Tensions rise in Haiti as leadership remains in balance

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 10:17 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Residents braced for another tense night in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Friday, as attacks continued across parts of the city in the aftermath of the resignation of Prime Minister Henry and in the absence of a clear plan to replace him.

“Ariel Henry resigned but we are still in political distress,” said resident Claude Atilus. “We must take our destiny into our own hands. I want the political players to rise to the task and commit themselves to organizing the country.”

A man walked through the city’s Champ de Mars square carrying a white coffin over his head, while further out in the city’s sprawling Delmas neighborhood, flaming tires and roadblocks lined the streets.

“The situation is not good for us,” said vendor Jean-Phillipe Jean-Louis, adding he was exhausted, prices were exorbitant and working on the streets was dangerous.

“When we merchants go out into the streets looking for money to feed our children and wives, we find nothing,” he said.

The United Nations’ children’s fund has warned of record hunger and life-threatening malnutrition concentrated in the capital’s poorest, most dangerous and busiest neighborhoods, with one in four children nationwide suffering chronic malnutrition, or stunting.

Satellite images on Thursday showed shipping containers blocking access to heavy cranes at the country’s main cargo port, which shut operations after a break-in, and set up around the country’s National Palace, the site of heavy shooting last week.

Local media reported police were facing off late on Friday with gangs in the Delmas area, traditionally a stronghold of the G9 alliance led by Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier.

Henry, the country’s unelected prime minister, said he would step down on Monday as he faced international pressure while stranded in Puerto Rico, as an escalation of fighting in the capital prevented him from returning home.

His resignation is pending the appointment of an interim replacement chosen by a transition council, but the members of the council have yet to be decided and some political groups tapped for representation have rejected the plan, proposed by regional leaders, or been unable to unite their factions.

Cherizier this week threatened politicians who take part in the council and said Henry’s resignation marked just “a first step in the battle” for the Caribbean nation.

Local outlet Gazette Haiti reported that meetings on a compromise were set to take place on Saturday.

(Reporting by Jefferson Philogene and Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Editing by William Mallard)