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Haiti orders a curfew as it tries to restore order after weekend jailbreaks

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to Haiti, where a gang leader has orchestrated two prison breaks with the apparent goal of deposing Haiti's prime minister. At least nine people are dead, including four police officers.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This is a lot. Nearly every one of the more than 5,000 prison inmates escaped. They're now on the streets, and the government has declared both a state of emergency and a nighttime curfew. So where is the prime minister who faces this effort to depose him? He's in Africa trying to recruit a United Nations-backed security force to stop the very gangs behind the violence. He is also Haiti's acting president, by the way, because the previous president was assassinated three years ago.

MARTIN: For the latest on this, we're going to go to Harold Isaac now. He is an independent journalist based outside Port-au-Prince. Good morning.

HAROLD ISAAC: Good morning.

MARTIN: So tell us what's happening now in the streets of Haiti's capital?

ISAAC: Well, as it is right now, it's a lot of uncertainty as we are under a state of emergency and under a curfew after days of violence following gangs' attacks.

MARTIN: So, you know, look, there's quite a lot of backstory to this violence. So for people who haven't been following this, could you just walk us through, as briefly as you can, what's led Haiti to this latest moment of crisis?

ISAAC: So the violence began on Thursday with gangs coordinating massive amount of attacks throughout the city, aiming essentially at various institutions. So these coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince included the country's international airport, the central bank, and the national soccer stadium.

MARTIN: This is all happening while the current prime minister, Ariel Henry, is out of the country. Do we know how he's faring in his efforts to bring in a U.N.-backed security force from Kenya?

ISAAC: Well, the whereabouts of Henry as it is right now, at this very moment, are unclear. He was supposed to be on his way back from Kenya, where he went to sign an agreement with the Kenyan officials about deploying police officers from Kenya in Haiti to help deal with the gang violence.

MARTIN: How are regular people living right now? Like, how - are people getting food? Can kids go to school?

ISAAC: Well, for the most part, we're expecting to have a disrupted week here in Haiti as most flights have been cancelled by U.S.-based carriers for the next three days. The U.S. embassy in Haiti has decided not to operate for these three days. And the government essentially put everybody under a state of emergency and curfew, so probably everybody will stay put.

MARTIN: Can you tell us any more about the prison break? Like, how did that happen?

ISAAC: So essentially over the weekend, in the early hours of Saturday, at least Friday night, a coordinated attack by gangs on the prison led to over 3,600 inmates to flee and be out in the nature, aggravating a security crisis that was already bad in the country.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, Harold, can I ask, how are you? How are you doing?

ISAAC: Well, it's a checkered reality. Every day we try to sort out our commute, where we go, how we come back. And it's going to be that again this week very likely.

MARTIN: All right, well, I hope you'll take care of yourself.

ISAAC: Thank you.

MARTIN: All right. That's journalist Harold Isaac speaking to us from outside of Port-au-Prince. Harold, thank you.

ISAAC: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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