Haitian politician shot dead, as violent gangs and political turmoil push country to the ‘edge of collapse’

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CNN

A Haitian politician has been shot dead outside his home, authorities have said, as international concerns intensify over the gang violence, political turmoil and humanitarian crises that have seized control of the country.

Eric Jean Baptiste was killed on Friday night outside his home in the capital Port-au-Prince, local police told CNN.

He was the leader of the Rally of Progressive National Democrats Party (RNDP), a minor political party in Haiti, and launched a longshot presidential bid in 2016.

A security guard was also killed in the attack, the police spokesperson said. Baptiste survived an earlier attempt on his life in 2018, escaping with a bullet wound.

The assassination is the latest killing in a country overtaken by violent gangs, and comes a year after the nation’s serving President Jovenel Moise was murdered. Port-au-Prince was the site of brutal gang battles this summer that saw whole neighborhoods set aflame, displacing thousands of families and trapping others in their homes, afraid to leave even in search of food and water.

The number of Haitians displaced by recent gang-related violence in the capital has tripled in the past five months, the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday.

The IOM report said more than 113,000 people were internally displaced from Port-au-Prince between June and August this year, with nearly 90,000 of them due to “urban violence linked to inter-gang, gang-police, and social conflicts.”

Criminals still control or influence parts of the country’s most populous city, and kidnappings for ransom threaten residents’ day-to-day movements. In recent weeks, demonstrators in several cities called for Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation in the face of high fuel prices, soaring inflation and unchecked crime.

Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned what he called an “absolutely nightmarish situation” in Haiti with gangs blocking the movement of fuel and other materials in the Port-au-Prince harbor. The country is facing a humanitarian crisis, while a cholera outbreak has also left dozens dead.

Haiti’s Ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond told CNN Friday that the government will call democratic elections if the international community intervenes with military assistance in the country.

“It’s very important for all Haitians to work together… and while we are getting help from our international partners, that we make sure to prepare to have free and fair democratic elections. Because it is the most important thing… to have democratic institutions stand up again,” Edmond said, describing Haiti as a country “on the edge of collapse.”

“Before getting to elections, we need to restore law and order. And our national police itself cannot… because the gangs are well armed and their firepower is far more superior… we need international assistance,” the diplomat recently told CNN’s Sara Sidner.

CNN’s Angus Watson, Emmet Lyons and Arnaud Siad contributed reporting