Haiti Declares State of Emergency After Gangs Attack Prisons

Escalating violence in Haiti led the government to declare a state of emergency on Sunday, March 3.

Here’s what the decree, signed by Economy Minister Patrick Michel Boivert (covering for Prime Minister Ariel Henry who is in Kenya during the clashes), says: “Given the deteriorating security situation, particularly in the country’s capital region, Port-au-Prince, characterized by increasingly violent criminal activities perpetrated by armed gangs causing massive displacement of the population and including kidnapping and killing of civilians, violence against women and children, looting and stealing against public and private property, among others – the Government of the Republic, with reference to the decree of March 3, 2024, declaring a state of emergency throughout the territory of the West Department for a renewable period of seventy-two hours, and in order to restore order and take appropriate measures to regain control of the situation, decides to impose a curfew throughout that territory from six p.m. to five a.m. on Monday the 4th, Tuesday the 5th, Wednesday the 6th, and this Sunday, March 3, 2024, from eight p.m. to five a.m.”

Fighting between gangs keeps civil and political life in the eastern part of the Caribbean island of Española under control. The violence peaked on Saturday, March 2, when armed gangs attacked the country’s two largest prisons, killing and injuring police and prison staff, facilitating the escape of some 4000 inmates.

Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer and leader of one of the country’s rampant gangs, has proposed that other criminal groups form a common front to overthrow the government of Ariel Henry, who is now in Kenya to sign an agreement to send a UN military mission to help restore order, while gangs now control an estimated 80% of the country, according to analysts.