Haitian Gangs Force PM to Flee After Seizing Control of Government Event

Designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks during a ceremony at La Primature in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 20, 2021. - The ceremony comes as designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry prepared to replace interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, after the July 7 attack at Moïse's private home. (Photo by Valerie Baeriswyl …
VALERIE BAERISWYL/AFP via Getty Images

Haiti’s acting prime minister, Ariel Henry, was forced to flee an official government event commemorating one of Haiti’s founding fathers on Sunday after a local gang leader seized control of the ceremony, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported Tuesday.

An annual ceremony in Haiti commemorating Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the Caribbean island nation’s first emperor, was scheduled this year for October 16 in the Pont Rouge area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s national capital.

Prime Minister Henry and his security detail were prevented from arriving at the event’s planned location, however, when a Haitian criminal gang collective known as “G9” and its leader, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, opened fire on Henry’s SUV convoy as it approached the venue.

“A video of the incident shared on social media on Sunday showed several SUVs, believed to belong to Mr. Ariel and his security detail, leaving Pont Rouge as gunshots were heard in the background,” the Independent reported.

“Cherizier was later seen laying the floral wreath and paying his respects to Dessalines. He was seen wearing a white suit and shirt, which is Haiti’s dress code for officials on national holidays,” the newspaper detailed.

Several members of G9 were seen at the hijacked event on October 16 wearing T-shirts emblazoned with an image of former Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated under mysterious circumstances on July 7. The shirts were printed with the words, “Justice for Jovenel.”

Haitian police control the area next to a painting of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise next to his private residence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Mo‘se was assassinated after a group of unidentified people attacked his private residence, the country interim prime minister said in a statement, Mo‘se's wife, First Lady Martine Mo‘se, is hospitalized, interim Premier Claude Joseph said. (AP Photo / Joseph Odelyn)

Haitian police control the area next to a painting of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise next to his private residence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Moise was assassinated after a group of unidentified people attacked his private residence, the country interim prime minister said in a statement. (AP Photo / Joseph Odelyn)

“Cherizier has tried to fill in the power vacuum left by the assassination and had even called for a revolution in June,” according to the Independent. “The gang leader has also reportedly collaborated with Moïse’s Tèt Kale Party in the past.”

Haitian public prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude wrote to the judge presiding over the ongoing investigation into Jovenel Moïse’s killing on September 14. In a letter, Claude asked Judge Garry Orélien to charge Prime Minister Henry as a suspect. The prosecutor said there was enough evidence at the time to order the prime minister’s immediate indictment.

Claude cited telephone records as evidence showing Prime Minister Henry conducted two phone conversations with a key suspect in Moïse’s killing — former Haitian Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio — in the hours immediately following the president’s gruesome murder. Prime Minister Henry fired Claude within hours of learning that the prosecutor had moved to indict him.

Much about Moïse’s death remains unknown. Haitian police say a group of mercenaries, many of them Colombian nationals, were behind the attack. Authorities have also said they suspect a Haitian doctor with connections to the U.S. state of Florida may have ordered the hit as part of a plot to become Haiti’s next president.

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