US and Caribbean nations try to stop Haiti collapse

Impoverished nation is largely controlled by gangs and the Prime Minister has been locked out

Former police officer Jimmy 'Barbecue' Cherizier, leader of the G9 criminal alliance, is flanked by gang members after a press conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Reuters
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visited Jamaica on Monday as Caribbean leaders pushed to solve the crisis in Haiti, where powerful gangs have brought the country to the brink of collapse.

Scores of people have been killed and more than 15,000 people left homeless after fleeing neighbourhoods raided by gangs.

Food and water are dwindling as stands and shops selling to impoverished Haitians run out of goods. The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, with dozens of containers carrying critical supplies stranded.

Pressure is mounting on US-backed Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign or agree to the formation of a transitional council.

He has been stuck in Puerto Rico since last week and is unable to return to his own country after being denied entry into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Mr Blinken will attend a summit with a regional trade bloc known as Caricom that wants a transitional government in Haiti.

The country lacks a single democratically elected official and the caretaker government led by Mr Henry has been unable to reach a political settlement with opposition groups on organising elections.

On Sunday, the US said it had airlifted non-essential American staff from its embassy in Port-au-Prince.

“The international community must work together with Haitians towards a peaceful political transition,” US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Mr Nichols will also attend the meeting.

When the gang attacks began, Mr Henry was in Kenya pushing for the UN-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country that has been delayed by a court ruling.

A growing number of people are demanding the resignation of Mr Henry, who has not issued any public comment since the latest wave of violence began.

Haiti, with a population of about 11 million, suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed about 220,000 and pushed the impoverished nation closer to breaking point.

Armed with weapons often smuggled from the US, gangs have proliferated, thriving on drug trafficking, racketeering, kidnapping and extortion.

They now exercise control over 80 per cent of capital city Port-au-Prince and their nearly unchecked criminality has led to the collapse of public institutions and the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Updated: March 11, 2024, 4:13 PM