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US urges citizens to leave Haiti as violence escalates

March 4, 2024

The White House said it was "monitoring Haiti's rapidly deteriorating security situation with great concern." Gang leader Jimmy Cherizier has pledged to oust Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

A burned car is seen outside the National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti
The UN and the United States have reacted with grave concern over the escalating violence in HaitiImage: Odelyn Joseph/AP/picture alliance

The United States called for its citizens to leave Haiti "as soon as possible" after violence escalated over the weekend in the wake of a deadly attack on a prison, prompting a state of emergency in the country.

The US, which is home to over a million Haitians, said its embassy would be providing limited operations on Monday while Canada said it would temporarily close its embassy.

"We're monitoring Haiti's rapidly deteriorating security situation with great concern," US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a call.

The UN also commented on the ongoing violence, calling for "urgent action particularly in providing financial support for the multinational security support mission" that is backed by the UN."

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is alarmed "by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Port-au-Prince," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

What prompted the state of emergency?

Haiti's government declared a state of emergency on Sunday, following several days of violence in the capital culminating in an attack on the country's main prison which left most of its inmates at large.

Prison gates were open on Sunday, with no security personnel in sight. Many families of prisoners held at the facility rushed there to check on loved ones.

The attacks started while Prime Minister Ariel Henry was in Kenya to lobby for UN-backed police deployment in his country.

The government said a curfew would be enforced from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, through Wednesday, in the Ouest region, which includes the capital Port-au-Prince.

How the West messed with Haiti

Police told to 'use all legal means' 

Security forces had "received orders to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and detain those who violate it," the government said.

Haiti's Economy Minister Patrick Michel Boisvert signed the government statement, deputizing for Prime Minister Henry.

Gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer, has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks that he says aim to oust the prime minister.

jsi/dj (AFP, Reuters)