Gangs battle to wrest control of Port-au-Prince from an absent Prime Minister, leaving Haitians in harm’s way. Check back here for continuing developments.

Latest updates

  • Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, locked out of his country by a gang uprising, promised early Tuesday to resign, along with his government, as soon as a transitional council can take control. Mr. Henry spoke from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where his chances of returning home are slim amid the chaos in Port-au-Prince.
  • A multinational summit in Jamaica is close to finalizing a plan to bring stability to Haiti, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, adding Canada would support a “Haitian-led solution” to the crisis – a point he underscored in talks late Monday with Mr. Henry, according to a PMO readout of their conversation.
  • One of the transitional council’s tasks will be to get Haiti back on track for national elections, which it has not had in seven years. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged Haitian and Caribbean leaders in their plan for a “presidential college” to make peaceful transitions of power possible.

Where is Haiti and what is happening there?

Haiti is the oldest independent republic in the Caribbean, the product of a Black revolution against French colonialism and slavery in the early 19th century. Poverty, foreign interventions, coups and the 2010 earthquake have left it with fragile state institutions, but things have been more fraught since 2021, when foreign mercenaries assassinated then-president Jovenel Moïse.

Haiti has no standing army, and its underfunded National Police – whose former chief was indicted in the Moïse plot – is ill-equipped to fight the armed gangs that have seized control of much of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

The most recent fighting started on Feb. 29, when Haiti’s Prime Minister arrived in Kenya to salvage a planned deployment of 1,000 police officers. Gangs in Port-au-Prince barricaded streets, burned police stations, broke thousands of people out of Haiti’s two biggest prisons and vowed to capture the national police chief and government ministers. With the capital’s main port shut down, the poorest Haitians are at risk of going hungry as supplies of food and medicine run out.

Key people and groups to know in Haiti


Mr. Henry had been Prime Minister for only a week when Mr. Moïse, the man who appointed him, was killed in 2021. Mr. Henry quickly seized de facto leadership of the country, promising to eventually hold elections. But when he failed to do so last year – citing the dangers of gang violence – it stoked more public anger and calls for his resignation, which boiled over during his political visit to Kenya. On March 11, hoping to restore order, he said he would step down as soon as a transitional presidential council could take charge. For now, he remains in Puerto Rico.


As leader of the G9 gang federation, Mr. Chérizier is one of the most influential and feared figures in the Haitian underworld, though he likens himself more to revolutionary figures such as Che Guevara. He took responsibility for the Feb. 29 uprising, saying its objective was to stop Mr. Henry from returning to power. “With our guns and with the Haitian people, we will free the country,” he said in a video statement.


The body taking over from Mr. Henry will have seven voting members from across Haiti’s political parties and business community, and two non-voting observers, said Irfaan Ali, Guyana’s President and chair of the Caribbean trade bloc Caricom. The council will have some of the powers the Haitian president normally has, such as appointing an interim prime minister and cabinet. The hope is to set up a provisional electoral council to organize Haiti’s first elections since 2016.


This Haitian centre-left party was founded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the last democratically elected president of Haiti, who was overthrown in a 2004 coup. Fanmi Lavalas will appoint a member to the transitional council.


The man who briefly served as Haiti’s prime minister after the Moïse assassination is now one of those accused in the plot, though he says the indictment is politically motivated. His party, Committed to Development (EDE), is one of those to be represented on the transitional council.


This ex-senator left Fanmi Lavalas to found the Pitit Dessalines party, which was involved in the anti-Henry protests and is now likely to have a stake in the council replacing Mr. Henry.


A former police chief, Mr. Philippe led an attempted coup in 2004 and ran unsuccessfully for political office before serving a prison sentence in the United States on money-laundering charges. Since his deportation back to Haiti last year, he has travelled the country rallying against Mr. Henry’s government and pledging to go back into politics.

What the U.S., Canada and allies are doing

Military intervention in Haiti has a long, messy and rarely successful history, and many Haitian diasporas are not keen to see their countries take that step. Delegates from around the world – including Canada’s UN ambassador, Bob Rae – are meeting in Jamaica on March 11 to debate how to respond to the Haiti crisis. In the meantime, here’s what various countries have done already.


Last year, the United Nations set out a framework for an international force in Haiti that it would finance and facilitate, but not lead. Instead, Kenya will send 1,000 troops and lead thousands more from participating countries including Benin, Bangladesh, Chad and Barbados.


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica on March 11 to discuss finding a way to ease the growing violence. The closed-door meeting did not include Mr. Henry, who has been locked out of Haiti while travelling abroad. Washington and Ottawa have pledged up to $200-million and $59-million, respectively, to the international force in Haiti. The U.S. military flew in reinforcements to its Port-au-Prince embassy on March 10, allowing nonessential personnel to leave.


The Caribbean regional trade bloc has spent months encouraging Haiti’s political factions to form a transitional unity government, without success.


Haiti’s neighbour – which has cracked down hard on Haitian migrants in recent years– says it will not join the international force or allow Haitian refugee camps on Dominican soil. President Luis Abinader also refuses to let Mr. Henry into the country.

The Globe and Mail, March 11, 2024