A large-scale prison break in Haiti caused hundreds of prisoners to escape and at least 25 people were killed, including the warden and the notorious Haitian gang leader Arnel Joseph (Arnel Joseph).
The escape took place on Thursday at the Croix-des-Bouquets civil prison in the capital of Port-au-Prince. According to Frantz Exantus, the Secretary of State for communications in Haiti, as of late Friday, the authorities had recaptured about 60 prisoners and were still actively searching for more than 200 prisoners.
Gang violence in Haiti has increased in recent years, and gang leader Joseph (Joseph) has been one of the country’s most wanted fugitives until his arrest in 201
Exantus said at a press conference that Joseph was killed in a gun battle with the police after escaping. According to Exantus, Joseph was riding a motorcycle across the city when the police tried to release him. He was killed by the police after shooting.
Authorities said that of the 25 people killed, several were bystanders, who were attacked by prisoners when they escaped.
The UN Special Representative for Haiti, Helen La Lime, said in a statement to NPR that she felt “deeply concerned” about the escape.
Larim said: “I encourage the police to expedite the investigation of the circumstances surrounding this incident, redouble their efforts to re-arrest the fugitive, and strengthen the security of prisons across the country.”
On Friday, President Jovenel Moise condemned the breakout on Twitter and urged Haitians to remain calm. He wrote, “Instruct the Haitian National Police to take all measures to bring the situation under control.”
As Moise faces increasing pressure to step down, Haiti is in a state of political turmoil. He was elected to a five-year term in late 2015, but it was only a year after fraud accusing others of being haggard to elect an interim administrative authority. He claimed before Moiz took office in February 2017, which meant his five The term of office does not end until 2022. He has been governed by law since the end of 2019. Widespread protests broke out this month because he refused to resign and after more than 20 political opponents accused of violent coups were arrested.
For everyday Haitians, especially those in Port-au-Prince, prison escape is just the latest chapter in a year of increasing violence.
In the past year, the number of kidnappings for ransom has increased sharply, leading to the suspension of schools. The US Embassy issued a warning urging US citizens to exercise caution when traveling in Port-au-Prince. In recent months, the victims of kidnapping include a nun, a surgeon, the 5-year-old daughter of a peanut dealer and two film crew members.
At the same time, in the past year, the epidemic of gang violence has caused hundreds of deaths and even more displacement. In December last year, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on some Haitian officials on the grounds that they participated in a plan to arm and fund gangs with the purpose of “creating turmoil and suppressing the demands of Port-au-Prince residents for improved living conditions.”
Just this month, a UN report urged Haitian authorities to “end impunity for violent gang members”, adding: “Without proper accountability procedures, the cycle of violence may lead to more victims.”
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