Haitian Gangs Attack National Palace Of Haiti.

Photo: https://www.myconfinedspace.com/ The Haitian National Palace was completed by the USA in 1920 and was double the size of the White House. It was extensively damaged in the earthquake of 2010, but had been repaired.
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Haitian gangs have launched armed assaults against several government buildings in or near downtown Port-au-Prince early Friday evening, according to a law enforcement source who took part in the fighting, but it is unknown how successful they have been in disrupting or taking over government functions from Haiti’s barely functional government.

The source said the attack was coordinated and swift, with different groups simultaneously targeting multiple government buildings including the Presidential Palace, the Interior Ministry, and a police headquarters for Haiti’s western district which includes Port-au-Prince.

The Presidential Palace has not been occupied by any Haitian president since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021. A massive earthquake in 2010 destroyed large parts of the complex, making much of it completely unusable. However, it remains a poignant symbol of Haitian federal governance and is guarded around the clock.

Were the palace to fall under gang control, it would be an enormously symbolic blow to Haiti’s efforts to fight organized crime and its ongoing rebellion in the country.

ABC News reported it had spoken to several people who witnessed intense gunfire and heard large explosions. Hundreds of people fled the area as gangs engaged in fierce battles against the police.

Sporadic gunfire rang out in Port-au-Prince Friday night as residents desperately sought shelter amid the recent explosion of gang violence in the Haitian capital.

Humanitarian conditions continued to deteriorate after armed groups unleashed widespread chaos on the long-troubled Caribbean nation last week. Aid groups and nongovernmental organizations warned of a shortage of medical supplies and food.

According to an AFP journalist on the scene, gunshots were heard throughout the capital late Friday, especially concentrated in the southwestern districts of Turgeau, Pacot, Lalue and Canape-Vert.

Fearful residents scrambled to take shelter, with witnesses telling AFP they had seen clashes “between police officers and bandits” as gangs apparently tried to commandeer police stations in the city center.

Criminal groups, which already control much of Port-au-Prince as well as roads leading to the rest of the country, have attacked key infrastructure in recent days, including two prisons, allowing the majority of their 3,800 inmates to escape.

The gangs, along with some ordinary Haitians, are seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was due to leave office in February but instead agreed to a power-sharing deal with the opposition until new elections are held.

Calls for “urgent” reform

On Thursday, the government issued a monthlong state of emergency for the western region, which includes the capital, and decreed a nighttime curfew until Monday.

Port-au-Prince resident Fabiola Sanon told AFP that her 32-year-old husband, James, was killed in the unrest. He used to wake up early to earn money for their son’s breakfast before taking him to school, she said.

“James has never been in conflict with anyone,” Sanon said. “He’s a simple cigarette salesman.”

Haiti’s airport remained closed Friday, while the main port — a key source for food imports — cited instances of looting since it suspended services on Thursday, despite efforts to set up a security perimeter.

“If we cannot access those containers [full of food], Haiti will go hungry soon,” the Mercy Corps warned in a statement.

An alliance of Caribbean nations, CARICOM, on Friday summoned envoys from the United States, France, Canada and the United Nations to a meeting on Monday in Jamaica to discuss the outbreak of violence.

Guyanan President Irfaan Ali said the meeting will take up “critical issues for the stabilization of security and the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance.”

The crisis has drawn concern from the United States, which has told the absent Henry to enact “urgent” political reform to prevent further escalation.

Henry was in Kenya when the violence broke out and has since been unable to return to Haiti. He is reportedly stranded in Puerto Rico.

Pregnant women at risk

The United Nations warned Friday that thousands of people, especially pregnant women, are in danger of losing vital health care as the crisis drags on.

“If greater Port-au-Prince remains at a standstill in the coming weeks, almost 3,000 pregnant women could be denied access to essential health care, and almost 450 could face life-threatening obstetric complications if they do not receive medical assistance,” the U.N.’s office in Haiti said in a statement.

The body also warned that more than 500 sexual violence survivors could be without medical care by the end of March if conditions do not improve.

“Today, too many women and girls in Haiti are victims of indiscriminate violence committed by armed gangs. The United Nations stands by them and is committed to continuing to provide the assistance they need,” said the U.N.’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ulrika Richardson.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of students could see their records destroyed, as schools and ministry of education offices were vandalized.

Such “irreparable damage” could make it impossible for pupils to receive their transcripts or diplomas in the future, a statement from the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training said, calling for the protection of schools as a “public good.”

Sources: VOA, Agence France Presse, ABC News.
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