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Massive escapes, clashes, curfew... New surge in violence between gangs and authorities in Haiti

Since February 29, Haitian gangs have been waging an unprecedented offensive against the country's authorities.

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Massive escapes, clashes, curfew... New surge in violence between gangs and authorities in Haiti

Since February 29, Haitian gangs have been waging an unprecedented offensive against the country's authorities. Dozens of public buildings were attacked by criminals in Port-au-Prince: police station, administrative buildings, airport, hospitals and prisons. The Portal Leogane, Delmas 3 and Bon repos police stations were attacked and burned on Saturday.

The multiplication of targets is a gang strategy to disperse law enforcement and make the main targets, which are prisons, more vulnerable. During the night from Saturday to Sunday, the two largest prison centers in the country, the national penitentiary of Port-au-Prince and the civil prison of Croix des Bouquets, were attacked by dozens of thugs. The police could not resist and had to withdraw. Visiting the national penitentiary, a group of journalists were surprised on Sunday to find the doors open. Of the 3,800 detainees supposed to be locked up there, only around a hundred people remained. Among them, the sixteen Colombians accused of having participated in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, the former president of the Chamber of Deputies Cholzer Chancy, the former minister Limont Toussaint, and the lawyer Robinson Pierre Louis. All the other inmates, gang members or not, had escaped thanks to the departure of their guards and the police.

On Sunday, the government declared a state of emergency and a curfew for three days, in an attempt to regain control of Port-au-Prince, in the hands of gangs for many months. We can measure the dismay of the authorities by reading the press release published on Sunday: "The government of the Republic salutes the courage of the Haitian police officers who tried to repel the assault of armed bands against the national penitentiary and the prison of Croix des Bouquets in the night of March 2 to 3. Our police officers, on the scene of several operations facing the rampages of heavily armed criminals wanting at all costs to free people in custody, particularly for kidnapping, murder and other serious offenses and not hesitating to execute civilians, burning and pillaging public and private property, thanks to various collusions, did not succeed in preventing the bandits from bringing out a large number of prisoners.

Also read: Haiti: gangs attacking wealthy neighborhoods

On Sunday the gangs continued their attacks. They notably attacked the national police academy. Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, leader of one of the most powerful Haitian gangs, claimed the participation of his troops in all of his attacks. He said he tried to capture the Haitian police chief. Its objective is clear and announced since February 29: to overthrow the prime minister and interim president, Ariel Henry.

These troubles take place while the latter is traveling in Kenya. The African country has proposed sending a law enforcement force to Haiti under the auspices of the United Nations. Ariel Henri remains in power without any democratic legitimacy but with the support in particular of the United States, Canada and France. There has not been an election in Haiti for many years. There is no longer a parliament, no more elected mayors, no more democratic representation. According to Pierre Espérance, executive director of the NGO RNDDH (national network for the defense of human rights) “the situation has never been so terrifying. And this is likely to last. Yesterday, Sunday, there was no more police presence in the streets. The Ministry of Communication was in turn looted.”

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