What is happening in Haiti? President resigns as violence takes to the streets

Haiti is on the brink of collapse. Armed gangs, violence and looting have made daily life is exhausting in this nation of 11 million inhabitants, plagued by shortages of food and medicine. As if that were not enough, the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry has plunged the country further into chaos.

Resignation of the prime minister

Ariel Henry, 74, who worked as a neurosurgeon, had been in office since the still unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.

Amid growing political instabilitythe leaders of the most powerful gangs in the country have intensified their pressure for him to resign. Henry assured last Monday, in a video to the nation, that he would resign once a transitional presidential council is established and an interim replacement is appointed.

His government will continue to deal with routine matters until the appointment of a prime minister and a new government.

Violence has taken the streets

Haiti was plunged into a state of emergency after armed gangs led a mass prison break and demanded Henry’s resignation taking advantage of the president’s overseas tour.

Criminals set fire to a police station near the airport, forcing flights to be suspended. The main seaport of Port-au-Prince, the capital, also suffered vandalisma: Gang members broke into the terminal, looted containers, damaged security devices and forced the port to suspend operations indefinitely.

Food, water and medical supplies in the capital are scarce and looting has spread to supermarkets and small businesses.

The violence has trapped many residents in their homes and closed some public hospitals. Gang roadblocks across the country have made it nearly impossible to reach the capital by land, and the country’s border with the Dominican Republic is closed.

The presidency remains vacant and lawmakers’ terms have expired, fueling public discontent with Henry. Public services have been limited, including garbage collection, leading to outbreaks of cholera, while gangs have terrorized the population with systematic rapes, indiscriminate kidnappings and mass murders.

An “unsustainable” situation

The United States Department of State has issued a level 4 advisory, the highest on the scale, recommending people not to travel to Haiti.

“The current security situation in Haiti is unpredictable and dangerous,” they point out and warn that “the US Embassy’s ability to assist US citizens is severely limited.”

More than 15,000 Haitians were forced to flee their homes due to gang violence last week, the UN has reported. This is in addition to the approximately 300,000 people (more than half of them children) who were already internally displaced by violence.

The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, explained in a meeting in Jamaica that the escalation of violence has “created an unsustainable situation for the Haitian people.” Furthermore, he has announced the creation of a mission to “create the security conditions necessary to hold free elections.”

“We support the plan to create an independent, inclusive and broad-based presidential college,” he said of the transitional council. He also supported a UN-backed Multinational Security Support Mission, in which several countries contribute personnel, equipment, and financial and logistical resources to Haiti.

The mission is expected to deploy soon, Blinken said, to reinforce the Haitian National Police and “create the security conditions necessary to hold free and fair elections, allow humanitarian assistance reach the people who need it and help put Haiti back on the path to economic opportunity and growth.”

The United States will contribute $300 million to the mission, and will provide humanitarian aid worth $33 million. The next step will be to form a transitional presidential council in the country that will name the new prime minister who in principle could not run in the next elections.

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