More than 100 Haitian riot police blocked roads and smashed vehicles, causing chaos in the capital Port-au-Prince after 14 colleagues were killed by gangs.
Riot police officers in the capital Port-au-Prince and the city of Gonaives took to the streets on January 26 “out of anger”, accusing the government of not acting in the face of gang violence targeting them. They wore plain clothes, rode motorbikes along the streets to protest against the police killing by gangs.
About 100 police blocked the streets, shot in the air, burned tires, smashed vehicles and security cameras, causing tensions to escalate. Several officers broke through the gates of Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s residence and, seeing no one inside, headed for Haiti’s international airport, where Henry had just landed after attending a conference in Argentina.
Protesters tried to break through the gate to enter the airport, but Prime Minister Henry left the site. Many businesses and schools remained closed after the riots.
The riot broke out in the context that since the beginning of this year, 14 officers have been killed after attacks by criminal gangs on the police station. According to the Haitian National Police, the gunfight on January 25 alone left seven officers dead.
Gang members also posted on social media videos of the bloody bodies of six officers, guns still strapped to their chests. Haitian police said the Gan Grif gang still holds the bodies of these people.
Port-au-Prince and many other cities were ravaged for months by gang violence. According to Haitian media, the country has seen a significant increase in the number of kidnappings since the beginning of the year.
The National Network for Human Rights, a human rights group in Haiti, says 78 police officers have been killed by gangs since Prime Minister Henry took office in 2021. In October 2022, the Haitian government appealed. The international community sent multinational security forces to help the country restore order, but neither side responded, although the US and Canada have increased security aid.
According to Haitian human rights groups, armed gangs control at least 60 percent of the capital and surrounding areas, and control roads in and out of the city.
In September 2022, gangs occupied a large fuel depot in the port of Port-au-Prince, blocking the distribution of imported petrol, medicine and food. This action forced many businesses to close, making it difficult to supply gasoline and bottled water, while the cholera outbreak worsened.
Helen La Lime, the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, said on January 25 that the situation in the country was “very serious”.
“Gang violence has reached a new level. In 2022, there is an average of one kidnapping every six hours,” she said. “Haiti will not be able to win the war against gangs without more international support.”
Hong Hanh (Theo BBC)