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National Library Looted, Cultural Heritage Under Threat

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Haiti’s already precarious situation worsened this week with the looting of the National Library in the capital, Port-au-Prince. This attack on a cornerstone of the nation’s cultural heritage underscores the growing instability gripping the country. A confluence of gang violence, political paralysis, and a stalled transition process has created a desperate situation for Haiti’s citizens and its cultural treasures.

National Treasures at Risk

Dangelo Neard, the director of the National Library, painted a grim picture of the aftermath. “Our documentary collections are in danger,” he told AFP. “We have rare documents over 200 years old, with importance to our heritage, which risk being burned or damaged by bandits.”

The looted items reportedly included furniture and the library’s generator, further hindering its ability to function and safeguard its invaluable collections. This incident follows the recent looting of the National School of Arts, revealing a disturbing trend of disregard for cultural institutions. These attacks threaten to erase a significant portion of Haiti’s rich history and identity.

Roots of the Crisis: A Power Vacuum Breeds Violence

Haiti has been grappling with a political quagmire since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. The absence of a functioning government and the delay in establishing a promised transitional authority have created a power vacuum. This vacuum has emboldened armed gangs, who now control vast swaths of Port-au-Prince and the countryside, operating with impunity.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, appointed after the president’s assassination, faces mounting pressure to resign. He had pledged to step down as part of a plan for a transitional council. However, disagreements among political parties and stakeholders have stalled the council’s formation, leaving Haiti in a state of political limbo. This lack of leadership and a clear path forward contribute to the frustrations that fuel gang violence.

The ongoing violence has displaced thousands of Haitians and crippled basic services in Port-au-Prince. People struggle to access food, water, and healthcare. The economic situation is dire, further deepening the sense of despair.

Hope for a Brighter Future

Despite the daunting challenges, there are glimmers of hope. Council member Leslie Voltaire anticipates the transitional council will be operational by Thursday and elect a new Prime Minister within a week. The international community, including regional body CARICOM, is actively involved in finding a solution.

The successful formation of a transitional government with broad legitimacy is crucial for restoring stability in Haiti. This government will need to address the root causes of gang violence, including poverty, lack of opportunity, and weak law enforcement. Additionally, ensuring the safety and security of cultural institutions like the National Library must be a priority.

Source: Vanguard 

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