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Emergency summit in Jamaica to address spiraling Haiti crisis

14 bodies found in Haiti capital suburb amid gang violence: AFP
Source: Video Screenshot

US, Canadian, French and Caribbean envoys were meeting Monday in Jamaica to address the spiraling instability in Haiti, where gang violence has crippled the capital and forced foreign diplomats to evacuate over the weekend.

Armed groups, which already control much of Port-au-Prince as well as roads leading to the rest of the country, have unleashed havoc in recent days as they try to oust Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

In power since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, Henry had been visiting Kenya, in search of support for a UN-backed security assistance mission, when the latest burst of violence broke out.

Unable to return to Haiti last week, he instead landed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, where he remained on Monday, according to a US official.

The CARICOM group of Caribbean nations has summoned its leaders as well as envoys from the United States, France, Canada and the United Nations to a meeting in Kingston, Jamaica to discuss the crisis.

Washington has sent its top diplomat Antony Blinken to the meeting, where he was to discuss a proposal “developed in partnership with CARICOM and Haitian stakeholders to expedite a political transition in Haiti,” the State Department said.

Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the current CARICOM chair, said talks to bring “stability and normalcy” to Haiti were ongoing, but that Haitian stakeholders “are not where they need to be.”

“Time is not on their side in agreeing to the way forward,” Ali warned in a social media video, describing reports out of Haiti as “dire.”

AFP reporters saw bodies lying in Port-au-Prince streets, and some 362,000 Haitians have been displaced from their homes, according to the International Organization for Migration.

– Diplomats flee –

The European Union said Monday all of its diplomatic personnel had been evacuated from Haiti, a day after the United States announced it had airlifted non-essential US staff from its embassy.

The German foreign ministry meanwhile said its ambassador had departed on Sunday for the Dominican Republic “due to the very tense security situation.”

United Nations staff are remaining in Haiti “to do everything they can to deliver assistance to people in need, despite the risks for their own safety,” the UN secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Police late Friday repelled gang attacks, including on the presidential palace, while several “bandits” were killed, said Lionel Lazarre of the Haitian police union.

The well-armed gangs recently have attacked key infrastructure, including two prisons, allowing most of the 3,800 inmates to escape.

Along with some ordinary Haitians, the gangs are seeking the resignation of Henry, who was due to leave office in February but instead agreed to a power-sharing deal with the opposition until new elections are held.

Washington has asked Henry to enact urgent political reforms, but has stopped short of calling for his immediate resignation.

The State Department said Monday that Blinken would discuss a proposal with CARICOM to “expedite a political transition in Haiti through the creation of a broad-based, independent presidential college,” without further details.

– Meaningful negotiations –

The UN Security Council gave its green light in October for a multinational policing mission led by Kenya, but that deployment has been stalled by Kenyan courts.

The council reiterated its support for the mission on Monday, while calling in a statement for all Haitian stakeholders to “engage constructively in meaningful negotiations” toward fresh elections.

Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region is under a month-long state of emergency, while a nighttime curfew is in effect until Monday, though it is unlikely overstretched police can enforce it.

Haiti’s airport remained closed while the main port — key for food imports — reported looting and suspended services Thursday.

Security forces have since regained control of the port and boats have been able to offload some cargo, National Port Authority director Jocelin Villier said.

However he warned that moving the supplies out of the port remained a challenge due to security issues on the surrounding roads.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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