Abduction of American and Canadian missionaries highlights increasing lawlessness in Caribbean nation.
A notorious gang leader in Haiti has called for the United Nations and the United States to break ties with the country’s government in order to help “liberate Haiti”.
Jimmy Cherizier, known as “Barbecue”, the leader of the G9 Family and Allies, a federation of nine violent gangs that control much of Port-au-Prince, issued the appeal during a news conference on Wednesday in La Saline, one of the capital’s poorest areas.
“We take this opportunity to invite the United Nations in general and the so-called friendly countries of Haiti, in particular the United States of America, to register in this page of history as loyal allies who want the well-being of the Haitian people by divorcing the status quo,” Cherizier said.
The G9 controls entire sections of the capital and have been accused of assassination and mass killings, including the murder of infants. Cherizier has roundly denied responsibility for the crimes.
The grouping of gangs is also accused of burning neighbourhoods to the ground forcing thousands to flee, and of demanding extortion payments from businesses. Those who do not comply see their businesses looted or the owners killed.
Insecurity in Haiti, which was already experiencing economic and political crises, has spiralled since President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July.
Cherizier, who has positioned himself as a voice of the people, even as his gangs are accused of adding to the country’s woes, has repeatedly called for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, blaming him for much of the unrest.
The gang leader has accused Henry of taking part in the assassination of Moise after mobile phone calls between Henry and Joseph Felix Badio, one of the prime suspects in the killing, became public. The calls were made on the night of the assassination.
Henry has said he does not remember the calls while maintaining he spoke to many people that night. Badio’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Gangs under Cherizier’s control, meanwhile, have been accused of causing significant fuel shortages by sealing off access to the country’s main port in the capital. The shortages have caused outbursts of violence near gas stations and a general strike by workers unions.
He had previously said he would assure the safe passage of fuel if Henry resigned.
His latest comments come as the US continues to struggle to negotiate the release of 17 members of a missionary group from the US.
The missionaries were abducted while leaving an orphanage outside of Port au Prince in October. Wilson Joseph, the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, has threatened to kill the group, which includes five children if a ransom of $1 million per member is not paid.
The 400 Mawozo gang is a rival of the G9 Family and Allies.