Haiti Violence: 4,000 Inmates Escape from Prison

Nearly 4,000 inmates escape prison amid deepening Haiti violence

At least 12 casualties have been reported as violent gangs, aiming to oust the Prime Minister, launched assaults on two prisons in Haiti, resulting in a chaotic eruption of violence over the weekend. Thousands of inmates managed to escape amidst the chaos, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and enforce a curfew.

The government swiftly enacted a 72-hour state of emergency, deploying measures to locate and apprehend the escaped convicts, including those deemed dangerous criminals. In tandem, a curfew was instituted from 6pm to 5am, signaling a proactive response to restore order.

Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, acting as interim Prime Minister during Ariel Henry’s absence, emphasized the directive for law enforcement to utilize all available legal means to uphold the curfew and capture offenders. Henry, meanwhile, was engaged abroad, advocating for a UN-backed security initiative to counter the escalating influence of criminal factions within Haiti.

The orchestrator behind these violent acts, Jimmy Cherizier, commonly known as Barbecue, leads gangs intent on toppling Henry’s administration. Pierre Esperance of the National Network for Defense of Human Rights provided a grim account, stating that only a fraction of the National Penitentiary’s inmates remained incarcerated following the assault, with numerous casualties observed.

Haiti Violence: 4,000 Inmates Escape from Prison
Haiti Violence: 4,000 Inmates Escape from Prison (Credits: YouTube)

Eyewitness reports from the AFP and Reuters painted a dire picture of the prisons, depicting scenes of chaos, with bodies strewn outside and cells abandoned. Despite efforts by law enforcement to repel the attacks, the situation remained volatile, with several wounded reported among both prison staff and inmates.

The government commended the populace for maintaining composure amid the crisis, urging continued support for the National Police in tracking down escapees and apprehending those responsible. However, the whereabouts of Prime Minister Henry remained uncertain, complicating the efforts to address the unfolding crisis.

The recent surge in violence follows calls by Cherizier for criminal factions to unite against Henry’s government. Cherizier, who heads a coalition of gangs, faces international sanctions, exacerbating the already precarious situation.

In the midst of the turmoil, concerns for the safety of civilians and prisoners persist, with reports indicating that some detainees opted to remain in their cells out of fear. Meanwhile, thousands have been displaced from their homes, seeking refuge amidst the escalating violence.

Henry, who assumed office in 2021 after the assassination of former President Jovenel Moise, faces mounting pressure to restore stability and pave the way for elections. However, his plans to extend his tenure until 2025 have been met with skepticism, with many calling for immediate action to address the crisis at hand.