In Haiti, Port-au-Prince regains fragile calm after an evening of clashes between gangs and police

The capital has regained a precarious calm

In Haiti, Port-au-Prince regains fragile calm after an evening of clashes between gangs and police

The capital has regained a precarious calm. The population of Port-au-Prince assessed, Saturday March 9, the extent of the damage after another evening of clashes between police and armed gangs, with the authorities of the Haitian capital citing several attackers killed. Charred vehicles were visible Saturday in the parking lot of the Haitian Interior Ministry and in the surrounding streets, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent.

The previous evening, armed men had carried out attacks against the national presidential palace and the Port-au-Prince police station, Lionel Lazarre, general coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Police Officers (Synapoha), told AFP. The police pushed them back and killed several attackers, he added, specifying that “no casualties had been recorded within the police”.

The criminal gangs, who control most of the capital as well as the roads leading to the rest of the territory, have been attacking police stations, prisons and even courts for several days, in the absence of the Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, whom they are demanding resignation just like part of the population. According to the latest news, he is stranded in the American territory of Puerto Rico after a trip abroad.

Emergency state

The Haitian government has declared a state of emergency in the West department which includes Port-au-Prince, as well as a nighttime curfew, difficult to enforce given the already overwhelmed law enforcement. Due to insecurity, administrations and schools are closed, while neither the airport nor the port is no longer operating.

Fabiola Sanon, a resident of Port-au-Prince, told AFP how her husband, James, 32, was killed during the recent violence. “James has never been in conflict with anyone. He is a simple cigarette seller,” she confided after finding him “lying in the street.” Every morning, before taking their son to school, “James would get up at 5 a.m. to go to work and collect breakfast money,” she said, very distressed.

Faced with this outbreak of violence, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) invited representatives of the United States, France, Canada and the UN to a meeting on Monday in Jamaica. “Crucial issues for the stabilization of security and the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance” will be addressed, said the President of Guyana Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who holds the rotating presidency of this regional organization.

Supply risks

The director general of the National Port Authority (APN), Jocelin Villier, reported looting at the port. The NGO Mercy Corps has warned of the risks for the supply of the population of the poorest country in the Americas. “With the closure of the international airport, the little aid currently provided to Haiti may no longer arrive,” the NGO warned Thursday. And “if we can no longer access these containers, Haiti will soon be hungry.”

“If the paralysis of the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince continues over the coming weeks, nearly 3,000 pregnant women risk not being able to access essential health care,” several representatives of the UN in Haiti. According to them, “nearly 450 of them could suffer life-threatening obstetric complications without qualified medical assistance.”

“Around 521 survivors of sexual violence could find themselves without medical care” by the end of March, they added, while gangs are accused of using this violence to install fear.

“Too many women and young women in Haiti are victims of indiscriminate violence committed by armed gangs,” commented the UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, Ulrika Richardson, adding that the United Nations “is committed to continuing to provide them with assistance.