Five armed environmental protection agents were killed in clashes with police near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, as violent protests seeking the removal of Prime Minister Ariel Henry paralysed the country.
Haiti has been engulfed in unrest since Monday, with thousands of people in the city and the rest of the country demanding that Henry step down in line with a political agreement forged in 2022.
A police source said the five agents of the National Agency for Protected Areas (BSAP), an armed government bureau now in open rebellion, had been shot on Wednesday after refusing to drop their weapons and firing in the direction of police. Three other members of the agency were arrested.
According to an agreement concluded in December 2022 following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise a year earlier, Henry was supposed to hold elections and then cede power to newly elected officials on February 7, 2024.
But Henry has remained in power, with an aide saying the prime minister intends to form a government of national unity.
The Western hemisphere’s poorest nation has been in turmoil for years, with armed gangs taking over parts of Haiti and unleashing brutal violence, leaving the economy and public health system in tatters.
The 2021 assassination of Moise plunged the country further into chaos. No elections have taken place since 2016 and the presidency remains vacant.
The protests have been called by several opposition parties and joined by employees of the environmental agency.
On Tuesday evening, a police station in the northeastern province of Ouanaminthe came under attack, local media reported. Major roads and schools have been closed across the country since Monday.
The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, said on Wednesday that it was reinforcing its borders due to the violence.