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The chaos and gang violence, which is not new to Haiti, reach new levels

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In Haiti, there aren't many certainties in life, but chaos may be one of them. After all, this is a country that over the years has experienced coups, transitional governments, assassinations and gang violence.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

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But the turmoil of the last two weeks has reached new levels. There has been no leadership, no law and order in the capital and a dwindling supply of humanitarian aid. The country has been effectively cut off from the outside world, with armed gangs in control of most of Port-au-Prince.

FADEL: NPR's Eyder Peralta has managed to get across the border, no easy feat. And he's in Haiti's second city of Cap-Haitien. Hey, Eyder, glad you were able to get in there.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: So what have you seen so far?

PERALTA: I mean, look, like happens in these situations, we've seen a lot of normal. Restaurants are open. People are out buying groceries. Here in Cap-Haitien, which used to be a tourist hub, there's music and dancing and people at bars. But it also doesn't take long to see the signs that something is wrong here. Fuel is running out, it's nearly twice as expensive as it used to be, and some towns up and down this northern coast are in complete darkness. They haven't had consistent electricity since this crisis started, and that means when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in 2021. And also, as we were driving in, we ran into large groups of Haitians who were getting ready to try to run away from this place. They were about to try to cross the border into the Dominican Republic.

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FADEL: Wow, so as you cross in, you see this group of people trying to escape.

PERALTA: Yeah.

FADEL: What are people you're meeting telling you about the situation?

PERALTA: I mean, the people I've spoken to tell me that they're happy that in these parts of Haiti, at least, the gunfire has stopped. They say that before Prime Minister Ariel Henry promised to resign, they heard non-stop gunfire in the evening. And now some schools and some universities have reopened. But I've also heard a lot of desolation. Haitians feel abandoned. They feel that after their president was killed, no one was listening. And, you know, they don't just mean the international community, they mean their own government.

I spoke to one man who used to work as a tourist guide, and now he's just trying to find any kind of work to keep food on his table. And he says what's happening in Haiti is not just criminal gangs revolting. He says this is an awakening. He said that Haitians have lived in poverty and neglect and misery for too long and they're just fed up. And this is an uprising, he says.

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FADEL: Wow. Now, the capital, Port-au-Prince, has effectively been under siege by gangs for the last two weeks. Is there any sign that the violence there is subsiding?

PERALTA: We thought it was, but yesterday was a very violent day in the capital. Gangs shot at the airport just as workers were trying to fix the damage that had been done during previous attacks. And local news reported that gangs had also looted the house of the director of the national police and then set it on fire. One of the prisons, which was already empty from an earlier prison break, was also set on fire. And this is absolutely, without a doubt, a political statement from the armed gangs in the country. This renewed violence is happening while different political parties and affiliations are trying to shape this transitional council that was proposed by the international community.

FADEL: Right.

PERALTA: And some prominent gang leaders have come out against this agreement, saying it doesn't represent the will of the Haitian people. And this violence seems to be the way they plan to oppose it.

FADEL: Now, the U.S. has finally appointed an ambassador to Haiti. What do we know about him?

PERALTA: So it's Dennis Haskins and his nomination was approved by the Senate yesterday. And the important part is that this marks the first time the U.S. has had an ambassador in Haiti for nearly 2 1/2 years.

FADEL: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Cap-Haitien. Thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa. He started his journalism career as a pop music critic and after a few newspaper stints, he joined NPR in 2008.