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Armed Bandits Take Over Valley That Was Long Haiti's Breadbasket

Decades after rice tariff dropped, agriculture struggles; in economic void, gangs thrive in capital and countryside

Farmers work in a rice field near Saint-Marc, Haiti on June 1, 2019.

Farmers work in a rice field near Saint-Marc, Haiti on June 1, 2019.

Photographer: Federico Rios/Bloomberg

In Haiti’s historic breadbasket, a dozen farmers worked in ankle-deep water, stooped under a piercing blue sky in a lush region dominated for generations by rice fields, and more recently by roving bands of armed men.

The gunmen, linked to an infamous gang leader named Arnel Joseph, have been waylaying travelers in the Artibonite Valley, driving out police and even holding press conferences proudly displaying their firepower.