Although Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has resumed some activities after days of chaos, the country is still far from returning to normality. The top criminal leader who escaped from Haitian prisons over the weekend has threatened to start a “civil war” if the country’s controversial prime minister, Ariel Henry, remains in power.

“If Ariel Henry does not resign, if the international community continues to support his government, we are on the path to a civil war that will lead to genocide,” said Jimmy Cherizier, aka “Barbecue.” A former police officer, he leads the coalition of gangs and is known for his habit of burning enemies.

The current crisis began last Thursday when coordinated attacks targeted government facilities. On Saturday, prison raids freed around 3,600 detainees, most of them from criminal gangs. The government decreed a curfew the following day, in force until this Wednesday (6). It is estimated that gangs control most of the country’s capital and that the violence has forced 15,000 people to abandon their homes in the city.

Haiti is experiencing an unprecedented wave of violence marked by an increase in clashes between the Police and gangs in the capital of the Caribbean country / Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP

The attacks against several strategic locations had the objective, according to the gangs, of taking down Henry. In power since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 — by gangs — he should have left office in February, calling elections, but he didn’t.

“We must unite. Either Haiti becomes a paradise for everyone or hell for everyone,” Barbecue said on Monday. “This is not a small group of rich people who live in big hotels and decide the fate of the residents of popular neighborhoods.”

Missing Prime Minister

With his whereabouts unknown for days, Henry reappeared on Tuesday (5) in Puerto Rico, according to an official in the US territory. “He landed in Puerto Rico, but I don’t have any further details,” Sheila Anglero told AFP.

Ariel Henry during the 2023 UN General Assembly

Police and the army are protecting Toussaint Louverture international airport, but flights to Port-au-Prince have still been cancelled. The neighboring Dominican Republic has closed airspace with Haiti.

The international community — including Brazil — has been calling for external action to contain the wave of violence and chaos in the country. One of the alternatives studied would be the formation of a peacekeeping force with Kenyan security forces — a possibility that faces great internal resistance in the African country.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and has been facing a serious political, humanitarian and security crisis since the murder of Moïse in 2021. The UN estimates that violence caused by gangs has more than doubled between 2022 and 2023.

Editing: Matheus Alves de Almeida


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