Haiti Declares State of Emergency After Prison Breakout Releases 4,000 Inmates

The government of Haiti has declared a state of emergency and instituted a nighttime curfew in the capital of Port-au-Prince after a coordinated attack by armed gangs on the city’s central prison over the weekend. The assault allowed around 4,000 inmates to escape.

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According to a government statement issued on Sunday, the state of emergency and a curfew from 6:00 pm to 5:00 am will remain in effect until Wednesday, March 6th. The measures apply to Haiti’s Ouest department, which contains Port-au-Prince and may be renewed.

The objective is to help the government “re-establish order and take appropriate measures to regain control of the situation,” per the statement. Economy Minister Patrick Michel Boisvert serves as Haiti’s acting prime minister.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry was abroad in Kenya last week finalizing agreements to have a Kenyan-led multinational security force deployed to Haiti to combat the ongoing gang violence plaguing the nation. The prison break occurred during Henry’s trip.

Jimmy Chérizier, leader of the “Barbecue” gang, has claimed responsibility for organizing the coordinated attack on the prison, calling for Henry’s resignation. Chérizier and allied groups currently control around 80% of Port-au-Prince.

The complex targeted contained high-profile prisoners like ex-Colombian soldiers jailed for their alleged role in the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Around 99 inmates chose to remain in their cells during the chaos.

Haiti has been embroiled in violence since Moïse’s murder, holding no elections since 2016. Henry’s unelected government was due to step down on February 7th per a political agreement but failed to do so.

This latest prison break further destabilizes the nation. The state of emergency indicates authorities are struggling to maintain even essential functions. With over 8,000 Haitians victimized by gang violence just last year, decisive action is needed immediately.

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