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Haiti: United States evacuates members of its embassy as crisis worsens

International organizations warn of thousands of displaced people and problems accessing basic supplies.

Agentes de la policía haitiana se despliegan en Puerto Príncipe, Haití, el 9 de marzo de 2024.

(Fuerzas de seguridad en Haití / Clarens Siffroy - AFP)

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The U.S. military evacuated non-essential personnel from the embassy in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince Sunday. "The U.S. Embassy in Haiti remains open," the delegation said in a statement, in which it also explained that the decision was made because the growing violence in recent weeks had reached close proximity to the U.S. Embassy and the airport, an escape route in case the clashes between street gangs and security forces escalate even further.

Every evacuee in the recent operation is American and a member of the consular team, according to official sources. The embassy had requested a week ago that all American citizens leave the country "as soon as possible by commercial or other privately available transportation options."

American authorities are closely monitoring the conflict in the Caribbean nation, which has only worsened. According to information from The Miami Herald, the State Department sees the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry as a way to solve the crisis. Further, the U.S. has been pressuring him for months to offer his resignation, especially after his last attempt to change the date of the presidential elections.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Haitian prime minister, who is in exile in Puerto Rico, last Thursday. During the call, Blinken supported the creation of a presidential college that would guarantee "free and fair" elections.

‘A city under siege’

In just one week, some 15,000 Haitians have left their homes in search of safer areas within the country itself, according to the International Organization for Migration. Across the country, the total is more than 360,000 internally displaced people. According to some reports, some of them are even seeking refuge inside public buildings. This total has grown 15% since the beginning of the year.

"They are living in fear, and every day, every hour this situation carries on, the trauma gets worse," Philippe Branchat, head of the United Nations migration agency in Haiti, said Saturday. He also assured:

Insecurity is growing at the national level: violence in Artibonite, roadblocks in Cap Haitien, and fuel shortages in the South. People living in the capital are locked in, they have nowhere to go. People fleeing cannot reach family members and friends in the rest of the country to find shelter. The capital is surrounded by armed groups and danger. It is a city under siege.

The agency also warns of poor sanitary conditions, which include a lack of supplies such as water and medicine. The situation has been made even worse, he says, by the gangs’ advance on hospitals: "Some hospitals have been run over by gangs and had to evacuate staff and patients, including newborns."

The NGO Mercy Corps warned, as reported by AFP, that the closure of the country's most important airport and port, added to "the little aid Haiti is currently receiving," will further aggravate the crisis: "Haiti will go hungry soon."

Added to this are attacks on prisons and some of the most important public institutions, such as the National Palace.

Ariel Henry

Meanwhile, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry is out of the country, with no clear path back. A possible way for him to at least get closer was closed this Saturday, when the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, assured that "he is not welcome," as reported by DW.

Henry appeared Tuesday in Puerto Rico, after several days without revealing his whereabouts. He has remained there ever since. Previously, the prime minister who succeeded Jovenel Moïse following his assassination had landed in Kenya to reach an agreement to mitigate the security crisis.

When he was there, coordinating the creation of an international military and police force, gang coalition leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier demanded his resignation. He then warned that if he did not step down and "if the international community continues to support him," there would be a civil war that would lead to genocide.

Neighbors summit

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a bloc of Caribbean nations, will meet Monday to discuss possible ways out of the crisis. Envoys from the United States, France, Canada and the United Nations will also participate in the meeting. Henry's attendance, however, is unknown. Haiti has been a member of CARICOM since 2001.

In his recent conversation with the Haitian prime minister, Blinken urged him to collaborate with CARICOM, "in the interest of restoring peace and stability" and "so the Haitian people can resume their daily lives free from violence and despair."

"Whilst we are making considerable progress the stakeholders are not yet where they need to be," said Guyanese President and CARICOM Chairman Mohammed Irfaan Ali on Friday ahead of the meeting.