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Gangs Clash at Haiti’s Former Presidential Palace


Haiti presidential Palace
In a new episode of violence, criminal gangs attempted to take over the former presidential palace in Haiti, causing several injuries. Credit: Michelle Walz / CC BY 2.0

Unrest in Haiti shows no sign of stopping. On Thursday, gangs clashed near the old presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, causing injuries and chaos. This brief but intense exchange of gunfire also left some police officers hurt, one critically, reports from EFE news agency confirmed. The confrontation started in a park close to the ex-president’s home.

According to reports, the criminal operation was led by Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, a former policeman who is now the leader of several gangs grouped in the coalition called Living Together, which has real control of the capital. A few weeks ago, this group threatened to provoke genocide if Ariel Henry did not leave power, which he did from abroad on March 11. Henry continues as interim president until a presidential council is formed to lead the transition.

The group of so-called Barbecue allegedly seized an armored police car, after setting a fire in the vicinity of the presidential palace. The streets around the former seat of political power were left empty as the inhabitants fled to safer areas.

No effective governance

Three weeks after the announcement of the Prime Minister’s resignation, and with Henry in exile, Haiti still does not have an effective government. The country has been living in chaos and misrule since the death of the last head of state to pass through the ballot box, Jovenel Moise, assassinated by a gang of hitmen in July 2021.

Since then, the proliferation of criminal gangs has spread violence in the streets, even in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the government has not been able to impose its authority. The power of these groups is so strong that they now control 90% of the country’s capital.

His legitimacy questioned, Henry could not even return to Haiti after his trip to Kenya, where he was negotiating the leadership of this African country in an international mission that, for now, remains unfinished.

The worsening of the situation began on February 29. According to the UN, from that time until March 22, at least 1,554 people have died and 826 have been injured.

Presidential Transitional Council

With the announcement of the resignation of the Prime Minister and the President, the creation of a Presidential Transitional Council was announced, an interim body that should appoint a new Prime Minister and call for free and democratic elections.

After more than three weeks, this body has not yet been formally established and there is not even a full consensus among the different armed groups on the names that should be part of this power body.

Meanwhile, a United Nations report describes the situation in the country as “catastrophic”. “Structural and speculative factors have led Haiti to a catastrophic situation, characterized by profound political instability and extremely fragile institutions,” the UN document says.

With highly porous borders, the influx of weapons helps to consolidate the military power of the various gang groups that defy the police. “It is scandalous that, despite the horror of the situation on the ground, weapons continue to arrive. I call for a more effective implementation of the arms embargo,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk at the beginning of the report.

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