May 23, 2024

US calls on Haiti PM to resign as gangs seek his ouster

3 min read
US calls on Haiti PM to resign as gangs seek his ouster

US pushes Haiti PM, Ariel Henry to speed transition as gangs threaten civil war in a bid to ouster him from power

US pushes Haiti PM, Ariel Henry to speed transition as gangs threaten civil war in a bid to ouster him from power.

The United States said on Wednesday it was calling on Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to expedite a political transition as armed gangs seek his ouster amid a collapse in security and a humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean nation.

Henry, Haiti’s unelected interim leader, has been in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico since Tuesday, apparently unable or unwilling to return to his strife-torn country after traveling to Kenya to rally security backing.

A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. was not pushing for Henry to resign, but the U.S. wanted him to “expedite” a transition of political power.

The United States also said it is not helping Henry return home.

“We are not providing any assistance to help the prime minister return to Haiti,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said. Haitian gangs have warned that if Henry does not resign and countries continue to back him, that it could lead to civil war.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, said that as late as Tuesday the U.S. had been seeking to have Henry make an “indefinite stopover” on its territory, a request it denied, prompting Henry’s plane, which had already departed from New Jersey, to land in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.

Henry had traveled abroad to secure Kenya’s proposed leadership of a long-delayed U.N.-ratified security mission he first requested in 2022 to help fight the increasingly powerful gangs, but countries have been slow to volunteer support.

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There is no set deployment date and questions remain on who will staff it and how it will operate. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Wednesday that Washington hoped “that action will take place quickly.”

Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbeque, who leads a broad alliance of criminal gangs that have been fueling a dire humanitarian crisis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, has signaled the gangs could fight the proposed mission as a united front and that the city’s international airport is no longer secure.

Local rights group RNDDH said that at least nine police stations had been torched while 21 public buildings or shops had been looted, and over 4,600 prisoners escaped in the past week.

“If Ariel Henry doesn’t step down if the international community continues to support PM Ariel Henry, they will lead us directly into a civil war that will end in genocide,” Cherizier said at a press conference on Tuesday.

He added that a broad alliance of gangs known as Viv Ansanm (Living Together) were fighting to annex strategic areas to allow them to oust Henry “as quickly as possible,” and that his international backers would be to blame for Haitians who die.

Henry, who has been in power but unelected since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, has postponed promised elections, saying security must first be established for a free and fair vote.

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