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Ariel Henry resigns as prime minister of Haiti, paving the way for a new government to take power

The country has been wracked by gang violence that killed or injured more than 2,500 people.
Michel Patrick Boisvert, center, has been named interim prime minister of Haiti.
Posted at 12:35 PM, Apr 25, 2024

Ariel Henry resigned Thursday as prime minister of Haiti, leaving the way clear for a new government to be formed in the Caribbean country, which has been wracked by gang violence that killed or injured more than 2,500 people from January to March.

Henry presented his resignation in a letter signed in Los Angeles, dated April 24, and released on Thursday by his office on the same day that a council tasked with choosing a new prime minister and Cabinet for Haiti was sworn in.

Henry’s remaining Cabinet meanwhile chose Economy and Finance Minister Michel Patrick Boisvert as the interim prime minister. It was not immediately clear when the transitional council would select its own interim prime minister.

Addressing a crowded and sweaty room in the prime minister's office, Boisvert said that Haiti's crisis had gone on too long and that the country now found itself at a crossroads. The members of the transitional council stood behind him, as well as the country's top police and military officials.

“After two long months of debate ... a solution has been found,” Boisvert said. “Today is an important day in the life of our dear republic.”

He called the transitional council a “Haitian solution” and directing his remarks toward them, Boisvert wished them success, adding “I believe the determination is there.”

After the speeches, the soft clink of glasses echoed in the room as attendees served champagne flutes toasted with a somber “To Haiti.”

The council was installed earlier Thursday, more than a month after Caribbean leaders announced its creation following an emergency meeting to tackle Haiti’s spiraling crisis. Gunfire heard as the council was sworn in at the National Palace prompted worried looks.

The nine-member council, of which seven have voting powers, is also expected to help set the agenda of a new Cabinet. It will also appoint a provisional electoral commission, a requirement before elections can take place, and establish a national security council.

The council’s non-renewable mandate expires Feb. 7, 2026, at which date a new president is scheduled to be sworn in.

Smith Augustin, a voting member of the council, said that it was unclear if the council would decide to keep Boisvert on as interim prime minister or choose another. He said it would be discussed in the coming days. “The crisis is unsustainable,” he said.

Regine Abraham, a nonvoting member of the council, recalled the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, explaining that “that violence had a devastating impact.”

Abraham said that gangs now controlled most of Port-au-Prince, tens of thousands of the capital's residents have been displaced by violence and more than 900 schools in the capital have been forced to close.

“The population of Port-au-Prince has literally been taken hostage,” she said.

Gangs launched coordinated attacks that began on Feb. 29 in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas. They burned police stations and hospitals, opened fire on the main international airport that has remained closed since early March and stormed Haiti’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates. Gangs also have severed access to Haiti’s biggest port.

The onslaught began while Prime Minister Henry was on an official visit to Kenya to push for a U.N.-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country. He remains locked out of Haiti.

“Port-au-Prince is now almost completely sealed off because of air, sea and land blockades,” Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s director, said earlier this week.

The international community has urged the council to prioritize Haiti’s widespread insecurity. Even before the attacks began, gangs already controlled 80% of Port-au-Prince. The number of people killed in early 2024 was up by more than 50% compared with the same period last year, according to a recent U.N. report.

“It is impossible to overstate the increase in gang activity across Port-au-Prince and beyond, the deterioration of the human rights situation and the deepening of the humanitarian crisis,” María Isabel Salvador, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, said at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday.

Also in attendance at Boisvert's swearing in Thursday was Dennis Haskins, the newly installed U.S. ambassador. He said Thursday’s events were an important step for Haiti.

“In crisis, the Haitians are able to do tremendous things, so we’re here to help them,” Haskins said. “We won’t be the solution but hopefully we will be part of helping those finding the solution.”

As part of that, he said the U.S. government was working to enforce export controls on weapons, many of which have found their way to Haiti, fueling the violence.

“The fact that many of the arms that come here are from the United States is indisputable and that has a direct impact,” Haskins said. “It is something we recognize is a contributing factor to instability.”

Nearly 100,000 people have fled the capital in search of safer cities and towns since the attacks began. Tens of thousands of others left homeless after gangs torched their homes are now living in crowded, makeshift shelters across Port-au-Prince that only have one or two toilets for hundreds of residents.

At the United Nations Thursday, World Food Program Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau said Haiti is suffering from a security, political and humanitarian crisis that is causing acute food insecurity for some 5 million people, or about half the population. The U.N. defines that as “when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger.”

“The situation is dramatic,” Skau told reporters. “Devastating crisis, a massive humanitarian impact, the worst humanitarian situation in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.”

Rachel Pierre, a 39-year-old mother of four children, living in one of the capital's makeshift shelters, said “Although I’m physically here, it feels like I’m dead.”

“There is no food or water. Sometimes I have nothing to give the kids,” she said as her 14-month-old suckled on her deflated breast.

Many Haitians are angry and exhausted at what their lives have become and blame gangs for their situation.

“They’re the ones who sent us here,” said Chesnel Joseph, a 46-year-old math teacher whose school closed because of the violence and who has become the shelter’s informal director. “They mistreat us. They kill us. They burn our homes.”