Gangs stormed police stations to seize weapons in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, as clashes escalated: one forced thousands of residents of the southern district to flee their homes.
Gang activity has spread to the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years amid political turmoil and a deteriorating economic downturn. Groups of thugs, who often have more and more powerful weapons than the Haitian security forces, they clash with each other for control of the territory.
On Sunday, the United Nations said it was “deeply concerned” about the impact of growing violence on civilians, noting that there have been several similar conflicts that have forced people to flee in the past year.
At the same time, an outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic is being recorded in Haiti, when a referendum is expected – at the end of June – to decide whether to draft a new Constitution or not.
There were raids on six police stations over the weekend. The perpetrators killed three police officers and burned their bodies in one of the attacks, according to media reports. In a second raid, a police inspector who refused to hand over his unit’s weapons to the criminals was executed in cold blood.
Police Chief Leon Charles confirmed two attacks and the inspector’s death. He assured that the authorities are intensifying the effort to fight the gangs.
He said police had regained control of a road south of the capital, which had remained impassable due to bloody gang clashes in the Martisan district since last Wednesday.
A recent outbreak of violence has killed at least 10 people, including innocent civilians, and left thousands fleeing their homes as criminals set fire to homes and businesses., the General Secretariat for Civil Protection of Haiti said in a press release.
Videos uploaded to social media sites last week show corpses lying on the street, where gunmen are circulating. They are still depicted displaced, among them many children, to take refuge in a church, in an open-air market, in a sports center.
Market catering is a problem in Port-au-Prince as trucks carrying goods from the south cannot pass.
The “phenomenon” of the spread of gang activity “is gaining more and more alarming proportions”, the civil protection stressed, noting that clashes are unfolding simultaneously in three other districts of the Haitian capital and the security forces “have knelt down”.