Gang Leader Warns of 'Civil War' in Haiti

He says violence won't stop until Ariel Henry quits
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2024 4:02 PM CST
Haiti Gang Boss Orders Prime Minister to Quit
A demonstrator holds up an Haitian flag during protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, March 1, 2024.   (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The prime minister of Haiti is currently in Puerto Rico, unable to return to the country—and with both the US and the leader of a coalition of gangs saying it's time for a transfer of power, Ariel Henry's future is very unclear.

  • Country "heading straight for a civil war": Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer who uses the name Barbecue, says a rampage in the capital, Port-au-Prince, won't stop until Henry quits, the New York Times reports. "If Ariel Henry doesn't resign, if the international community continues to support him, we're heading straight for a civil war," he said Tuesday. Over the past week, the gangs that control much of the capital have attacked public buildings including the airport and two prisons, freeing thousands of inmates. Analysts say that unlike in previous violent episodes in Haiti, gangs have combined to fight the government instead of each other, NPR reports.

  • Pressure from the Biden administration: Henry was installed as prime minster after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, but he was never elected, and elections haven't been held in almost a decade. The Times reports that the Biden administration has stepped up pressure for Henry to transfer power. The US isn't "calling on him or pushing for him to resign," says State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, but "we are urging him to expedite the transition to an empowered and inclusive governance structure."
  • Stuck in Puerto Rico: Henry, who had been in Kenya pushing for the deployment of a Kenyan police force to Haiti, unexpectedly landed in Puerto Rico on Tuesday because the Dominican Republic closed its airspace to flight to and from Haiti, the AP reports. A source tells the AP that Caribbean leaders spoke to Henry late Tuesday and that he rejected suggestions that he resign, insisting that he would return to Haiti.

  • Capital "handed to the gangs": CNN looks at the security situation in Port-au-Prince, where gangs have seized at least eight police stations and attacked the police training academy. Occil Francisco, a spokesperson for police union Synapoha, says the city has been "handed to the gangs." The humanitarian crisis in the capital is deepening and an estimated 15,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in recent days.
  • The final straw: Henry had pledged to step down in early February, and the "final straw" for gangs appears to have been when he changed course and said the security situation had to improve before he would leave, per ABC. He refused to commit to holding elections before August 2025. Matt Rivers at ABC says that when he mentioned gangs to a senior Haitian official, the official told him he was using the wrong term, saying, "They are armed rebel groups and this is civil war."
(More Haiti stories.)

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