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IN BRIEF: Haiti grappling with rioting gangs, threat of civil war

On March 1, armed gangs took advantage of Prime Minister Henry's absence in the country to attack police stations and the Port-au-Prince international airport

HAVANA, March 11. /TASS/. Haiti has been gripped by unrest for 10 days now, as armed gangs, which already control more than 80% of capital city Port-au-Prince, have rebelled against the island’s legitimate government. The situation will be the focus of the Caribbean Community meeting that’s scheduled for March 11.

The political opposition also supports the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. However, it proposes that police chief Guy Philippe be temporarily put in charge of the country.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 40% of its more than 10 million people have no access to clean water and need humanitarian support, according to the UN.

TASS has put together some highlight about the crisis in Haiti.

What is happening

- On March 1, armed gangs took advantage of Prime Minister Henry's absence in the country to attack police stations and the Port-au-Prince international airport. Henry, who is visiting Kenya, has arranged for a peacekeeping force to be sent from there to the island.

- On March 3, gangs attacked the main prison in Port-au-Prince and released several hundred prisoners. At least 12 people were killed during the escape.

- The Haitian leadership has decided to introduce a state of emergency and curfew in Port-au-Prince. Due to the riots and clashes between gangs and law enforcement officers, the airport and the main port are closed. A lot of shooting is taking place in the neighborhood where government offices are located.

- Henry's plane returning via the US was unable to land at the Port-au-Prince airport due to gunfire. As a result, it had to land in Puerto Rico (US territory).

Causes of the escalation

- A serious political crisis in the Caribbean country erupted after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in an attack on his residence on July 7, 2021.

- In late August 2021, Henry and representatives of opposition parties signed an agreement to postpone presidential and parliamentary elections from November 2021 until the end of 2022. The elections then were moved back even further.

- Prior to the vote, a transition period has been introduced, during which the country is to be run by a government of national unity that is headed by a prime minister.

Gang influence

- The leader of one of Haiti's powerful gangs, Jimmy Cherizier, has threatened civil war if Henry remains in office.

- According to Telesur television, gangs now control more than 80% of the capital city while they are also consolidating in the other areas of the country.

Plan of the opposition

- The opposition plans to oust incumbent Prime Minister Ariel Henry and set up a transitional council for 18 months.

- It is thought that the council with ensure the free movement of citizens, goods and services, as well as appoint the prime minister and put together a consensus-based cabinet.

- As its head, the plan is to install former rebel leader and Haiti police chief Guy Philippe, who was heavily involved in the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Philippe ran for president in 2005, but collected less than 1% of the vote.

International reaction

- Diplomats from the US and Germany have already left the island. US embassy staff was evacuated by the US military.

- The Caribbean Community will hold a meeting of partner nations on the situation in Haiti in Jamaica on March 11.

- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Haitian Prime Minister Henry and urged him to expedite the holding of free elections on the island.