Haiti gang boss calls on absent PM to resign or face civil war | Haiti


Silence from Ariel Henry, who remains abroad, while Jimmy Chérizier, aka “Barbecue”, warns that the country will become “a paradise or a hell”.

The crime boss behind a six-day gang mutiny against Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry has claimed the Caribbean country could be plunged into civil war if its temporarily exiled leader does not step down.

Gang boss Jimmy Chérizier wore an olive green tactical vest and was flanked by armed foot soldiers wearing balaclavas. He told reporters that his country was staring into the abyss. “Either Haiti will be a paradise or a hell for all of us,” said Chérizier, a police officer turned gang leader whose nom de plume is Barbecue.

The US says no troops to Haiti as the country suffers from an explosion in gang violence

“If Ariel Henry does not resign and the international community continues to support him, we are heading straight towards a civil war that will lead to genocide,” Chérizier added.

Over the past six days, gang fighters have released thousands of inmates from prisons, storming and besieging strategic locations in the capital Port-au-Prince, including two airports, police stations and a port. Almost all flights to and from the country's main international airport were canceled and gangs launched a new attack on the site on Tuesday.

“Who is in control? I think no one is in control,” said Jean-Marc Biquet, the head of Mission Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti. “And my personal fear is that the police will do it [give up fighting and say]: “It’s a losing battle.” “Then what can happen? Well, I guess total chaos.”

U.S. officials say there will be no pressure on Henry to leave the country, but Washington is asking him to quickly develop a plan to transition to a democratic government, adding to pressure from Caribbean regional organization Caricom.

Chérizier's promotion of the cameras stands in stark contrast to the almost complete silence of Henry and members of his weakened government.

“It's terrible. It's heartbreaking what's going on. And what's worse is that you don't hear a word from the government,” said Monique Clesca, a Port-au-Prince-based writer and political activist, blaming the unrest on the inaction and incompetence of Henry's government.

Haiti's prime minister, a neurosurgeon in his 70s who became acting president after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, has been rarely seen since the gang insurgency began as he tried to speed up the deployment of a multinational security force in Kenya.

U.S. officials say Henry's visit helped resolve the constitutional issues blocking the Kenyan deployment and that law enforcement officials were ready to fly in at short notice. It is unclear whether they would be flown to Haiti on U.S. military transport, and it is far from clear when the airport would be declared safe enough for them to land.

After days of speculation about his whereabouts, Henry reportedly attempted to return to Haiti on Tuesday, flying from the United States to Port-au-Prince International Airport. However, according to a report in Puerto Rico's largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día, Henry's private jet was not granted permission to land. The plane was also prevented from landing in the neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Instead, Henry had to retreat to Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan. It's unclear what he plans to do next.

“We will let the prime minister discuss his travel plans,” a US State Department spokesman told El Nuevo Día when asked about Henry’s intentions. “The United States is not providing military assistance to help the prime minister return to Haiti,” they added.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council will hold a private emergency meeting on the worsening security crisis in Haiti, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian emergency that has left nearly half of the country's 11.7 million people facing acute hunger, according to the World Food Program.

Asked about Chérizier's call for Henry's resignation, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters: “[We] Call on all actors to put the people of Haiti first, to stop the violence – including of course the gangs responsible for the recent violence – and to make the necessary concessions to ensure inclusive, free governance and to enable fair elections and the restoration of violent democracy.”


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