Haiti | Influential gang leader threatens ‘civil war’

(Port-au-Prince) An influential Haitian gang leader threatened a bloody “civil war” on Tuesday if disputed Prime Minister Ariel Henry remains in power, as the small, poor Caribbean country is gripped by heavy violence .



The gangs, which control entire swaths of Haiti and the capital, announced last week that they were ganging up against the government and have since carried out attacks against infrastructure and strategic sites, taking advantage of a trip abroad on the first minister, highly contested.

“If Ariel Henry does not resign, if the international community continues to support him, we are heading straight towards a civil war which will lead to genocide,” threatened Jimmy Chérizier, nicknamed “Barbecue”, on Tuesday during an interview with the press.

PHOTO RALPH TEDY EROL, REUTERS

Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier

According to the UN, which placed him under sanctions, this 46-year-old former police officer is one of the most influential gang leaders, and leads an alliance of armed gangs nicknamed “the G9 family” and its allies. .

These gangs are calling to overthrow Ariel Henry, in power since the assassination in 2021 of President Jovenel Moïse, and who should have left office at the beginning of February.

“We must come together. Either Haiti becomes a paradise for us all, or a hell for us all,” proclaimed Mr. Chérizier, equipped with a bulletproof vest and carrying a weapon and surrounded by hooded men.

The Haitian capital Port-au-Prince has been under a state of emergency and curfew since Sunday, after the release of thousands of detainees by armed gangs.

Complicated return

The prime minister traveled to Nairobi last week to sign an agreement to send Kenyan police officers to Haiti as part of an international mission supported by the UN and the United States.

He “landed in Puerto Rico” on Tuesday, Puerto Rico government spokesperson Sheila Anglero told AFP by telephone in the evening. She then clarified that she did not know if he was still on the island.

PHOTO RICARDO ARDUENGO, REUTERS

Puerto Rican police officers monitor Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s plane.

The US State Department announced Monday that Ariel Henry was on his way back to Port-au-Prince. But according to the Haitian media Radio Télé Métronome, he was unable to land in the capital due to security problems at the airport.

According to the Dominican media CDN, the Prime Minister’s private plane, departing from the American state of New Jersey, landed in Puerto Rico after being refused a landing in the Dominican Republic, a neighboring country of Haiti. Relations are tense between the two countries.

The unrest led international airlines to cancel all flights to Port-au-Prince.

This new “escalation” of violence has forced some 15,000 people to flee their homes in Port-au-Prince, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said Tuesday in New York, specifying that humanitarians had started to distribute food and other basic necessities at three new IDP sites.

Gangs attacked the police academy in the Haitian capital on Tuesday, after trying to seize the Toussaint-Louverture international airport the day before.

Several armed people stormed a police station near the airport and set it on fire, according to a coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Police Officers (Synapoha).

PHOTO RALPH TEDY EROL, REUTERS

However, the capital seemed to resume a semblance of activity on Tuesday, with businesses open in the Delmas district and residents going about their business, according to AFP images.

Total deadlock

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is facing a deep political, humanitarian and security crisis aggravated by the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, with a political process in total impasse.

According to the UN, more than 8,400 people were victims of gang violence last year, having been killed, injured or kidnapped, “an increase of 122% compared to 2022”.

Recognizing the abuses committed by gang members, the “Barbecue” leader on Tuesday called on society to move forward: “yes, we are aware that the armed men have committed acts harmful to society, but (…) I think that society must forgive them and unite to rethink a new Haiti,” he declared.

The UN Security Council will meet behind closed doors on Wednesday on the subject, according to the Council’s programme. Maria Isabel Salvador, United Nations representative in Haiti, will provide them with an update on the situation remotely.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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