Port-au-Prince, May 19 (EFE).- Hundreds of people took to the streets of Port-au-Prince on Thursday to protest a spate of kidnappings and the mounting civilian death toll from a turf battle between gangs in the Haitian capital.
Demonstrators set piles of tires ablaze to shut down John Brown Avenue, where Efe saw police fire live rounds to disperse the crowd.
The already alarming incidence of kidnapping for ransom has surged since the outbreak late last month of a battle between the 400 Mawozo and Chen Mechan gangs for control of neighborhoods in the Cul-de-Sac district on the city’s north side.
The 188 confirmed fatalities in the conflict include 92 civilians, while 113 others have been wounded, a dozen people are missing, and 49 Port-au-Prince residents have been abducted, according to the latest tally from the United Nations office in Haiti.
The UN and other international organizations say they have documented reports of beheadings, of people’s being burned alive in their homes, and of sexual assaults on children, among other atrocities.
Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and those who don’t have family with room to spare are taking refuge in schools or sleeping rough in the streets.
The well-armed gangs, some of them with links to Haiti’s oligarchs, have grown increasingly powerful and brazen as public institutions have withered in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. EFE mp-mm/dr