HAVANA — Just weeks after the United States and Canada sent a fleet of armored vehicles to Haiti to keep gangs at bay, Haitian police briefly lost control of one of the cars, officials confirmed Friday.
The incident speaks to the difficult path ahead for the Caribbean country paralyzed by gang warfare and struggling with its worst crisis in years.
The armored car was driving on the outskirts of the capital when it got caught in a sand trap and was assaulted by minors wielding Molotov cocktails, said Renata Segura, deputy director of Latin America and Caribbean for International Crisis Group — a nongovernmental organization that tries to prevent or resolve conflicts.
Segura was in direct contact with officials with knowledge of the issue but who asked not to be identified.
Police fled the vehicle in an attempt to avoid armed conflict, she said, and a video confirmed by The Associated Press shows young men surrounding the tan vehicle labeled “POLICE” while firing automatic weapons in the air, cheering and recording video on their phones.
The armored vehicle was part of a fleet sent by the U.S. and Canada last month, purchased by Haitian officials for an unconfirmed amount. It was part of an effort by the two countries that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said would help “cut the insecurity knot” that has allowed gangs to create a humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
Police said Friday that they later reclaimed the vehicle. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was killed or wounded in the process.
The incident comes a few days after the country’s biggest gang and its leader Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer nicknamed “Barbecue,” lifted a blockade of the country’s main fuel depot in Port-au-Prince.
The blockade deepened turmoil in Haiti, which has been reeling since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The chaos has spurred on a huge migratory exodus from the island.
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