Haitian Gangs Loot National Library, Historic Documents at Risk

People walk past burning tires during a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-
AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph

The gangs rampaging across Haiti ransacked the National Library in the capital city of Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. Anguished library director Dangelo Neard said some rare documents were stored in the library, so the gang attack put Haiti’s history at risk.

“Our documentary collections are in danger. We have rare documents over 200 years old, with importance to our heritage, which risk being burned or damaged by bandits,” Neard told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday.

“I was told that the thugs are taking away the institution’s furniture. They also ransacked the building’s generator,” he added.

The Bibliotheque Nationale d’Haiti, established in 1939, is Haiti’s largest library and its official bibliographic agency. Its collection includes some 60,000 works, including some irreplaceable historic documents and books, as Neard indicated.

WATCH — Rep. Cory Mills Helps Rescue Americans from Haiti amid Gang Violence Anarchy:

Office of Rep. Cory Mills/LOCAL NEWS X /TMX

The library has been pleading with gangsters, looters, and rioters to spare it ever since the current unrest began in March.

“We are currently living in difficult and uncertain times in the country, but we must, as a people, keep the essence of our humanities and never forget to carefully safeguard our ability to produce meaning,” the library said in a March 26 social media post.

Gangsters attacked two of Haiti’s universities last week, the Ecole Normale Superieure and National School of Arts, prompting an expression of concern from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

“These acts of vandalism, looting and arson against the country’s educational institutions have devastating consequences for the future of Haitian society,” UNESCO warned.

Haiti descended into bloody chaos in early March after unpopular and unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya to ask for help maintaining order. The gangs seized their chance to overthrow the government and managed to prevent Henry from returning to Haiti. 

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks during the new cabinet inauguration at the Prime Minister's residence in Port-au-Prince on November 24, 2021. - Henry proceeded Novemeber 24, 2021, to a reshuffle of his government, after weeks of negotiations with certain opposition parties. (Photo by Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE BAERISWYL/AFP via Getty Images)

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks during the new cabinet inauguration at the Prime Minister’s residence in Port-au-Prince on November 24, 2021. (VALERIE BAERISWYL/AFP via Getty Images)

Henry has pledged to resign once a transitional council has been empaneled to put a new government together, but putting together a council has proven to be a very difficult task, in part because the gangs threaten violence against prospective members. 

Meanwhile, Kenyan President William Ruto’s plan to spearhead an international intervention force has been stymied by Kenya’s courts, which ruled he lacks the constitutional authority to deploy police officers overseas.

American human rights lawyer William O’Neill, who serves as the top consultant on Haiti for the United Nations, on Thursday described the situation in Haiti as “apocalyptic” — even worse than the brutal dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier decades ago.

A man stands near a burning tire during a demonstration against insecurity in Carrefour-Feuilles, a district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 14, 2023. (RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’m running out of words frankly at this point,” O’Neill told the UK Guardian, lamenting “a level of intensity and cruelty in the violence that is simply unprecedented in my experience in Haiti.”

“There is no state and that’s almost like a Hobbesian world where it’s really the survival of the fittest – and unfortunately the fittest right now are the gangs,” he said.

O’Neill said that as violence spreads beyond the capital of Port-au-Prince and hunger grips the nation, a massive exodus of refugees to the neighboring Dominican Republic and the United States is likely.

A woman carrying a child runs from the area after gunshots were heard in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 20, 2024. (CLARENS SIFFROY/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s really now descending into something that’s like Somalia in the worst of its times, a 90-minute flight from Miami. We’re not there yet. But we’re perilously close,” he warned.

Acknowledging that direct U.S. intervention in the bloody Haitian quagmire is unlikely in an election year, while there seems to be little movement on the proposed Kenya-led multinational force, O’Neill suggested interdicting shipments of weapons and ammunition to make the gangs less dangerous.

“I can’t believe my government can’t inspect those boats leaving from the Miami River and pull out every rifle and bullet because Haiti doesn’t produce any guns or bullets. If the gangs don’t have their guns or bullets, they lose all their power,” he said.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.