Over 4,000 Inmates Escape as Armed Gangs Storm Haitian Prisons

(USNewsMag.com) – Haiti’s government declared a renewable 72-hour state of emergency on March 3rd after more than 4,000 inmates escaped from the country’s two biggest prisons after armed gangs attacked the facilities.

The escape of prisoners has raised concerns about the safety of victims, judges, and attorneys, according to the Office of Citizen Protection.

The gangs, led by former police officer Jimmy Cherizier, attacked the National Penitentiary and the Croix-des-Bouquets prison on March 2nd and committed many other violent criminal acts, such as kidnapping and violence against children and women. The violence committed by the gangs escalated after Cherizier called for Haiti’s gangs to unite and overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who he said should resign. Henry, a neurosurgeon, has been the prime minister since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in 2021.

When the violence erupted, Henry was in Kenya, trying to get support for help from a United Nations-backed security force to help stabilize the country in its battle against the gangs. About 9,000 officers serve on Haiti’s National Police force, providing security to the 11 million people in the country. However, the police are outgunned by gangs such as the Allies Alliance and the G9 Family, which Cherizier controls. The gangs are currently controlling around 80 percent of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. According to the United Nations, there were 4,789 homicides across the country last year.

Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, who is acting prime minister while Henry is out of the country, stated that the police were told to “use all legal means at their disposal” to enforce the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

The gang violence continued after the state of emergency and curfew were announced as the armed gangs exchanged gunfire with police as they attempted to seize control of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport on March 4th.

The U.S. Embassy has halted all official travel to Haiti, and all American citizens have been urged to depart the country as soon as possible.

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