US Evacuates Non-Essential Employees From Haiti Embassy

( – The US government has evacuated its embassy in Haiti amid spiraling violence. Staff were airlifted by helicopter as gangs took control of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The State Department confirmed the evacuation and said this is standard practice when American personnel are at risk abroad. The Department furthermore confirmed its intention to support the Haitian National Police and to expedite the deployment of international security forces to the embattled country.

Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier, known as “Barbecue” and described in some reports as the most powerful man in Haiti, said he aims to lead the country’s poor and overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Mr. Henry was in Africa seeking UN support and has not returned to Haiti for his own safety. He is under US protection in Puerto Rico.

Chérizier told reporters, “I’m not a thief. I’m not involved in kidnapping. I’m not a rapist. I’m just carrying out a social fight.” He has previously compared himself to Martin Luther King and Argentinian communist Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The gang leader claims his mother gave him his nickname as a child, but others say it is derived from his alleged tendency to set his enemies on fire.

Recent violence includes attacks on police stations and prison ransacking that has released more than 3,000 convicts onto Haitian streets. The government declared a state of emergency on March 3 after 12 people died in the jailbreaks. Reports at that time said violent gangs had taken control of 80% of the capital’s streets.

Furthermore, Serge Dalexis from the International Rescue Committee said the gangs have control of the city’s police stations and had murdered several officers. Tens of thousands of people are displaced by the violence, and charities say the country is facing a humanitarian crisis as people are frightened and hungry, and looting has broken out.

Boby Sander from Food for the Hungry said his organization is struggling to help thousands who have sought refuge in abandoned buildings.

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