New leaders take on Haiti’s chaos as those living in fear demand swift solutions to gang violence

How exactly the council plans to tackle the daunting tasks is unclear. Its members have met behind closed doors with top government officials as they prepare to choose a new prime minister, a Cabinet and a provisional electoral commission. They will also establish a national security council.

However, no strategy to quell violence has been publicly announced. Several council members did not return messages seeking comment on Friday.

After the swearing-in ceremony, curious pedestrians slowed down as they passed by the building of the prime minister’s office.

Some were openly displeased. “Thieves and gangs! That’s all they are!” yelled a man as he drove past on his motorcycle.

There wasn’t much hope at a crowded makeshift shelter set up at Haiti’s former Ministry of Communications — a building the government had abandoned due to violence.

Rose Hippolite, 66, was forced to flee her Port-au-Prince home with her four children after gangs raided their neighborhood. They have now spent two months in the yard of the ministry building, sleeping on the ground or sitting in a corner when it rains, waiting for the ground to dry out.

Gunshots ring out every day across the city. “We live in fear,” she said. “Only God knows if the new leaders will help.”

Nancy Philemon, a 42-year-old mother of six children, sat under a large and tattered umbrella nearby, selling candy and other small items to shelter refugees.

“I don’t have any hope,” she said. “Instead of things getting better, they are getting worse. … There is no safe place anywhere.”

Haiti’s National Police remains largely overwhelmed by gangs that are better armed and have more resources. More than 15 officers have been killed by gangs so far this year.

Lionel Lazarre, general coordinator for the SYNAPOHA police union, told The Associated Press over the phone on Friday that the council must prioritize security “above everything.”

Police need so much, he said, including combat helicopters, armed vehicles, drones, high-caliber weapons and infrared thermal imaging for nighttime operations.

“It is important to us that the council meet with us urgently,” Lazarre said. “I believe if there is political will, we have hope things can change.”

There is hope because for the past three weeks, police have managed to prevent gangs from taking over the National Palace and multiple police stations, he said.

Fatton, the Haitian expert, said he heard predictions on the radio about how the council is doomed to fail “if things don’t change with the security situation.”

“They have a very short period of time to get their act together and get results,” he said.