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Blinken will attend an urgent meeting with Caribbean leaders as Haiti's violent crisis grows

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet Monday with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica as part of an urgent push to solve Haiti’s spiraling crisis

Monday 11 March 2024 15:50 GMT

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica on Monday as part of an urgent push to solve Haiti’s spiraling violent crisis, while pressure grows on Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign.

Henry is expected to attend the closed-door meeting organised by members of a regional trade bloc known as Caricom who for months have pressed for a transitional government in Haiti as violent protests demanded Henry’s resignation.

“Whilst we are making considerable progress, the stakeholders are not yet where they need to be,” Caricom said in a statement Friday announcing the urgent meeting in Jamaica.

Attacks by powerful gangs on key government targets began on February 29 across Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. Gunmen have burned police stations, closed the main international airports and raided the country's two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Scores of people have been killed, and more than 15,000 people are homeless after fleeing neighborhoods raided by gangs. Food and water are dwindling as stands and stores selling to impoverished Haitians run out of goods. The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

Henry remains locked out of his country, landing in Puerto Rico last week after being denied entry into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

When the attacks began, Henry was in Kenya pushing for the U.N.-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country that has been delayed by a court ruling.

A growing number of people are demanding the resignation of Henry, who has not issued any public comment since the attacks began.

At the weekend US military said that it had flown in forces to beef up security at the US Embassy in the country. The aircraft flew to the embassy compound, the US Southern Command said, meaning that the effort involved helicopters. It was careful to point out that “no Haitians were on board the military aircraft.” That seemed aimed at quashing any speculation that senior government officials might be leaving as the gang attacks in Haiti worsen.

The neighborhood around the embassy in the capital, Port-au-Prince, is largely controlled by gangs.

“This airlift of personnel into and out of the Embassy is consistent with our standard practice for Embassy security augmentation worldwide, and no Haitians were on board the military aircraft,” according to the Southcom statement.

In many cases, nonessential personnel can include the families of diplomats, but the embassy had already ordered departure for nonessential staff and all family members in July. The personnel ferried out of the embassy may have simply been rotating out, to be refreshed by new staff.

On Saturday, the office of Dominican President Luis Abinader issued a statement saying that “Henry is not welcome in the Dominican Republic for safety reasons.” The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has closed its land border.

The statement described the security situation in Haiti as “totally unsustainable” and said that it “poses a direct threat to the safety and stability of the Dominican Republic.” The statement predicted “the situation could deteriorate even further if a peacekeeping force is not implemented urgently to restore order.”

Caribbean leaders have called for an emergency meeting Monday in Jamaica on what they called Haiti‘s “dire” situation. They have invited the United States, France, Canada, the United Nations and Brazil to the meeting.

Henry, a neurosurgeon, was appointed as Haiti‘s prime minister after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

It was unclear whether Henry would be in Jamaica for the CARICOM meeting.

The unrelenting gang attacks have paralyzed the country for more than a week and left it with dwindling supplies of basic goods. Haitian officials extended a state of emergency and nightly curfew as gangs continued to attack key state institutions.

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