Haiti’s prime minister stuck in Puerto Rico as gangs threaten ‘civil war’ : NPR

A pedestrian walks past the international airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday. Gang members exchanged gunfire with police and soldiers around the airport in the latest in a series of attacks on government sites.

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A pedestrian walks past the international airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday. Gang members exchanged gunfire with police and soldiers around the airport in the latest in a series of attacks on government sites.

Odelyn Joseph/AP

Gangs in Haiti continue to surround the country’s main airport in the capital Port-au-Prince, making it impossible for the de facto prime minister to return to his country.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry is currently in Puerto Rico and cannot return to Haiti due to gang violence.

Sheila Angleró Mojica, a spokesperson for Puerto Rico’s governor, confirmed to NPR that Henry landed in the capital San Juan on Tuesday.

The Dominican Republic’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the U.S. and Henry had asked the Dominican government for permission to allow his plane to make an “indefinite stop in Dominican territory,” which borders Haiti. “On two occasions, the Dominican government has communicated the impossibility of this stopover,” the statement said.

Instead, Henry flew to Puerto Rico, where he is believed to still be. Henry did not return calls from NPR and a government spokesman, Chenald Augustin, said he could not provide any information.

Henry was last seen in public on Friday in Nairobi, where he signed a reciprocal agreement with Kenyan President William Ruto, paving the way for a Kenyan-led, UN-backed multinational force to help growing violence in Haiti suppress.

At a press conference Tuesday, Haiti’s most prominent gang leader, Jimmy “Barbeque” Chérizier, issued an ultimatum, warning that “if Ariel Henry does not resign… we are headed straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide. “

Barbecue, the leader of the G9 and Family gang, speaks to journalists in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Odelyn Joseph/AP


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Barbecue, the leader of the G9 and Family gang, speaks to journalists in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Odelyn Joseph/AP

The Haitian government declared a 72-hour state of emergency on Sunday after gangs attacked two major prisons in Port-au-Prince. A number of police officers were killed and thousands of prisoners escaped.

This weekend’s wave of violence comes amid growing chaos and lawlessness in Haiti, sparked by the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Haiti is in free fall. There is no elected official with a current mandate, including the Prime Minister; security forces are overwhelmed; millions are hungry, many need medical attention and it is still unclear when the Kenyan police will arrive in the country.

The United States is working with Caribbean countries to pressure Haiti’s embattled prime minister to agree to a transition to elections.

Asked by a journalist about a report in the Miami Herald that the US and governments in the Caribbean regional CARICOM bloc are pressuring Prime Minister Henry to resign, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield would only say that diplomats want him to agree on a plan to ​​to establish a transitional council that will lead to elections.

“We think it is urgent that he move in that direction and start the process of returning normalcy to the people of Haiti.”

Thomas-Greenfield says the US is also working with Kenya on plans to send a multinational force to Haiti to quell the violence.

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