Fresh gang violence erupts in Haiti after new prime minister announced

Gangs in Haiti launched a major offensive in Port-au-Prince, burning homes and clashing with police for hours. Hundreds of residents fled the violence.

It was one of the worst outbreaks since the appointment of a new prime minister. The attacks raise concerns about the gangs’ influence and the government’s ability to restore order.

Haiti’s transition council took power in a ceremony on Thursday (May 2), formalising the resignation of former Prime Minster Ariel Henry as the Caribbean country seeks to establish security after years of gang violence wreaking chaos and misery.

The attacks began late Wednesday (May 1) in neighborhoods including Solino and Delmas 18, 20 and 24 located southwest of the main international airport.

An armoured police truck patrolled the streets, passing charred vehicles and walls where “Viv Babecue” was scribbled in bold Haitian Creole. People whose homes were spared in the attack in Delmas 18 and other nearby communities clutched fans, stoves, mattresses and plastic bags filled with clothes as they fled by foot, motorcycle or on colorful small buses known as tap-taps. Others were walking empty-handed, having lost everything.

Notably, leaders of the gangs who have exerted increasing control are clamouring for political influence and amnesties and threatening violence if their demands are not met.

Last week, after former Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned, the council was formally installed, seen as a key step in re-establishing security after years of gang violence that has recently skyrocketed.

The council is formed of seven voting members and two non-voting observers, including politicians, a businessman and a pastor. The regional Caribbean Community (CARICOM) body that led the drafting of the council’s make-up forbade gang members or those who were subject to international sanctions from joining.

But some of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders are threatening more violence if they are not allowed political sway.

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