World

Caribbean leaders meet Haiti’s prime minister following violent protests

Ariel Henry said calls for his removal are a power grab

A woman runs past burning tyres as people protest against Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry earlier in February (Odelyn Joseph/AP)
Haiti Protest A woman runs past burning tyres as people protest against Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry earlier in February (Odelyn Joseph/AP) (Odelyn Joseph/AP)

Caribbean leaders met embattled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Sunday to talk about his country’s unrelenting gang violence, with one top official noting that his continued presence as head of government remains a main stumbling block to progress.

Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell told The Associated Press that opposition leaders and other groups in Haiti oppose Mr Henry as prime minister, even as the regional trade bloc known as Caricom keeps trying to help change the country’s situation.

Mr Mitchell said the international community also questions how the country would function if Haiti’s prime minister resigns or is removed, adding that “there needs to be a political solution”.

In brief comments to the AP, Mr Henry said calls for his removal are a power grab, and that nothing will happen “unless we work together”.

Earlier this month, demonstrators across Haiti organised protests that turned violent as they demanded that Mr Henry resign.

Mr Mitchell spoke to the AP after meeting with Mr Henry and other Caribbean leaders behind closed doors in Guyana before a four-day Caricom summit in the South American country.

Officials including US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A Nichols are expected to attend.

Mr Mitchell said that Caribbean leaders were scheduled to meet with Ms Thomas-Greenfield on Monday morning.

“Haiti is the only topic. Nothing else, really,” he said.

In a statement on Sunday, Haiti’s government said Mr Henry would attend the Caricom summit, which will host talks about the participation of Caribbean countries to help boost a UN-backed deployment of Kenyan police officers to help fight gang violence.

Nations including Jamaica, the Bahamas, Belize, Burundi, Chad and Senegal have said they plan to send forces.

After the Caricom summit, officials said Mr Henry is scheduled to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to “finalise the modalities” of the deployment, which has been halted by a court order.

Mr Mitchell said the international community has pledged more than 100 million dollars (£78.9 million) for the mission to Haiti, with the US pledging another 200 million dollars, adding that the political situation remains problematic.

US and UN officials said in a recent statement that Ms Thomas-Greenfield “will continue to rally global support” while at the summit, and “reiterate the urgency of establishing a credible and inclusive path toward elections to enable the return to democratic order for the Haitian people”.