Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Haiti gangs ramp up violence, hope to block governing council’s inauguration

Published:Tuesday | April 23, 2024 | 7:35 PM
Gang members in Haiti. - File Photo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, CMC -Haiti's coalition criminal gangs have decided to ramp up violence in a move to deter the newly appointed Transitional Presidential Council (CPT)  from taking office, amid fears that the political and socio-economic crisis will continue to haunt the French-speaking CARICOM country.

The nine-member CPT, including two with observer status, has recently been appointed, but the members have so far, not been able to be sworn in and to assume official responsibilities, because of continued assaults on the Presidential Palace by heavily armed gangs that want to take over the facility, where police special combat units have been resisting.

Media reports in Port-au-Prince, Tuesday said that the members of the CPT are likely to decide later today on the date and place of the CPT installation.

The reports quoted sources as saying that the installation could take place on Wednesday at the National Palace.

Feared gang leader, Jimmy Cherisier, alias Barbecue, has been heard talking with his henchmen on the ground, ordering them to burn down whole areas as well as chasing and executing people indiscriminately.

“Riddle them with bullets! Continue to burn houses, you don't need to know whose houses are they! Just set them on fire,” Barbecue said as he exchanged communication with one of his henchmen.

“Make sure you force everybody to flee their homes. Set them all on fire!”, Barbecue insisted, as his abettor confirmed he had just committed the crime.

“Yes, Chief! I've set them on fire,” the man, whose name was not revealed, said in the voice conversation.

Barbecue has repeatedly threatened to attack members of the police special units that he called out during an improvised protest organised by gunmen in the slum of Bel-Air, overlooking the area of Champ de Mars, where the Presidential Palace is located.

Meanwhile, negotiations among different political groups, civil society organisations and outgoing officials continue in order to install the CPT, which could take place before the end of the week, according to sources close to the discussions.

Last week, seven people, including one policeman, were killed by gangs in the district of Carrefour, neighbouring the capital Port-au-Prince. Gang members took away several weapons and other materials belonging to the Haitian police.

The Mayor of Carrefour, Jude Edouard Pierre, told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) that gang members had also planned to take with them several police officers, but finally, to show pity, the criminals, who had threatened to kill them, decided to give them a chance to continue to live.

“We condemned with the fullest energy the criminal assault carried about by 200 heavily armed bandits on the Omega police station in Carrefour. We mourned the policeman and the other victims of the attack,” said Mayor Pierre.

“We want to thank them anyway because there are policemen that had been taken hostage and that they had wanted to execute, but they did not kill those police officers.

“Actually according to what we know, it could have been worse; rumours about a massacre was circulating; thank God what we had feared did not happen,” Pierre said, adding “we ask the armed gangs to give Carrefour a chance”.

Pierre said that when the bandits invaded the police precinct “police officers had to flee, not because they were coward, but because when they realised the superior fire power on the side of the gangs, they had to choose to flee for their lives”.

According to the United Nations, more than 2,500 people were killed or wounded as a result of gang violence, during the first quarter of 2024.

A US military plane – which landed in Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday – brought non-lethal material for the country's security forces.

The airport has been closed since March 4, this year, and ports have been out of service in an area almost totally controlled by gangs.

The United Nations Tuesday reported that its humanitarian colleagues say that the procurement of essential supplies, including food and medicines, is becoming increasingly challenging – with the international airport closed, main ports barely functioning and roads leading out of the capital blocked.

“Fuel availability has also become a pressing issue with prices soaring on the black market and transportation costs on the rise,” the UN spokesman added..

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