News Americas, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, Weds. Mar. 6, 2024: Where in the world is the Haitian PM? As the country burns, Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a former elite police officer who leads a federation of gangs that has claimed responsibility for ongoing attacks, seems now completely in control of Haiti as Prime Minister Ariel Henry is now locked out of the country after a trip to Kenya.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, (2nd-L) leaves the auditorium after speaking to students during a public lecture on bilateral engagement between Kenya and Haiti, at the United States International University (USIU) Africa, in Nairobi on March 1, 2024. (Photo by SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images)
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TOPSHOT – Armed gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier and his men are seen in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 5,2024. Haiti’s police academy came under attack by an armed gang on March 5, as the tiny Caribbean nation fell into deeper isolation in the wake of an assault on the airport and a deadly prison breakout. The attack on the academy, where more than 800 cadets are training, was repelled after the arrival of reinforcements, said Lionel Lazarre of the Haitian police union. The gangs say they want to overthrow the disputed prime minister, Ariel Henry, who was out of the country at the weekend for a trip to Kenya to push for the deployment of a UN-backed multinational police mission to try to stabilize Haiti. (Photo by Clarens SIFFROY / AFP) (Photo by CLARENS SIFFROY/AFP via Getty Images)

A Gulfstream IV jet with US registration N129NS was still parked on the tarmac at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, today March 6, 2023, after transporting Haitian Prime Minister Henry there Tuesday, March 5th.

A Gulfstream IV jet, US registration N129NS, is parked on the tarmac at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 6, 2023, after transporting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. (Photo by JAYDEE LEE SERRANO/AFP via Getty Images)

His whereabouts now is uncertain with a spokesperson for the US territory’s governor saying: “He landed in Puerto Rico, but I have no further details. I don’t know if he’s still in Puerto Rico.” Henry arrived late in the afternoon in San Juan on a chartered flight that originated in New Jersey. Tracking data showed the flight was heading toward Dominican Republic, which shares with Haiti the island of Hispaniola, but circled mid-flight before diverting to Puerto Rico. Hours before he arrived in Puerto Rico, the Dominican government announced that it was immediately suspending all air traffic with Haiti.

Arial view of carcasses of burnt-out vehicles in front of the police station at Carrefour de l’Aeroport, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 5, 2024 after armed individuals controlled by gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” torched the place. Haiti’s police academy came under attack by an armed gang on March 5, as the tiny Caribbean nation fell into deeper isolation in the wake of an assault on the airport and a deadly prison breakout. Gang leaders such as Jimmy Cherizier, known by the nickname Barbecue, say they are coordinating to oust Prime Minister Henry, who has led the troubled Caribbean nation since the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in 2021. (Photo by CLARENS SIFFROY/AFP via Getty Images)

Henry, who assumed power following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, has been notably absent since the country’s latest and most serious outbreak of violence started last week and has stayed silent as he crisscrossed the world, from the CARICOM summit in Guyana, South America to Africa, with no announced date of return.

This as Chérizier and his armed groups have seized on the power void, exchanging gunfire with police at Haiti’s main international airport on Monday and instigating a mass escape from the country’s two biggest prisons.

Barbecue said he would target government ministers to prevent the prime minister’s return and force his resignation.

“Our goal is to break the system,” Chérizier told journalists at an impromptu news conference in a slum in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as he was surrounded by men in ski masks carrying heavy assault rifles. “We are fighting against Ariel with the last drop of our blood.”

Gangs opened fired on police late Monday outside the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, where Henry would likely land should he return home. Schools and banks were also closed Tuesday, and public transport ground to a standstill.

Henry was last seen Friday in Kenya on a mission to salvage a multinational security force the east African nation was set to lead under the auspices of the United Nations. He left Haiti more than a week ago to attend a meeting of Caribbean leaders in Guyana, where a deadline was announced — by others, not Henry — to delay repeatedly postponed elections yet again. The balloting was pushed back to mid-2025.

That announcement is what appears to have triggered the latest explosion of violence. Gangs since last week launched attacks on the central bank, the airport, even the national soccer stadium. The culmination of the coordinated offensive came over the weekend when a jailbreak at the National Penitentiary and another prison released onto the streets of the capital more than 5,000 inmates, many of whom had been serving time for murder, kidnapping and other violent crimes.

ACM

Meanwhile, the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) today issued a statement calling “for more urgent regional and global attention and action on the situation in Haiti and the positive impact this would have on all issues of governance, including the protection of press freedom and the professional conduct of journalists.”

HAITIAN DIASPORA

Children carry signs during a press conference in North Miami on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Haitian-American elected officials, faith and community leaders held an emergency press conference in North Miami to bring awareness to the current situation in Haiti. (Jose A. Iglesias/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Leaders from South Florida’s Haitian community held a news conference in North Miami to talk about solutions and what they’d like to see happen in their homeland. Several of Miami’s Haitian American leaders including elected officials, the NAACP and community organizations gathered as a united front.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Marleine Bastien, who also runs the Family Action Network Movement has a list.

“What we are asking the US is to heed the call of the Haitian people; no US sponsored lead intervention, no Kenya intervention, Kenya has its own problems. Let go of Ariel Henri. Stop the flow of weapons to Haiti and support and heed the calls of the Haitian people for a transitional government that would be leading to more security and eventually a path to free election and democracy in Haiti,” Bastien said.

Haitian soldiers positioned behind an electric pole guard the entrance to Port-au-Prince international airport after armed gang members exchanged gunfire with police and soldiers around the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 06, 2024. Most strategic regions are under the control of armed gangs and everyone is worried, following violence armed gang members took control of the two largest prisons and released thousands of inmates over the weekend and the Haitian police academy was attacked by armed gangs said Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Armed gangs attempted to take control of Haiti’s main international airport Monday in the latest of a series of attacks, including one that led to a mass escape from two major prisons. (Photo by Guerinault Louis/Anadolu via Getty Images)

US ON HAITI

The U.S. State Department today insisted that the United States has long worked with CARICOM and Haitian leaders on the path to restoring democratic order in Haiti through free and fair elections, inclusive governance, and power sharing, which will give them the opportunity to democratically elect a prime minister.

Speaking at a briefing today, a spokesperson said that “as the situation on the ground grows increasingly dire, we and CARICOM have continued to call on stakeholders, including the prime minister, to make concessions in the interest of the Haitian people.”

“So we are not calling on him or pushing for him to resign, but we are urging him to expedite the transition to an empowered and inclusive governance structure that will move with urgency to help the country prepare for a multinational security support mission to address the security situation and pave the way for free and fair elections,” he said.

The State Department insisted they “are going to continue to work with CARICOM, because I think it’s important to make clear that it’s not the United States acting alone in this – with this regard.”

“It’s the United States in consultation with partners in the region are having these conversations. And what we are saying to the prime minister is that he needs to expedite the transition to an empowered and inclusive governance, including the appointment of a transition council. So that’s what we’ll continue to discuss with him,” added the spokesperson.

He insisted that there needs to be a transition to free and fair elections in Haiti, and the deployment of a multinational security support mission to address the dire security situation on the ground.

“So we are continuing to work through both of those things. We are making progress on deploying the MSS; we want to see that happen as soon as possible. And we’re also in – as I said, in conversation with partners in the region about how to transition back to the path to democracy,” he added.

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