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The recent spate in police killings across the nation has sparked consternation among the ranks and protests in various major cities. The killings have also triggered changes in the higher echelons of the police force. In solidarity with their fallen brothers, police in Cap-Haïtien took to the streets on Sunday, January 29, 2023, to protest the insecurity in the country. The protesting officers from different units marched with their weapons drawn, creating panic in the downtown area but were soon joined by sympathizers in demanding justice for their fallen brothers while decrying lack of response from the government authorities to the further increase in violence. Though the demonstrations ended peacefully, it was not without the usual panic as commercial establishments had to be on edge for fear the demonstrators, who erected barricades and burned tires, would not attack the businesses in the area. The Protesters warned of further demonstrations until the government takes appropriate action.

At the Toussaint Louverture police station in Gonaïves, the protest movement looked different as the police officers continue to march through the streets in protest after the assassination of six of their fellow officers in Liancourt by members of the Savien’s gang on Wednesday January 25. Banner and placards in hand, protesters demanded the arrest of several leaders at the departmental headquarters, who are believed to be responsible for the death of their fellow officers. Some of their lengthy demands include asking the general inspectorate to investigate those responsible for the January 25th operation, the arrest of the former municipal commissioner Lifaite Onald Jeudy and onlookers, the provision of appropriate work equipment, the dissolution of gangs that are continually terrorizing the population and for all persons responsible for the massacre of the officers to be banned from the police establishment. The demonstrators camped for several minutes in front of the entrance to Villa Florville where executives of the departmental headquarters and management are located. While the protests were taking place, individuals in plainclothes suspected to be police officers burst into the civil prison to free various detainees. According to the head of the women’s rights group, Plateforme des Femmes Organisées pour le Développement de l’Artibonite (PLAFODA), Josette Vertilus, about fifty detainees invaded the women’s cell and raped several detainees (16 adults and a minor). After the incident, the women reported hemorrhaging and vaginal infections and other ailments. Since the end of 2019, more than a dozen women as well as minors have reportedly been victims of gang rape in their cells in this same prison.

According to some complaints, the demonstrators reported that since the events of January 25, the higher ups have never set foot in the police station. The protesters went on to state that they asked for the bodies of their fallen fellows but were given no answer. They further stated that those who are accomplices must answer for their actions, because they have the will to work but don’t have the means; and it’s time to stop sending police ammunition to armed gangs. Tough the demonstrations were largely peaceful on Monday; the police say that schools and other offices will soon be closed and the public demonstrations will not stop until their demands have been met. On Sunday evening, the police took by force a pickup belonging to the departmental headquarters, arguing that it is not possible that senior officers have at their disposal new cars while the police officers who are on the ground have vehicles in poor condition to work.

Following these tragic events over the past week, interim chief of police, Frantz Elbé, proceeded to reshuffle the leadership of the police force this past Monday, January 30, 2023. Chief Commissioner Aladin Jean Louis who heads the Pétion-Ville police station was transferred to the Central Directorate of Administrative Police (DCPA). No replacement has been assigned yet. Municipal police chief Sergo Dasmy was installed as the new chief of police at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, taking over from Isaac Mérilien, who held the post for 27 months. The change comes days after armed men, identified as police officers met, at the airport while Prime Minister Ariel Henry was there, on his return from the CELAC summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the same time, Divisional Commissioner Prophet JOACHIM was appointed as the new director of the Directorate of General Intelligence (DRG), replacing Divisional Commissioner Walmann Cétoute, who is now assigned to the Central Directorate of Administrative Police (DCPA). This new designation comes as several internal PNH reports are circulating and comes at a time when the PNH is struggling to contain an onslaught of several gangs.

Finally, the recent Biden administration executive order to allow up to 30,000 migrants a month from four Caribbean and Latin American countries including Haïti, is creating pressure on people currently residing in the US to help sponsor relatives from home. According to reports, since the program was announced on January 5, 2023, the Diaspora has been facing enormous pressure to help family and friends still in the old country to escape the current state of insecurity and economic chaos. The program has created an environment where people in Haiti expect their relatives and friends in the Diaspora to help them by sponsoring them, but many people in the United States are unable to sponsor others because they themselves are struggling to make ends meet. This concern is very real and vivid. On the one hand, the parole program is aimed at encouraging migrants to safely travel to the US instead of taking to the choppy seas in dangerous makeshift boats or grueling land journeys through Central America to the border. Immediate reports from the IS authorities show that illegal crossings by migrants from these countries have dropped significantly, and that so far, 1,700 people have arrived in the US through the program (from Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua). While some see the program as able to unite families, the other side is that it may actually divide families, as some people in the Diaspora feel they are being expected to sponsor entire extended families (and in certain cases face threats to do so) while the increasing cost of living and soaring costs of have made it difficult for those here to take on other relatives.

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