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12 March 2024

Haiti’s prime minister says he will resign amid rising violence

12 March 2024

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has said he will resign once a transitional presidential council is created, capitulating to international pressure that seeks to save the country overwhelmed by violent gangs.

His announcement follows Caribbean leaders saying they “acknowledge the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry” once an interim premier is named.

That announcement by Guyana President Irfaan Ali came after an urgent meeting in Jamaica with officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and members of Caricom, a regional trade bloc.

Mr Henry did not attend the meeting.

Before sharing details of the proposed transitional council, Mr Ali said: “I want to pause and thank Prime Minister Henry for his service to Haiti.”

Earlier on Monday, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the meeting was a work in progress.

“It is clear that Haiti is now at a tipping point,” he said. “We are deeply distressed that it is already too late for too many who have lost far too much at the hands of criminal gangs.”

Mr Henry, who has faced calls to resign or agree to a transitional council, has been locked out of his own country while traveling abroad, due to surging unrest and violence by criminal gangs who have overrun much of Haiti’s capital and closed down its main international airports.

He remained in Puerto Rico and was taking steps to return to Haiti once feasible, according to a brief statement from the US territory’s Department of State.

The move comes after the US announced an additional 100 million dollars (£78 million) to finance the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti.

Announcing the funding following a meeting with Caribbean leaders, Mr Blinken also announced another 33 million dollars (£25.8 million) in humanitarian aid and the creation of a joint proposal agreed on by Caribbean leaders and “all of the Haitian stakeholders to expedite a political transition” and create a “presidential college”.

While leaders met behind closed doors, Jimmy Cherizier – considered Haiti’s most powerful gang leader – told reporters that if the international community continues down the current road, “it will plunge Haiti into further chaos”.

“We Haitians have to decide who is going to be the head of the country and what model of government we want,” said Mr Cherizier, a former elite police officer and leader of a gang federation known as G9 Family and Allies.

“We are also going to figure out how to get Haiti out of the misery it’s in now.”

Scores of people have been killed and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighborhoods raided by gangs.

Food and water are dwindling as stands and stores selling to impoverished Haitians run out of goods. The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

Late on Monday, the Haitian government announced it was extending a nighttime curfew until March 14 in an attempt to prevent further attacks.

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