The U.S. Embassy in Haiti was closed on Tuesday due to nearby gunfire in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Haiti has been torn by gang violence and near-anarchy ever since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.
Thousands of Haitians marched in Port-au-Prince on Monday to demand protection from the gangs, whose depredations have greatly exacerbated poverty and hunger in the tormented island nation. Humanitarian agencies are finding it difficult to get supplies past gang blockades, bringing millions to the edge of starvation.
Security analysts say the gangs control almost 80 percent of the territory in Port-au-Prince and much of the country beyond the capital. Killings and kidnappings soared by 30 percent over the past year.
“I can’t work. I can’t go out. I’m like a prisoner in my own home,” one of the demonstrators complained on Monday.
“I worry about my kids being shot because bullets are flying from all directions, all the time. The situation is unacceptable,” said another.
The protesters set government vehicles on fire and clashed with police, who used tear gas to disperse them. Many of the protesters wore masks to conceal their identities.
Some demonstrators demanded a police or military “intervention” to restore order in neighborhoods destroyed by gang violence.
“We are asking for tanks,” one of them said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a security alert and announced it would be open for “limited operations only.”
The embassy advised Americans in Haiti to “avoid the area” around the embassy, avoid “demonstrations and any large gatherings of people,” and refrain from driving through roadblocks erected by gangs or protesters.
“Some routes to the embassy may be impacted due to continued rapid gunfire,” the embassy said.
In one positive development on Wednesday, a Christian aid group called El Roi Haiti announced that American nurse Alix Dorsainvil and her daughter had been released from their kidnappers after two weeks in captivity. The group did not say if a ransom was paid for their release.
“We have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. As you can imagine, these individuals have been through a very difficult ordeal, both physically and mentally,” the U.S. State Department said.
Dorsainvil and her daughter were abducted from a clinic in a gang-controlled region of Port-au-Prince. El Roi Haiti, founded by Dorsainvil’s husband, Sandro, has been attempting to provide medical care for impoverished Haitians.
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