Haiti’s normally busy streets were quiet on Tuesday as days-long fuel shortages have left residents with few transport options and forced some businesses to close.
The petrol shortages and blockades came following a devastating earthquake, the assassination of the president, and a wave of gang kidnappings, including the abduction earlier this month of a group of Canadian and US missionaries.
A leader of the so-called “G9” coalition of gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, said in a radio interview on Monday night that he would ensure the safe passage of fuel trucks if Henry were to leave office.
“The areas under the control of the G9 are blocked for one reason only: we demand the resignation of Ariel Henry,” Cherizier told Haiti’s Radio Mega.
“If Ariel Henry resigns at 8:00am, at 8:05am, we will unblock the road and all the trucks will be able to go through to get fuel.”
A spokesperson for Henry’s office did not respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.
Cherizier’s statements show how gangs have taken on an increasingly political role following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
Cherizier has said Henry should “answer questions” linking him to Moise’s murder. Henry has denied any involvement.
Elections had originally been scheduled for November but were suspended after Henry last month dismissed the council that organises elections, which critics had accused of being biased in favour of Moise. Henry has promised to appoint a new non-partisan council that will set a new date.
A video circulating on WhatsApp bearing the logo of Haiti’s foreign aid bureau, which oversees fuel procurement, said the country has 150,000 barrels of diesel and 50,000 barrels of petrol at different terminals. Another 50,000 barrels of petrol will arrive on Wednesday, according to the video.
A total of 100,000 barrels of diesel and petrol would supply Haiti’s fuel needs for five to seven days, Marc Andre Deriphonse, head of the country’s service station owners’ association told Reuters.
Some of the country’s mobile phone networks have suffered service declines as fuel to run cell tower equipment ran short.
With an unreliable electrical system, petrol in Haiti is widely used to run generators needed to maintain basic services, such as hospitals.
United Nations children’s agency UNICEF on Sunday said it had negotiated fuel deliveries to Haitian hospitals but that the provider later refused to make the deliveries, citing security conditions.
Transportation industry leaders have called for strikes to protest the wave of kidnappings, which have disproportionately affected truck drivers and public transport workers.