Thursday, January 26th, Haitian police officers barricaded roadways and forced their way into the country’s main airport to protest the recent murder of policemen by armed gangs strengthening their control over the Caribbean nation.
According to a Reuters witness, protesters in civilian attire who disguised themselves as police stormed the official house of Prime Minister Ariel Henry before flooding the airport as Henry returned from a trip to Argentina.
Henry was initially stranded at the airport, but later on Thursday he returned to his Port-au-Prince mansion, accompanied by police demonstrators. A witness for Reuters heard loud gunshots near his residence.
The Haitian National Police and the Office of the Prime Minister did not reply quickly to calls for comment.
Protesters stopped roads surrounding Port-au-Prince and in numerous cities to the north.
A delegation of US government officials were in Haiti at the time, and a representative for the US State Department stated that all US workers were safe and that certain meetings had been rescheduled as a precaution.
In a statement, the Haitian human rights organization RNDDH stated that 78 police officers had been killed since Henry came to power in July 2021, an average of five per month, and that the prime minister and the head of the national police, Frantz Elbe, were “responsible for each of the 78 lives lost during their reign.”
“History will recall that they did nothing to safeguard and preserve the lives of these spies who volunteered to serve their country,” the document continued.
The Bahamas’ foreign ministry said late Thursday that the country’s prime minister has ordered all Bahamians, including diplomatic officials, to leave Haiti as soon as security situations allow.
Earlier in the day, Haitian police detained the charge d’affaires of a neighboring nation and seized their car and firearms, the statement said, adding that all of its diplomats and five people who had been stuck around the airport were safe.
Four police officers were slain by the Vitelhomme gang near the capital last week, while seven cops were killed in shootouts with the Savien gang in the town of Liancourt on Wednesday, according to reports from Haiti’s National Police and local media.
US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols extended condolences to the families of police officers slain in the most recent violence and vowed to continue “imposing consequences on those involved for this abhorrent violence.”
The U.S. State Department spokesperson told Reuters that the United States was still working with international partners to develop a “framework” for a security mission to “provide security and stability” in response to a question about how recent developments might affect efforts to design an international armed intervention.
The United Nations is considering launching an international strike force against the criminal organizations. The suggestion was made three months ago, but no nation has offered to command the proposed army.