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Armed Groups in Haiti Ransack National Library

Armed groups ransacked the National Library of Haiti yesterday, April 3, endangering its priceless archival collections pertinent to the Caribbean nation’s history and cultural heritage. 

The raid on the library, located in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, follows two attacks on universities last week, raising concerns about increasing cultural destruction compounded by intensifying violence over the country’s unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry. 

Established in 1939, the National Library holds a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and newspaper archives significant to the country’s history.

“We have rare documents over 200 years old, with importance to our heritage, which risk being burned or damaged by bandits,” the library’s director, Dangelo Neard, told AFP, adding that he had received reports that the perpetrators looted the institution’s furniture and generator.

Hyperallergic has reached out to the National Library to clarify the extent of the losses and any damage.

The assault on the library succeeds two incidents of vandalism last week at the National School of Arts and École Normale Supérieure, Haiti’s oldest teacher training institution. On Tuesday, UNESCO “strongly condemned” the destructive acts in a statement on X, decrying the violence that has also impacted the country’s healthcare facilities.

“These acts of vandalism, looting and arson against the country’s educational institutions have devastating consequences on the future of Haitian society, particularly for present and future generations,” the statement said.

Since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Henry has held power in Haiti despite lacking a constitutional mandate and parliamentary approval. In mid-March, Henry announced that he would step down from the position in order to make way for a new “transitional council” — a political body that has yet to be organized and installed due to party disagreements regarding who would choose the new prime minister.

The lack of a functioning government and delays in establishing new leadership have exacerbated the violent turmoil that has beleaguered Haiti, as armed groups carry out attacks and human rights abuses in neighborhoods around the country. The nation saw a sharp escalation in the number of deaths due to gang violence last year, and 2024 has already resulted in more than 1,500 deaths, per data from the United Nations.

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