Haiti international airport open again, closed due to gang violence

Haiti international airport

This article was last updated on May 21, 2024

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Haiti international airport open again, closed due to gang violence

Haiti’s main international airport has reopened yesterday. The airport was closed for about 2.5 months due to gang violence.

Beginning of March armed gangs tried to take over the airport near the capital Port-au-Prince. That failed, but since then almost all air traffic has come to a standstill.

Medicines and other basic supplies must be imported via the airport. Because the gang violence also led to the closure of the main port, the country is experiencing serious shortages of these types of supplies.

Yesterday the first commercial flight left the airport for Miami. More flights are expected in the coming days.

In crisis for years

Haiti has been in crisis for years, partly due to natural disasters, political instability and the resulting gang violence. That came to a boiling point last February. Several gangs joined forces and declared war on the government. They stormed prisons, police stations, and therefore the international airport.

This left only a smaller airport in the city of Cap-Haïtien in the north of the country operational. However, it offered no way out for Haitians wanting to flee the country: many roads leading to the airport are controlled by gangs who reportedly target vehicles.

International security mission

In recent weeks, American army planes have been landing at the airport at Port-au-Prince. On board were medicines and other aids, as well as people who had to prepare a planned international security mission.

A police force led by Kenya must leave for Haiti at very short notice to restore order. Last week, the Kenyan Minister of Foreign Affairs said he expected the first 200 agents to set foot on land around May 23, next Thursday.

Almost the entire capital in its hands

Gangs have controlled large parts of Port-au-Prince for some time, and according to the United Nations, their influence is expanding. It is estimated that the gangs now control more than 80 percent of the capital, led by Jimmy Cherizier – better known as gang leader Barbecue. The gangs are also gaining ground outside the capital.

According to the UN, the violence is causing the situation in the already poor country to deteriorate significantly. Last March the organization estimated that almost half of the eleven million inhabitants suffer from hunger. UN human rights chief Türk says human rights violations are taking place on a scale “unprecedented in modern Haitian history.” Murders, kidnappings and rapes are commonplace.

As a result of the violence, Haitian Prime Minister Henry felt forced to resign. A new Prime Minister has now been appointed: former Minister of Sports Fritz Belizaire. His main task is to restore security in the country, but confidence in the new prime minister and his cabinet is low among Haitians.

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