The Haitian Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, denounced, Monday, January 3, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), an assassination attempt targeting him, during the national day celebrations organized on Saturday in the city of Gonaïves.
“We tried something against me, personally”, said the head of the Haitian government, who says he feels “In people’s sights”. Ariel Henry has been responsible for the management of current affairs since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse by an armed commando on July 7.
Clashes between police and armed groups erupted on Saturday during national day celebrations in Gonaïves, 150 kilometers north of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Under bursts of gunfire, Ariel Henry and the officials present were forced to hastily flee the town where, the 1is January 1804, Haiti’s declaration of independence had been signed. In photos sent to AFP by his office, a bullet impact is visible on the windshield of the Prime Minister’s armored vehicle.
Money in exchange for a visit without attack
At the end of December, groups of citizens and members of armed gangs in Gonaïves, Haiti’s third largest city, violently expressed their opposition to the Prime Minister’s arrival.
“I knew I was running this risk”, Ariel Henry confirmed. “We cannot accept that bandits from whatever background they may be, for basely pecuniary reasons, want to blackmail the State”, he added, adding that gang members have asked for money in exchange for an unattacked visit to Gonaïves.
The assassination six months ago of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his private residence amplified the deep political crisis in which the Caribbean country has been stuck for years. If several Haitian citizens, two Americans of Haitian origin and about fifteen Colombian nationals, presumed to be involved in the murder, have been imprisoned in the prison of Port-au-Prince since this summer, the investigation into the attack against the chief of the state shows no signs of progress. Due to lack of sufficient evidence, one of the suspects, arrested in October in Jamaica, will be returned to Colombia, Jamaican media reported on Saturday.
A request for international support
Without a functioning Parliament for two years and with a judiciary paralyzed by the lack of judges operating within the highest court of the country, Haiti is sinking into a crisis of governance which exacerbates already endemic poverty. The growing control of gangs on the national territory undermines the hopes of improving the living conditions of the population, victim of villainous kidnappings committed daily by armed gangs. At least 950 kidnappings were recorded in Haiti in 2021, according to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, an organization based in Port-au-Prince.
Two years after the departure of the last United Nations police officers from the country, the Prime Minister assures us that the national forces are able to restore security. “Until now, I have never asked for foreign troops”, Ariel Henry says, asking the international community for training support “And possibly in material”.
“With our men, with the police, we are going to get there, we have to get there” he concluded. Under-equipped in the face of gangs with an arsenal of war, the Haitian police face a lack of personnel, many agents having abandoned their posts to seek a better future abroad.
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Haitian prime minister says he was targeted by assassination attempt