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Haiti Declares State of Emergency After Mass Prison Break

Haiti is under a nighttime curfew after armed gangs led a mass prison break and demanded the resignation of the prime minister, who is abroad seeking support for a U.N.-backed international security force for the Caribbean nation. The curfew is part of a renewable 72-hour state of emergency imposed Sunday after an attack by gunmen on the country’s largest prison, the National Penitentiary, late Saturday, reports the Washington Post. The attack allowed a large portion of the prison’s estimated 4,000 inmates to escape, according to Finance Minister Patrick Boivert. Boivert accused Haitian gangs of numerous violent criminal acts, including kidnapping, assassinations, and violence against women and children, as well as the attacks on the National Penitentiary and another prison. “The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” Boivert said. The curfew runs from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. The dramatic escalation of violence comes after Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer turned gang leader, called for Haiti’s warring criminal factions to unite to oust the acting prime minister, Ariel Henry.

Gangs, such as Chérizier’s G9 Family and Allies alliance, are estimated to control up to 80 percent of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, amid a surge in violence that led to 4,789 homicides nationwide last year, according to the United Nations. Henry, a neurosurgeon who has served as Haiti’s top official since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, left the country last week to try to rally support for an international security force. In Nairobi, he attended a ceremony for reciprocal agreements that could help send 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti to lead a U.N.-backed international police force. The Biden administration has refused to commit troops to an international force in Haiti, instead focusing on providing other types of aid. The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince said U.S. citizens should “depart Haiti as soon as possible” and said its operations may be affected by “gang-related violence and its effects on transportation and infrastructure.” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned efforts by gangs to “further destabilize and take control of Haiti.” “It’s our understanding that the prime minister is returning to the country,” Miller said. “We think it’s important that he do so, and that he be allowed to do so.”


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