What’s happening in Haiti? Leader resigns as gang-led violence worsens.

The tiny Caribbean nation of Haiti is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Armed gangs, violence and looting have made everyday life punishing in the nation of 11 million, with food and medicine in short supply. The unfolding political crisis has escalated with the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Monday, sending the nation further into chaos.

Here’s what to know about what’s happening in Haiti.

Haitian prime minister says he’ll resign, clearing way for new government

Why has the prime minister resigned?

Ariel Henry, 74, a former neurosurgeon, has served as the unelected prime minister of Haiti since the still-unsolved 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Henry was appointed by Moïse.

Amid growing political pressure as well as calls from the country’s powerful gang leaders to resign, Henry said Monday in a video address to the nation that he would step down once a transitional presidential council is put in place and an interim leader is selected.

He left Haiti last month to travel to Kenya and rally support for a U.N.-backed international police force to be deployed to Haiti.

He had tried to return home last week, but the Dominican Republic — which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti — denied his plane permission to land. He instead headed for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.

Henry said in his address that he would step down “immediately after the installation of this council,” the members of which are to be chosen by representatives from several sectors of Haitian society.

His government will continue to handle routine affairs until the appointment of a prime minister and a new government, he added.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he would resign once a transitional presidential council is established, after weeks of mounting pressure. (Video: Prime Minister of the Republic of Haiti via X)

What’s behind the latest violence in Haiti?

Haiti was plunged into a state of emergency this month after armed gangs led a mass prison break and demanded the resignation of Henry while he was abroad.

Gangs then burned down a police station near the airport, where flights have been suspended. The main shipping port in Port-au-Prince, the capital, was also breached, with gang members storming the terminal, looting containers, damaging security apparatus and forcing the port to suspend its operations indefinitely.

Food, water and medical supplies in the capital are scarce and looting has spread to supermarkets and small businesses.

Violence has trapped many residents in their homes and shut down some public hospitals. Gang roadblocks nationwide have made it nearly impossible to reach the capital by land, and the country’s border with the Dominican Republic is closed.

Haitians shot dead in street and there’s no one to take the corpses away

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has no elected officials in power and has not held elections in almost a decade.

The presidency remains vacant and lawmakers’ terms have expired, which has fueled public dissatisfaction with Henry and others in power. Public services have been limited, including trash collection, and cholera has resurfaced, while gangs have terrorized the population with systematic rape, indiscriminate kidnapping and mass killing.

Haiti’s most powerful gang leader, Jimmy Chérizier, a police officer turned gang leader known as “Barbecue,” called for Haiti’s warring criminal factions to unite to oust Henry and threatened civil war if the prime minister didn’t leave.

Is it safe to travel to Haiti?

The U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 advisory, the highest on the scale, instructing people not to travel to Haiti.

“The current security situation in Haiti is unpredictable and dangerous,” it said, urging U.S. citizens to depart despite limited travel options. “The U.S. Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens is severely limited,” it added.

It advised those in Haiti to avoid crowds, to monitor local media for updates, to avoid being out after dark and to be prepared to shelter in place for an extended time.

In the absence of a functioning state, violent armed gangs have taken control of more than 80 percent of the capital, the United Nations estimates.

More than 15,000 Haitians were forced to leave their homes by gang violence in the past week, the United Nations said Monday. This is in addition to the roughly 300,000 people — more than half of them children — who were already internally displaced by violence.

More than 160,000 of the displaced are trapped in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, which is surrounded by armed groups, the United Nations said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a Monday meeting in Jamaica to discuss Haiti that the political crisis and escalating violence have “created an untenable situation for the Haitian people.”

“We support the plan to create a broad-based, inclusive, independent presidential college,” he said of the transitional council.

He also threw support behind a U.N.-backed Multinational Security Support Mission, which involves various countries contributing personnel, equipment, and financial and logistical resources to Haiti.

The mission is expected to deploy soon, Blinken said, to reinforce the Haitian National Police and “create the security conditions that are necessary to hold free and fair elections, to allow humanitarian assistance to get to people who need it, and to help put Haiti back on a path to economic opportunity and growth.”

He added that the United States would contribute $300 million to the mission, along with humanitarian aid of $33 million.

According to Reuters, the transitional presidential council will consist of two observers and seven voting members, including representatives from political coalitions, the business sector, civil society and one religious leader. The council will appoint an interim prime minister.

Members of the council will not be allowed to run in the next elections.

“Haiti wants peace. Haiti wants stability,” Henry said in announcing his resignation. “Haiti needs to rebuild democratic institutions.”

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top