Haiti’s prime minister lands in Puerto Rico, official says, as gangs rampage at home

CNNA plane carrying Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry landed in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, its governor’s spokesperson told CNN, after days of speculation about his whereabouts as Haitian capital Port-au-Prince plunged into crisis over the weekend.

Sheila Angleró Mojica told CNN she did not have additional details on the matter but added that “federal agents from the CBP [US Customs and Border Protection] are in charge,” without elaborating.

Since last week, Port-au-Prince has been gripped by a wave of highly coordinated gang attacks on law enforcement and state institutions. Armed groups have burned down police stations and released thousands of inmates from two prisons, in what one gang leader described as an attempt to overthrow Henry’s government.

The violence erupted while Henry was in Kenya, where he signed an agreement underpinning a Kenyan-led mission of 1,000 police officers to Haiti to restore security in the Caribbean country. The prime minister’s last appearance in public was in Kenya on Friday, before arriving today in Puerto Rico, per Mojica.

Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency on Sunday amid the spiraling violence in Port-au-Prince. The United Nations has said 15,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes in the capital, adding to the over 300,000 who had already been displaced by gang violence.

The government cited the “deterioration of security,” notably “increasingly violent criminal acts perpetrated by armed gangs,” including kidnappings and killings of citizens, violence against women and children and looting, according to a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boivert.

Gangs overpower police

Port-au-Prince has been “handed to the gangs” who are continuing their assaults on police stations in the capital, Occil Francisco, a spokesperson for police union Synapoha told CNN Tuesday.

At least eight police stations in Port-au-Prince “have been lost” in gang attacks, he said.

The police academy, which holds more than 780 officers in training, was also under attack by men associated with gang leader Vitel’Homme Innocent, he said.

The police union is urging officials to reinforce the “operational and reactive capacity” of the national police force so they can provide security for civilians, he said.

“We can say that our leadership has failed, and the police do not have the means to right this situation in Port-au-Prince,” he said.

CNN has reached out to the Haitian National Police for comment.

The violence has prompted the Dominican Republic to suspend all cargo and passenger flights to and from neighboring Haiti.

Dominican President Luis Abinader said Monday that a heightened level of security was in effect on his country’s border with Haiti and that any escaped Haitian prisoner who tried to enter the country would face “a drastic response.”

Aid groups are scrambling to help residents of the capital. Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said it will scale up its activities in Port-au-Prince to care for the “mounting number” of injured people.

“The violence has taken on a new dimension since last weekend, causing a massive number of casualties,” MSF said in a statement Tuesday.

The aid group has however struggled to provide care to Haitians, as the country’s main port is now difficult to access and the international airport has been closed.

“We fear we will run out of medicines and medical supplies, which are absolutely essential to meet the enormous needs we are facing at the moment,” Haiti MSF head Mumuza Muhindo Musubah said in a statement.

Half of Haiti’s population, or about 5.5 million people, need humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.