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Latam Brief: Angry police riot in Haiti (January 27, 2022)

Latin America Daily Briefing

Hundreds of armed men claiming to be police officers attacked the Haitian prime minister’s residence and the country’s main airport, yesterday. Dozens of armed men — some dressed as civilians and others wearing hoods along with police uniforms, flak jackets and rifles and automatic weapons — rioted in Port-au-Prince yesterday. They seized buses to blockade roads and torched tires across the city, leaving smoke billowing through the streets, reports the Guardian.

The demonstrators sought Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who arrived yesterday from an international conference in Argentina. He was received by an “angry mob of protesters claiming to be police officers, but armed and dressed in plain clothes, with their faces covered with scarfs and ski masks,” reports the Miami Herald.

Henry was temporarily stuck in the airport, but returned to his residence in Port-au-Prince later in the day, followed by police protesters. A Reuters witness heard heavy gunfire near his home.

The attack, coming 18 months after President Jovenel Moïse was shot to death in his home, was ominous, according to the Washington Post.

The riots came after six police officers died in an armed attack against a police substation in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley. Grisly videos circulating on social media show the naked and bloodied bodies of six men stretched out on the dirt, and two masked men who are smoking cigarettes from the dismembered hands and feet of the dead men. (Associated Press)

The deaths are part of a wave of killings of police in Haiti, which is beleaguered by violent gang warfare: The National Human Rights Defense Network of Haiti said at least 18 police officers have been “victims of acts detrimental to their lives” since the start of the year. This includes 14 cops who were assassinated and two others who were wounded during raids by armed bandits. Two other officers are missing.

The officers protesting yesterday did not claim affiliation to any group, but their tactics were similar to those used by a rogue group of police officers known as Phantom 509, reports the Miami Herald, including using vehicles to block roads to the airport.

More Haiti

  • “The rudiments of a loose international plan for Haiti are emerging — centered on providing increased support for the Haitian National Police, nudging political factions to coalesce around a governing pact and offering humanitarian assistance.” But “a more assertive international response is needed and offer the following road map to help Haiti reset,” argue Peter Hakim, Georges Fauriol and Keith Mines in a Miami Herald op-ed.


  • Peru’s leftist parties are seeking to impeach President Dina Boluarte. It’s the first attempt to remove her since she took office seven weeks ago. The country has been in upheaval since, with protesters demanding immediate elections and deadly clashes with security forces. (Bloomberg)
  • The Organization of American States’ permanent council expressed its “full support” for Boluarte on Wednesday. (Reuters)
  • Most analyses of Peru’s upheaval “point to historic inequality, discrimination against Indigenous communities, and the nation’s unsustainable centralism,” but the most significant factor behind the unrest is corruption, argues Simon Tegel in Foreign Policy.
  • The residents of Machu Picchu, the Peruvian town closest to the ancient Inca ruins, have voted to strike in solidarity with nationwide anti-government protests. The town, which depends on tourism for survival, also hopes to challenge a market model monopolized by big businesses, leaving locals scrambling, reports the Washington Post.


  • Human activity and drought may have degraded more than a third of the Amazon rainforest — more than double previous estimates, according to a new report published yesterday in Science. Fires, land conversion, logging and water shortages, have weakened the resilience of up to 2.5 million square km of the forest, which is now drier, more flammable and more vulnerable than before. (Guardian)


  • “Otoniel, the fallen head of the Urabeños crime syndicate, has pleaded guilty to a raft of crimes in New York. His trial marks the end of an era in Colombia’s drug trafficking world,” according to InSight Crime.
  • Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, known as “Otoniel,” “appeared humbled” in the U.S. courtroom, reports Vice.


  • The Cuban government is turning to Russia for help with market reforms on the island through a partnership with a Russian think tank headed by sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska, reports the Miami Herald.


  • Intelligence reports have revealed that troops within Ecuador’s navy have been regularly caught collaborating with leading criminal gangs, reports InSight Crime.


  • A new generation of Mexico’s Indigenous musicians like Pat Boy are using rap to combat prejudice, revive ancient languages and reignite pride, reports the Guardian.
  • MC Millaray, a teenage emerging music star in Chile, uses her fierce lyrics to convey five centuries of struggles by the Mapuche Indigenous group against European colonizers, reports the New York Times.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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