‘The nation will either become paradise or hell’

March 6th, 2024

A Haitian gang leader warned of ‘civil war and genocide’ if the country’s prime minister Ariel Henry does not step down



The comments from Jimmy Cherizier, known as ‘Barbecue,’ came as Henry appeared to be struggling to fly home, with the main airport under attack and neighbouring Dominican Republic refusing permission for him to land.



Henry, who was supposed to step down last month was out of the country last week when armed criminal gangs, who control large swathes of Haiti, launched a coordinated assault to oust him, leading to some calling Haiti a ‘failed state’.



‘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, told reporters in the capital.



‘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 neighbourhoods,’ the 46-year-old added.



Cherizier, who is under UN sanctions for human rights abuses and who denies his nickname has anything to do with burning people alive, has claimed responsibility for the latest surge in attacks in the nation long gripped by conflict.



Last year, more than 8,400 people were reported killed, injured or kidnapped, more than double the number reported in 2022.



The latest outbreak of violence, which over the weekend saw almost 4,000 inmates released from the country’s main prison, has led to Haiti being described as a ‘failed state’ by the US envoy to the country.



Dan Foote, who as the Biden envoy opposed calls for any American boots on the ground in Haiti, said a U.S.-led military intervention can no longer be avoided.



‘It’s an absolute necessity now,’ Foote said in an interview. ‘We’ve let this slide from worse to worse, all the while abdicating our responsibility to others. But nobody can argue that Haiti isn’t a failed state when the penitentiary gets emptied out.’



Henry was denied entry into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, according to the Dominican newsgroup CDN.



On Tuesday evening a spokesperson for the governor’s office in nearby Puerto Rico confirmed his plane had landed there, at least briefly.

‘I don’t know if he’s still in Puerto Rico,’ Sheila Anglero told AFP by telephone.



Jean Tholbert Alexis, an official from Henry’s government, said on X on Wednesday that the Dominican decision not to allow the prime minister’s plane to land was an unprecedented ‘diplomatic blunder.’ 



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.