Haitian PM Ariel Henry to resign following chaos and unprecedented wave of violence

The politician, who has been in office since the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse in 2021, announced from Puerto Rico that he will step down once a transitional council is formed to lead the country

Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks while addressing the nation.
Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks while addressing the nation.Prime Minister of the Republic o (REUTERS)
El País

Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Monday announced that he will resign as head of government after a wave of violence gripped the country. Since the security crisis worsened in early March, with the escape of more than 3,000 prisoners, Henry had not been able to return to Haiti. He has remained in Puerto Rico, where he landed on his way back from a trip to Kenya. Henry took office in July 2021 following the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse — a murder which plunged the country into chaos and unprecedented institutional instability. Last week, former policeman Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, the most feared leader of organized crime, threatened to unleash “a civil war” if Henry did not resign.

The resignation was first announced by Guyanese President Irfaan Ali, the interim president of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the closing of a high-level meeting on Haiti held in Jamaica. But shortly afterward, Henry himself spoke out. “The government that I lead will withdraw immediately after the installation of this council,” Henry said in a videotaped statement that was shared on social media. “I want to thank the Haitian people for the opportunity they have given me. I ask all Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can to bring peace and stability back as quickly as possible.”

A senior official of the Joe Biden administration told journalists gathered by Reuters that the decision on Henry’s resignation was forged last Friday and that the prime minister is allowed to remain in Puerto Rico or to travel to other places in the United States. Although Henry has expressed his intention to return to Haiti, the security conditions at this time do not allow it, the government source added.

Precisely on Friday, the political heart of the capital, Port-au-Prince, was once again the scene of violence. An armed group clashed with security forces at the gates of the National Palace and tried to set fire to the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior until the gang members were shot down by the officers. The aim of the revolt was to take over the presidential palace while institutions are at their weakest. The country is closed tightly, connections from Miami and Santo Domingo were suspended last week, and images shared on social media also showed large holes in the walls of the Port-au-Prince airport.

Leaders of the Caribbean Community met Monday in Kingston, Jamaica to address the crisis in Haiti and discuss the framework to facilitate a government transition with the approval of the United States. The U.S. State Department had urged Henry to “accelerate” this process, while criminal groups demanded his resignation by spreading terror in the streets. Political, religious, civil society and business organizations participated in the meeting in Jamaica. The goal is for all these sectors to be represented in the transitional council that will be in charge of leading Haiti to elections. After Moïse’s assassination, this has been one of the international community’s main demand. Haiti has not gone to the polls since 2016, with the prime minister postponing the date on several occasions, citing security problems.

Before the resignation was formalized, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he supported a plan to create a “broad-based” and “independent” council to address Haiti’s “immediate needs.” In addition to the wave of violence, Haitians are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that has triggered a mass exodus. Haiti called for international support, but this mission never arrived. The United Nations is finalizing the deployment of a multinational security support mission to Haiti, which, with 11 million inhabitants, has fewer than 10,000 police officers. Kenya offered to lead the plan and pledged to send at least 1,000 officers. Other countries, such as Spain, have also offered human and material support, all under the financial umbrella of the United States, which for the moment has promised a logistical investment of $200 million.

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