- The U.S. State Department urges Americans in Haiti to leave immediately due to mounting gang violence and political unrest.
- Gangs, accounting for 80% control of Port-au-Prince, have intensified activities since President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in 2021. Kidnappings have nearly tripled from last year.
- This is the second major warning from the U.S. government, following a similar advisory in July and the evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff.
As Haiti is gripped by escalating gang violence and political unrest, the U.S. State Department has sounded the alarm, urging Americans in the country to evacuate immediately.
“Given the current security situation and infrastructure challenges,” the U.S. government has emphasized the urgency for its citizens to leave the Caribbean nation. The announcement was made public via a tweet on Wednesday, directing individuals to get in touch with [email protected] should they face issues while trying to depart.
Recent weeks have witnessed a spike in violence, with rival street gangs battling for control and staging violent demonstrations. The already volatile situation worsened when a powerful gang launched an attack on parishioners in Canaan, close to Port-au-Prince, the capital city. The parishioners, determined to rid their community of gang elements, were armed with machetes. However, the gang’s retaliatory strike resulted in several fatalities and left dozens injured. Graphic videos capturing this chilling episode have made their rounds on social media.
The influence of these gangs has spread like wildfire since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Presently, gangs dominate approximately 80% of Port-au-Prince. Notably, Canaan falls under the sway of a gang lord known only as “Jeff.” He and his gang are believed to have ties with the notorious “5 Seconds” gang.
The U.N. has shed light on the grim scenario, reporting that within the span of January to March, over 1,600 individuals have been killed, wounded, or abducted in Haiti. Adding to the woes is the surge in kidnappings, with UNICEF confirming over 300 incidents this year. This alarming number is nearly triple the entire tally for 2021 and is on par with the total reported last year.
The State Department has outlined safety measures for American citizens in Haiti, which encompass:
- Proceeding with extreme caution during travel within the nation.
- Staying away from demonstrations or large crowds.
- Avoiding roadblocks and turning back if confronted by one.
- Formulating and rehearsing emergency plans for securing shelter and reaching airports.
- Adhering to the guidelines provided by the State Department’s guide for navigating high-risk regions.
For those daring enough to visit such treacherous zones, the State Department has some stark advice: Draft a will, communicate with family members about potential grim outcomes, and establish safety plans, including protocols if faced with kidnapping scenarios where family might have to negotiate with hostage-takers.
Previously, in late July, the State Department had not only cautioned tourists against traveling to Haiti citing kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and deficient healthcare infrastructure but had also facilitated the evacuation of “non-emergency U.S. direct-hire employees and eligible family members” from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
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