PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitians took to the streets Tuesday to protest rising insecurity, with demonstrations turning violent in the southern city of Les Cayes where people stormed the airport and attacked and burned a small plane owned by a U.S. missionary group.
At least one person died and five others were injured, including four police officers, in the confrontation between protesters and authorities in Les Cayes, said Gedeon Chery, a National Police inspector assigned to the city’s airport.
Chery told The Associated Press the person killed was a protester who was shot, but he didn’t say whether police were responsible.
A second small plane was burned at the local airport of the city of Jacmel, but it wasn’t clear if it was also part of an attack by some protesters, said Garry Desrosiers, the National Police spokesman. The aircraft was non-operational and had been stationed there for a while, he added.
The protests coincided with the 35th anniversary of Haiti’s 1987 Constitution and follow other protests and strikes in recent weeks amid a spike in gang-related kidnappings and complaints about Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s inability to confront gangs. On his Twitter account, Henry condemned the violence in Les Cayes and said he has ordered authorities to look for the people behind it.
Chery, the police inspector, said a group of people had gotten onto the terminal’s tarmac, attacked the plane and set it on fire.
A video posted in social media showed some people on the plane’s fuselage while the red-and-white aircraft was moving on the tarmac, and others running alongside it. Chery said he didn’t know why they attacked it.
Agape Flights, a Christian ministry transporting supplies to missionaries in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, said in a statement that “Our team is safe.”
It said Agape’s Chieftain aircraft was destroyed and they are preparing to bring the ministry’s team back to the U.S.
“Our missionary affiliates are hearing that they thought it was a politicians plane they were destroying,” the statement said.
People also protested in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, where some burned tires. Protesters also criticized how Henry has not been able to control insecurity.
“He has nothing left to offer but words and more baseless words,” said Marie-Andre Michelle, one of the people who marched in Port-au-Prince.
Violence has increased over the past year despite the prime minister’s pledges to crack down on insecurity.
Kidnappings in Haiti increased 180% in 2021, with 655 of them reported to police, according to mid-February report by the U.N. Security Council. Authorities believe the number could be higher since many kidnappings go unreported.
Along with violence, Haiti has been also dealing with the ongoing sluggish investigation of President Jovenel Moïse’s killing last July 7, and a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that killed over 2,200 people in the country’s south last August.