Blinken joins urgent meeting on Haiti

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend an urgent meeting with Caribbean leaders as Haiti's violent crisis grows.



March 11, 2024 - 2:28 PM

Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane, Monday, March 11, 2024, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Kingston, Jamaica for emergency talks with Caribbean leaders on Haiti's crisis. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP) Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet Monday with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica as part of an urgent push to solve Haiti’s spiraling crisis, while pressure grows on Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign or agree to a transitional council.

It was not clear if Henry, locked out of his own country after surging violence at home, would attend the closed-door meeting. It was organized by members of a regional trade bloc known as Caricom who for months have pressed for a transitional government in Haiti as protests demanded Henry’s resignation.

“The international community must work together with Haitians towards a peaceful political transition,” U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Nichols will attend the meeting.

But concerns remain that a long-awaited solution might not be found.

“Whilst we are making considerable progress, the stakeholders are not yet where they need to be,” Caricom said in a statement Friday announcing the urgent meeting in Jamaica.

Attacks by powerful gangs on key government targets began Feb. 29 across Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. Gunmen have burned police stations, closed the main international airports and raided the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Scores of people have been killed, and more than 15,000 people are homeless after fleeing neighborhoods raided by gangs. Food and water are dwindling as stands and stores selling to impoverished Haitians run out of goods. The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

Henry landed in Puerto Rico last week after being denied entry into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

When the attacks began, Henry was in Kenya pushing for the U.N.-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country that has been delayed by a court ruling.

A growing number of people are demanding the resignation of Henry, who has not made any public comment since the attacks began.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday urged Haiti’s gangs “to immediately cease their destabilizing actions” including sexual violence and the recruitment of children, and said it expects that a multinational force will deploy as soon as possible to help end the violence. It urged the international community to support the Haitian National Police’s capacity by backing the force’s deployment.

Council members also expressed concern at the limited political progress and urged all political actors to allow free and fair legislative and presidential elections.