Haiti: Exiled PM Announces Plan to Resign as Gang Boss ‘Barbecue’ Declares ‘Bloody Revolution’

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VALERIE BAERISWYL/AFP via Getty Images

The prime minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, announced on Monday night he would resign “immediately” after the creation of a “Presidential Transitional Council” meant to take steps towards organizing a presidential election.

Henry’s announcement followed the near-total collapse of the country’s political infrastructure this week after he traveled to Kenya seeking law enforcement aid to subdue the increasingly powerful gangs overrunning the country. While Henry was out of the country, organized armed militias led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, the head of the G9 Family of gangs orchestrated a massive prison break and surrounded Port-au-Prince’s airport, making it impossible for the prime minister to return. Cherizier has for years demanded the ouster of the entire Haitian political class and last week threatened to plunge the country into “genocide” if Henry did not resign.

The current wave of chaos in Haiti began with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, who was gunned down in the presidential estate. Moïse had appointed Henry prime minister days before his assassination; the country has not had a president since. Henry has for months attempted to organize what the United Nations calls a “Multinational Security Support” mission to Haiti, but outside actors have hesitated to participate given Henry’s questionable legitimacy as the leader of the country and minimal popular desire for the deployment of foreign police on Haitian soil.

“For more than a week, our country has seen an increase in acts of violence against the population. Assassinations, attacks against law enforcement, systematic looting, destruction of public and private buildings,” Henry said in a message published late Monday, according to the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste. “The government that I lead cannot remain insensitive to this situation. As I have always said, no sacrifice is too great for our country Haiti.”

“The government I lead is leaving immediately after the installation of the Presidential Transitional Council,” he promised.

“The government that I lead leaves immediately after the installation of the Council. It will continue to liquidate current affairs until the appointment of a Prime Minister and a government,” Henry added, urging Haitian civilians to “remain calm.”

The “Presidential Transition Council” is the product of an emergency meeting on Monday of member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a regional body, in Jamaica, in which American Secretary of State Antony Blinken participated.

“We support the plan to create a broad-based, inclusive, independent presidential college,” Blinken said on Monday, adding that the Council must “take concrete steps to meet the immediate needs of the Haitian people” and “enable the swift deployment of the Multinational Security Support Mission.” The Council, he concluded, would also “create the security conditions that are necessary to hold free and fair elections, to allow humanitarian assistance to get to people who need it, and to help put Haiti back on a path to economic opportunity and growth.”

Blinken also announced that the Pentagon would be “doubling its approved support for the mission from $100 million to $200 million, and that brings the total U.S. support to $300 million for this effort.”

That money would presumably go to the leadership of the Council to replace Henry. According to Le Nouvelliste, the council will be made up of seven people, all representing the remains of Haiti’s most powerful political parties.

“The religious sector and civil society organizations are invited to submit one representative each to the Presidential Council in an advisory capacity or as an observer,” the newspaper added.

It remains unclear when the Council will take power – and when Henry will formally resign – but the parties invited to appoint members have 24 hours as of Monday to submit nominees to the body.

Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue who now runs a gang federation, holds a press conference in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Odelyn Joseph/AP)

Speaking to ABC News on Monday, Cherizier, considered the most powerful person left in the country, promised that his gang would “call for a truce” if Henry resigned and his fighters would “automatically stop the attacks on the police stations” – but clarified that the war against the state would continue until he was satisfied that all political elites were eliminated.

“The first step is to overthrow Ariel Henry and then we will start the real fight against the current system, the system of corrupt oligarchs and corrupt traditional politicians,” he reportedly explained. “Not only are we fighting against Ariel Henry, but we are also fighting against everyone who has some complicity.”

Cherizier also condemned the international press for helping to “assassinate [his] character.”

“My message for the international community, especially the United States that has a longstanding relationship with the Haitian people, I am telling them that they cannot keep treating the Haitian people like that,” he asserted.

Cherizier also hinted to presidential ambitions, telling ABC News, “I am not the one to decide if I want to be president or not. It is the Haitian people that will decide who should be their president, who should lead the country. Personally, I consider myself a servant [of the country].”

On Monday, Cherizier made a public statement declaring a “bloody revolution” and warning hotel owners not to harbor politicians.

“We’re not in a peaceful revolution. We are making a bloody revolution in the country because this system is an apartheid system, a wicked system,” Cherizier said, according to a translation by Reuters.

“We take this opportunity to send a clear message to all the hotel owners in the country who take pleasure in hiding politicians. We will get on you step by step, such as Montana, Karibe, and any hotel that hides politicians of the old school in their hotels,” he warned.

The unrest in the country in the past two weeks has reportedly prompted as many as 15,000 people to flee the capital, rendering them homeless and overwhelming displaced people camps outside of Port-au-Prince.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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