Haitian prime minister to resign, clearing way for new government

Haitian prime minister to resign, clearing way for new government

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Ariel Henry, Haiti’s embattled prime minister, will resign once a transitional presidential council is established and an interim leader is selected, Caribbean Community leaders said late Monday.

The arrangement, announced after a lengthy meeting in Jamaica among Caribbean Community leaders and U.S. officials, paves the way “for a peaceful transition of power, continuity of governance, an action plan for near-term security and the road to free and fair elections,” Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said.

In a video address Monday night, Henry said he will step down “immediately after the installation of this council,” the members of which will be chosen by representatives from several sectors of Haitian society. Henry’s government will continue to handle routine affairs until the appointment of a prime minister and a new government, he said.

The announcement of his resignation comes as Haiti faces one of its worst crises in decades. Armed gangs have tightened their grip on the country’s capital, attacked the airport and main port, and threatened a civil war unless the prime minister steps down. Last week, Henry was unable to return home from a diplomatic trip to Kenya. With the Port-au-Prince airport under attack, he flew instead to Puerto Rico.

“The government I lead cannot remain indifferent to this situation,” Henry said in the address, released on social media. “Haiti needs peace, stability, sustainable development and to rebuild its democratic institutions. I urge Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can to restore peace and stability as quickly as possible for the good of the country.”

Haitians shot dead in street and there’s no one to take the corpses away

As the violence escalated over the past week, Henry faced intense pressure from the international community — and from Haitians — to step aside to make way for a new transitional government.

For the past year, U.S. officials have pressed the 74-year-old neurosurgeon to work with a transitional council to help bring elections, a senior State Department official told The Washington Post last week, but Henry had shown an “unwillingness to cede real power.”

Last week, as the violence in Haiti became “untenable,” the United States and the Caribbean Community proposed an expedited transition of power in which a transitional council would appoint an interim prime minister and Henry would step down, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under State Department rules.

The Haitian presidency has been vacant since the still-unsolved 2021 assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse, and the National Assembly has been empty since the last lawmakers’ terms expired last year.

Henry was appointed by Moïse days before his assassination but had not yet been sworn in. In the aftermath of the killing, the Core Group, an informal bloc of envoys from countries including the United States, backed him to lead Haiti. But as the crisis there deepened last week, the U.S. State Department reversed support and asked Henry to consider stepping down to make way for a transitional government.

Ali told reporters that Henry has been in “constant contact” with Caribbean Community leaders and had assured them “in his actions and his words of his selfless intent … to see Haiti succeed.”

Ali said the transitional presidential council will operate by majority vote and be made up of seven voting members and two nonvoting members. The latter group will include one member of civil society and another of the interfaith community.

It will exclude anyone under indictment or U.N. sanctions, or anyone who has been convicted of a crime. Those who plan to run in the next election or oppose the U.N.-backed multinational security mission to Haiti will also be barred from participating.

That includes Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer who is Haiti’s most powerful gang leader. The United Nations imposed sanctions on him in 2022.

It also includes Guy Philippe, the former rebel leader who led the 2004 uprising that ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Freed last year from a U.S. prison, where he was serving time on drug-related money laundering conspiracy charges, Philippe returned to Haiti in November. He has since railed against the U.N.-backed mission and sought to drum up support for a “revolution” to chase Henry from office.

Ali did not lay out a timetable for the establishment of the transitional presidential council or elections.

“Haitian participants must now fully implement their commitments,” he told reporters. “It is incumbent upon all Haitians to give the agreement a chance to work, and we implore all parties, all stakeholders, all Haitians to be patient.”

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