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Irish woman living in Haiti says situation is ‘awful’

An Irish woman who lives and works near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince has said gangs want to take over the seat of government.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, Gena Heraty said the situation there is “awful”.

Haiti’s government has declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfew in a bid to regain control of the country after a deadly gang assault on the capital’s main prison that allowed thousands of inmates to escape.

“Now the gangs want to take over the seat of government, like the national palace, and they have drones over that too watching where the police are there.”

She said the gangs are also planning to take control of the airport, the office of the prime minister and the police academy.

“It’s like public knowledge because everything is on social media now… so everything is recorded, and they themselves, they put it out.”

She said the country has been going downhill for some time and Prime Minister Ariel Henry should no longer be in his position.

“By law, he should not be the prime minister, he came into government after the president was killed, and he was supposed to organise elections and that never happened.”

She said the people are determined that by 7 February, the traditional day for a change in leadership, he would be removed, but that never happened and things have escalated since.

“And gangs who have been taking over the country steadily in the last two years I suppose…they have now banded together, you cannot image it.

“We are talking about hundreds and thousands of people that are pushed out of their homes because the gangs come in with huge guns, you know serious artillery and pushing people out, raping women, burning people in front of their families.

“So, these people have nowhere to go, and then the gang takes over that area.”

Ms Heraty said if people want to move through the area, they have to pay some money for public transport and people are unable to go anywhere in the country.

She added that over the weekend the gangs decided to come together and adopted a slogan that means “live together”.

“So they have got together and in a very well organised plan, they managed to take over the prison…well not even take over, they just liberated all the prisoners. And the way it happened again, it was just like watching a movie.”

She said a gang had a drone that went over the prison and they were feeding soldiers information on where the police were stationed.

“It was like easy-peasy for them.”

According to Ms Heraty, lots of people were killed.

“Yesterday, they were saying at least 30 bodies were seen around the police station itself and not to mention many inside.

“There is about… they said the figure was like 97 prisoners that… some did not leave. Including the Columbians that have been in there since the murder of the President.”

She said they are reporting that there are many more bodies in the prison.

‘Hell on earth’

“Now the prison itself was hell on earth for anybody that was in there because any human rights people that ever got near the prison were like screaming, and rightly so.”

She said that many prisoners who are out were in jail for between eight and ten years without receiving a trial.

She added that they had attacked another prison yesterday.

The prime minister has left the country, but Ms Heraty said they do not want him returning.

“They’re saying the Kenyans can keep him.

“The only leaders right now are the gangs. They are the ones talking, they are the ones saying what they’re going to do and they seem to follow up on what they say they are going to do,” she added.

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