Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry Photo by: AFP/Richard Pierrin

The U.S. has reportedly asked Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to commit to a transitional government and resign from his post, as the embattled official struggles to garner domestic and international support as the country further descends into chaos.

According to a report by the Miami Herald, the request -and a change of tack, considering the country until recently had pushed back against calls for his resignation- came as officials increasingly consider the prospect of a total collapse in the country.

Henry landed in Puerto Rico on Tuesday after being off the radar for days following a trip to Kenya, where he sought to make progress on a plan for the deployment of a UN backed-multinational force aimed at restoring the government's control of the country, mostly lost to gangs.

The outlet reported that Henry secretly spent the weekend in the U.S., "negotiating a stealth return home with diplomats from the neighboring Dominican Republic." The official has not been able to land directly in Port-au-Prince, where gangs have attacked the airport, and chose the U.S. territory after being denied entry to the country that comprises the other part of the Hispaniola island.

The leader of a top gang, Jimmy "Barbecue Chérizier, vowed to continue attacking Haiti's institutions until Henry steps down. "If Ariel Henry doesn't resign, if the international community continues to support him, we'll be heading straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide," Cherizier, a former police officer who is under UN sanctions for human rights abuses, told reporters in the capital.

Near the Haiti airport AFP

"Either Haiti becomes a paradise or a hell for all of us. It's out of the question for a small group of rich people living in big hotels to decide the fate of people living in working-class neighborhoods," he added.

As the latest crisis in the violence-wracked Caribbean nation spiraled, gunfire shut down some flights at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti's capital. It was the latest of a series of high profile attacks that also included a police academy and two of the country's two largest prisons, which led to the freeing of thousands of inmates.

At least 15,000 people have recently evacuated the worst-hit parts of the capital, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In power since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, Henry was due to step down in February but instead agreed to a power-sharing deal with the opposition until new elections are held.

Henry has repeatedly pledged to hold elections but said that gang violence and generalized instability have prevented him from doing so. Last week, Caribbean leaders gathered at Caricom said that he agreed to hold general elections by mid-2025.

Violence escalated following the announcement. In his absence, acting Prime Minister Michel Patrick Boisvert declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfew. The UN Security Council scheduled a closed-door meeting on the issue for Wednesday.

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