Haiti police riot to protest officer killings by armed gangs

Police in Haiti forced their way into the country’s main airport as part of protests against the recent killings of officers by increasingly powerful armed gangs.

Officers in civilian clothes first attacked the official residence of Ariel Henry, Haiti’s prime minister and president, before descending onto Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, the capital, as he returned from a trip to Argentina.

Mr Henry was stuck in the airport while streets were barricaded, schools were shut and vehicles and air traffic were disrupted. A vehicle carrying the Bahamian charge d’affaires was stopped and commandeered, with weapons also taken. 

Mr Henry eventually made it back home, pursued by demonstrators.

Haiti protest riots police officer deaths violent gangs

Barricades were set up in streets across Port-au-Prince during the protests Credit: Reuters/Ralph Tedy Erol
Haiti protest riots police officer deaths violent gangs

Locals in Port-au-Prince run past one of the barricades Credit: AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph

The protests came just a day after six officers were killed in Liancourt, a town 68 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Four of them were dragged out of a police station and executed in the street, Jean Bruce Myrtil, the police commissioner, told local radio.

Last week, four police officers near Port-au-Prince were killed by the Vitelhomme gang.

Fourteen police officers have been killed by armed gangs since the beginning of the year, according to the National Union of Haitian Police Officers. 

In total, 78 have died since Mr Henry came to power in 2021, according to RNDDH, the Haitian human rights group.

It said that the prime minister and Frantz Elbe, the head of the Haitian National Police, are “responsible for each of the 78 lives lost during their reign”, adding: “History will remember they did nothing to protect and preserve the lives of these agents who chose to serve their country.” 

Ariel Henry Haiti protest riots police officer deaths violent gangs

Ariel Henry, the Haitain prime minister and president, was accused of doing little to protect police officers Credit: Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP via Getty Images
Haiti protest riots police officer deaths violent gangs

A human rights group said that 78 police officers were killed during Ariel Henry’s time in office Credit: Johnson Sabin/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, has been gripped by a worsening political and economic crisis, triggered by the July 2021 assassination of Jovenel Moise, the president at the time.

The United Nations recorded 1,359 kidnappings in Haiti last year. More than 2,000 murders were recorded in 2022, up by a third from the year before.

The UN is discussing plans to send a foreign strike force to confront the criminal groups. The proposal was originally made three months ago, but no country has offered to lead such a force.

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