Night of chaos in Haiti: Shootings near the National Palace in new escalation of violence

Gang violence is gripping the Caribbean country as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is in Puerto Rico, to resign

Protesters in Port-au-Prince demand the resignation of Ariel Henry on Thursday.
Protesters in Port-au-Prince demand the resignation of Ariel Henry on Thursday.Johnson Sabin (EFE)
El País

The area surrounding Haiti’s National Palace in the capital Port-au-Prince witnessed a new escalation of violence Friday night, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. A series of shootings has raised the tension in a large area of the capital’s center as confusion grows over what happened. Last week has been one of the most chaotic since the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. In the past few days, more than 3,000 prisoners escaped from several prisons, the country’s main airport has been attacked and the military and police have clashed with organized crime gangs, led by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, who threatened a civil war if the prime minister and acting head of government Ariel Henry — who is currently in Puerto Rico — does not resign.

In Haiti, a country gripped by violence, where little information gets out, there are contradictory versions about what happened on Friday night. Some argue that the goal of the armed gangs was to seize the National Palace, the official residence of the president. Images shared on social networks also show large holes in the walls of the Port-au-Prince airport.

Friday day began without incident in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. Shot were fired in the afternoon, but it was not until the early hours of the night, that chaos broke out.

Tension in Haiti has been escalating since February 28, after Henry agreed to hold general elections before the end of August 2025. The violence reached its peak last Saturday, when armed gangs entered the two main prisons in the capital, allowing more than 3,000 prisoners to escape. Henry, who has been persecuted by armed gangs since Moïse’s assassination, has not been able to return to the country, where flights to and from Miami and Santo Domingo were cancelled this past week.

The prime minister is now under pressure both within and outside the country to agree to a government transition that would help stop the acute crisis and unchecked violence gripping Haiti, leading to a near-unprecedented wave of migration. Haiti is awaiting the deployment of a multinational security support mission led by Kenya and approved by the United Nations last October.

Adding to these pressures is Guy Philippe, who led a coup in Haiti in 2004 and returned to Port-au-Prince last year after serving time in the United States. Philippe — a former coup police chief — demanded Henry’s resignation on Friday. “He should resign,” Philippe said in an interview with Reuters. “I think he should stay where he is now ... and let Haitians decide their fate.”

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