All 78 detainees at a prison in Haiti escaped Tuesday, police said, during a demonstration against President Jovenel Moise that was part of an increasingly violent nationwide movement.
Witnesses said the anti-Moise protest was taking place in front of the police station adjoining the penitentiary in Aquin, a town of around 100,000 on the south coast of the country’s Tiburon Peninsula.
The former French colony is in the grip of a growing political crisis which has seen citizens take to the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince and elsewhere over the last week to demand Moise’s resignation.
Barricades have sprung up in some areas of the capital and other cities, with protesters demanding the president answer reports of mismanagement and possible embezzlement of development funds in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Prison conditions in Haiti are considered to be among the most inhumane in the world by human rights groups. Detainees face extremely crowded conditions, poor hygiene, food shortages and a lack of health care.
The justice system is notoriously slow and has been blamed for contributing to the crisis.
In October, an investigation found that three quarters of the 11,839 people imprisoned in Haiti were still waiting for a court ruling – a delay that has sometimes stretched beyond a decade.