May 23, 2024

Powerful Haiti gang leader ‘Barbecue’ warns of ‘civil war and genocide’

4 min read
Powerful Haiti gang leader ‘Barbecue’ warns of ‘civil war and genocide’

Haiti gang leader ‘Barbecue’ warns chaos engulfing the capital Port-au-Prince will lead to civil war and 'genocide' unless PM Ariel Henry resigns

Haiti gang leader ‘Barbecue’ warns chaos engulfing the capital Port-au-Prince will lead to civil war and ‘genocide’ unless PM Ariel Henry resigns.

The stark comments from Jimmy Cherizier, known as ‘Barbecue,’ came as Henry appeared to be struggling to fly home, with the main airport under attack and neighbouring Dominican Republic refusing permission for him to land.

Henry – who was supposed to step down last month – was out of the country last week when armed criminal gangs, who control large swathes of Haiti, launched a coordinated assault to oust him – leading to some calling Haiti a ‘failed state’.

‘If Ariel Henry doesn’t resign, if the international community continues to support him, we’ll be heading straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide,’ Cherizier, a former police officer, told reporters in the capital.

‘Either Haiti becomes a paradise or a hell for all of us. It’s out of the question for a small group of rich people living in big hotels to decide the fate of people living in working-class neighbourhoods,’ the 46-year-old added.

Cherizier, who is under UN sanctions for human rights abuses and who denies his nickname has anything to do with burning people alive, has claimed responsibility for the latest surge in attacks in the nation long gripped by conflict.

The latest outbreak of violence, which over the weekend saw almost 4,000 inmates released from the country’s main prison, has led to Haiti being described as a ‘failed state’ by the US envoy to the country.

Dan Foote, who as the Biden envoy opposed calls for any American boots on the ground in Haiti, said a U.S.-led military intervention can no longer be avoided.

‘It’s an absolute necessity now,’ Foote said in an interview. ‘We’ve let this slide from worse to worse, all the while abdicating our responsibility to others. But nobody can argue that Haiti isn’t a failed state when the penitentiary gets emptied out.’

As the latest crisis in the violence-wracked Caribbean nation spiraled, gunfire shut down some flights at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti’s capital.

Henry was denied entry into the neighboring Dominican Republic, according to the Dominican news group CDN.

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On Tuesday evening a spokesperson for the governor’s office in nearby Puerto Rico confirmed his plane had landed there, at least briefly.

‘I don’t know if he’s still in Puerto Rico,’ Sheila Anglero told AFP by telephone.

Jean Tholbert Alexis, an official from Henry’s government, said on X on Wednesday that the Dominican decision not to allow the prime minister’s plane to land was an unprecedented ‘diplomatic blunder.’

In power since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Henry was due to step down in February but instead agreed to a power-sharing deal with the opposition until new elections are held.

Earlier on Tuesday, a police academy in the capital where more than 800 cadets are training came under attack by an armed gang.

The attack was repelled after the arrival of reinforcements, said Lionel Lazarre of the Haitian police union.

Cherizier, who leads a group of gangs known as the ‘G9 Family and Allies,’ cites as a chief inspiration Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with ruthless brutality in the 1960s and 70s.

He said gunmen had committed harmful acts, but ‘I believe that society must forgive them and unite to rethink a new Haiti.’

Haitian officials have been pleading for months for international assistance to help their overwhelmed security forces, as gangs push beyond the city and into rural areas. The gangs are often better armed than the Haitian police.

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