The streets of Haiti were unusually quiet on Tuesday and gas stations remained dry as gangs blocked entry to ports that hold fuel stores and the country’s main gang leader demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel. Henry.
Multi-day fuel shortages have left Haitians with few transportation options and forced some businesses to close. Hospitals, which depend on diesel generators for electricity due to constant blackouts, can also shut down.
The situation put additional pressure on a population already struggling with a declining economy and a wave of gang kidnappings, including the kidnapping earlier this month of a group of Canadian and American missionaries.
Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, leader of the “G9” gang coalition in the metropolitan area of ââthe capital, Port-au-Prince, said in a radio interview Monday evening that he would ensure the safe passage of trucks – cisterns if Henry left office. .
âThe areas under the control of the G9 are blocked for one reason – we demand the resignation of Ariel Henry,â Cherizier said in an interview with Radio Mega d’Haiti.
“If Ariel Henry resigns at 8:00 am, at 8:05 am the road will be cleared and all the trucks can pass to get fuel.”
A spokesperson for Henry’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to contact Cherizier.
His statements show how the gangs assumed an increasingly political role after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Cherizier said Henry should “answer questions” linking him to Moise’s murder. Henry has denied any involvement.
Elections were originally scheduled for November, but were suspended after Henry last month rejected the council holding the election, which critics accused of being biased in favor of Moses. Henry has promised to appoint a non-partisan council that will set a new date.
The kidnappings have been in the headlines for months as Haitians from all walks of life face kidnappings by increasingly powerful gangs.
Missionaries traveling on a trip organized by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were kidnapped by a gang called 400 Mawozo who operate east of the capital and demand a ransom of $ 1 million for each person .
Christian Aid ministries on Tuesday called on people in a statement to remember both those “held hostage as well as those recovering from the abduction experience.”
The State Department said last week that the US government sent a “small team” to help with efforts to locate and release the missionaries.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the United States had deployed “a significant number of law enforcement and hostage recovery specialists” to Haiti.
‘THE WORST I HAVE SEEN’
Haiti’s foreign aid office BMPAD, which oversees the fuel supply, tweeted a video saying the country had 150,000 barrels of diesel and 50,000 barrels of gasoline, along with another 50,000. barrels of gasoline expected to arrive on Wednesday.
A total of 100,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline would supply Haiti’s fuel needs for five to seven years, said Marc AndrÃ© Deriponse, head of the country’s association of service station owners, ANAPROSS.
Companies have warned that they may have to shut down operations due to lack of fuel. Telecommunications companies have said some cell phone towers are no longer working.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said a motorcycle taxi driver waiting to pick up passengers outside of Port-au-Prince, when asked about fuel shortages. He refused to give his name.
Motorcycle riders attach gallon cans to their bikes in the hope of filling them with black market fuel. A gallon of gasoline on the street can now cost $ 20, compared to typical prices of around $ 2 at gas stations.
Transport industry leaders have called for strikes to protest the wave of kidnappings, which has disproportionately affected truck drivers and public transport workers.
The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said Sunday it had negotiated fuel deliveries to Haitian hospitals, but the supplier subsequently refused to make the deliveries, citing conditions of security.
At a police station near Port-au-Prince, two officers were unable to get to work due to a fuel shortage, according to a police official, who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak with reporters.
âMost of our vehicles have about a quarter of a tank,â he said.