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Gangs attack wealthy neighborhoods in Haiti's capital, evacuate embassies and hotels

Gangs attack wealthy neighborhoods in Haiti's capital, evacuate embassies and hotels

The luxurious neighborhood of Pétion-Ville on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, fell under the violence that is shaking the country with the entry of gangs into its streets, which had remained oblivious to the crisis.

Haitian media reported clashes between gangs that forced residents to barricade themselves in their homes, while in the streets of the commune – where the headquarters of 12 embassies are located – at least 15 bodies were counted after shootings.

The neighborhood is also home to Port-au-Prince's luxury hotels, which gang leader Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier threatened last week, saying he would go after establishment owners who hide old-guard politicians behind their doors.

“When I got up to go to work, I found that I couldn't go out because the neighborhood was in the hands of bandits,” said Samuel Orelus. “There were about 30 men with heavy weapons. “If the neighborhood had mobilized, we could have destroyed them, but they were heavily armed and we couldn't do anything.”

Route

Journalists from The Associated Press They saw at least five bodies in and around the suburbs, the gangs blocked access to some residential areas.

Residents of communities under fire repeatedly called radio stations to request police presence; However, law enforcement has been overwhelmed, understaffed, and far outnumbered by gang groups.

In addition to Pétion-Ville, clashes were also reported in the wealthy neighborhoods of Meyotte, Diègue and Métivier.

On Wednesday afternoon, the police also reported the murder of one of their officers in the Delmas 72 neighborhood, a death confirmed by the police union.

The escalation of violence has forced the closure of banks, schools and other businesses in Pétion-Ville, which until Tuesday had been exempt from the armed violence that erupted in the capital on February 29.

The gang members' offensive has included burning police headquarters, paralyzing Haiti's international airport and attacking prisons to free some 4,000 inmates.

Internal displacement among people fleeing neighborhoods under fire is another concern for the Haitian authority, which is reeling from the formation of a provisional government.

The removal of Prime Minister Ariel Henry from office last week, as demanded by the powerful gangs, has not calmed the situation. Henry will officially leave office once a transition council is established, with which the international community sees an opportunity to overcome the crisis.

Early last week, the US State Department said it hoped to have the council formed as soon as possible, but some factions chosen to be represented rejected the plan or were unable to unite around a leader.

Border reinforcement and evacuations

As the escalation of violence continues, neighboring countries have reinforced security on their borders and embassies have evacuated all their staff and foreign citizens.

On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic said it had evacuated nearly 300 people, including staff from the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. With the airport closed, the United States said it was evacuating its citizens by helicopter.

U.S. Army Gen. Laura Richardson said Tuesday that troops were “prepared” in case the U.S. government decided to become more involved in a planned international security mission – which the Haitian government requested in 2022 but remains in place. limbo – although there were no current plans for such a deployment.

A senior official at regional trade bloc Caricom, who was not authorized to speak to the media, told The Associated Press Late on Wednesday, Jean-Charles Moïse's Pitit Desalin party became a voting member of the council, after initially rejecting a seat.

It was the last reluctant party, meaning the nine-member council is now fully formed, although its membership has not been publicly revealed.

Moïse recently formed an alliance with Guy Philippe, a former rebel leader who helped overthrow former President Jean-Bertrand Artistide and who was repatriated to Haiti in November after serving time in a US prison after pleading guilty to money laundering.

[Con informes de Reuters y Associated Press]

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Written by Editor TLN

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