World

Powerful Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier has been out in the streets of Port-au-Prince calling for the international community to “give a Haiti a chance” – as he drew a rifle and fired his pistol in a show of force.

Cherizier, a former police officer who is known as Barbecue among Haiti’s people, made the comments as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Caribbean leaders met in Jamaica to push for a solution to the violent crisis in the country.

Haiti entered a state of emergency on 3 March after Cherizier called for criminal groups to unite and overthrow the country’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Attacks by powerful gangs on key government targets had begun on 29 February across Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, with gunmen having burned police stations, closed the main international airports and raided the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing 4,000 inmates.

Mr Blinken met with Caribbean leaders, including Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali, to discuss a framework for a political transition to help end the crisis on Monday.

Hours later Mr Henry announced he will resign as prime minister once a transitional presidential council is created and an interim premier is named.

The 74-year-old prime minister has held the unelected role since the 2021 assassination of the country’s most recent president.

More on Haiti

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Cherizier has called on world leaders to give Haiti a chance. Pic: AP

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A demonstrator holds up a Haitian flag during protests demanding the resignation of the prime minister earlier this month. Pic: AP

Cherizier, considered Haiti’s most powerful gang leader, drew a rifle and fired three shots from a pistol as he spoke to journalists in Port-au-Prince.

He said: “Today, we are taking the occasion to tell the international community to give Haiti a chance. Because what is happening in Haiti now, we Haitians have to decide who is going to lead the country and what model of government we want. We are going to figure out how to get Haiti out of the misery it is in now.”

Cherizier also said that if the international community continues down its current path it will “plunge Haiti into further chaos”.

He added: “Today it’s clear that the people who live in the shanty towns are the ones who know what they are going through. It is the Haitian people who are going to take their destiny into their own hands. Haitian people will pick the person to govern them.”

Read more:
The moment I met the gang boss leading violent uprising
The people fleeing gang rule in Haiti

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Cherizier adjusts his weapon while speaking to journalists

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Protesters demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry last week. Pic: AP

Mr Blinken announced after the meeting that the US would provide an additional $100m (£78m) to finance the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti.

He also announced another £33m (£26m) in humanitarian aid and the creation of a joint proposal agreed on by Caribbean leaders and “all of the Haitian stakeholders to expedite a political transition” and create a “presidential college”.

He did not identify the “concrete steps” the college would take to meet the needs of Haitian people and enable the pending deployment of the multinational force led by Kenya.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by US Ambassador to Jamaica, Noah Nickolas Perry, as he arrived in Kingston for the meeting

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Ariel Henry, seen in Kenya on 1 March, will step down as Haiti’s prime minister. Pic: AP

Mr Henry, who had been facing calls to resign or agree to a transitional council, did not attend the meeting.

The Haitian prime minister travelled to Kenya late last month to secure its leadership of a United Nations-backed international security mission to help police fight armed gangs, but a drastic escalation of violence in Port-au-Prince during his absence left him stranded in the US territory of Puerto Rico.

He remains there and will not return to Haiti until the security situation improves in the country, a US official has said.

Scores of people have been killed and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighbourhoods raided by gangs during the crisis in the country.

Food and water are dwindling as stores selling goods to impoverished Haitians are running out of supplies.

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