiti’s future will be bright. But as tensions rise once more within the tiny nation, the gangs are ready at all times to make their mark with the use of weapons and extortions. The LPs are no exception.

Basha makes his rounds in his controlled area of the capital, talking to his various allies and soldiers and picking up info on the way. One of his soldiers (right) was stabbed during a fight with another gang member.
Basha makes his rounds in his controlled area of the capital, talking to his various allies and soldiers and picking up info on the way. One of his soldiers (right) was stabbed during a fight with another gang member.
An active member of the LP street gang does pull-ups at a hiding place where the gang makes decisions about up coming activities.
An active member of the LP street gang does pull-ups at a hiding place where the gang makes decisions about up coming activities.
A local street cleaner walks to work inside Cite Soleil. The Haitian government has little power in the slum, leaving its people to fend for themselves.
A local street cleaner walks to work inside Cite Soleil. The Haitian government has little power in the slum, leaving its people to fend for themselves.
A security guard watches for intruders in a slum controlled by the LP street gang. It is very common for banks, NGO's and other high-risk areas to hire men with shot guns.
A security guard watches for intruders in a slum controlled by the LP street gang. It is very common for banks, NGO’s and other high-risk areas to hire men with shot guns.
Two more members of the same rival gang were tied together before being executed by members of the Cite du Soleil gang. Locals gather around their dead bodies out of curiosity.
Two more members of the same rival gang were tied together before being executed by members of the Cite du Soleil gang. Locals gather around their dead bodies out of curiosity.

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