Haiti Belatedly Creates ‘Presidential Transition Council’ as Gang Chaos Continues

People walk past burning tires during a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-
AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph

Haiti finally announced the membership of its “presidential transition council” on Tuesday, taking an important step toward removing unelected and wildly unpopular Prime Minister Ariel Henry from power and possibly ending the massive gangster insurrection that has plagued the country since February.

The transitional council was formally established on Friday after weeks of delay. The seven voting members and two non-voting members were announced on Tuesday, as listed by Reuters:

The voting members are former central bank governor Fritz Alphonse Jean, former ambassador to the Dominican Republic Smith Augustin, barrister Emmanuel Vertilaire, former senate president Edgard Leblanc, ex-senator Louis Gerald Gilles, businessman Laurent Saint-Cyr and Leslie Voltaire, a former diplomat.

The non-voting observers are evangelical pastor Frinel Joseph and Regine Abraham, who once worked for the World Bank and the country’s environment ministry.

Notably absent from the roster are leaders of the gangs and the slightly more mainstream political leaders seen as friendly to them, such as former senator Guy Philippe.

The decree that established the council on Friday did not specify when it would meet to select a new prime minister and other top officials, and that detail was also not divulged on Tuesday. The council was mandated to put a new president in office by February 2026, but the decree did not say when elections might be held.

The decree gave Henry authority to make the “necessary arrangements” for the council and supervise its meetings. It also stipulated that Henry’s “agreement” was necessary for any decisions the council makes.

One of the few firm details in the Friday decree was that the council will meet in the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. The palace has been attacked by rampaging gangs several times since the insurrection began in February, so maintaining security is expected to be difficult.

One reason the formation of the council was delayed for months was that gang leaders kept threatening to kill prospective members and their families.


Some critics also suspect Henry of dragging his heels on putting the council together so he can remain in office for as long as possible. Henry has scuttled every effort to hold elections since he took power following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse nearly three years ago. The most cynical of his critics expect Henry to find some excuse to veto any decision the council makes to replace him.

The newly-appointed transitional council members immediately complained that Henry’s government was trying to make “major modifications” that could delay the process of appointing his replacement.

The Haitian public did not seem universally enthusiastic about the announcement of the transitional council, possibly because they view its membership as tiresome establishment figures or they think Henry will have undue influence over its proceedings. A group of protesters on Thursday attempted to prevent the printing of the state bulletin that announced the transitional council decree.

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The gangs responded to the decree with a flurry of gunfire, killing a Haitian police officer while he was visiting his relatives.

On Monday, a coalition of nine Haitian civil society groups asked for the decree establishing the transitional council to be withdrawn because they felt it did not meet all of the conditions laid out by the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for the transition process in February.

CARICOM itself welcomed the announcement of the transitional council and hoped it could “put Haiti back on the road to dignity, democratic legitimacy, stability, and sovereignty.”

Another expression of support came from the Biden administration, which released $60 million in funding for a multinational police force in Haiti within minutes of the transitional council announcement on Friday.

President Joe Biden invoked a little-known presidential authority established in a 1961 law to circumvent Congress for the Haiti funding. He has used the same loophole to bypass Congress when sending military equipment to Ukraine and previously used it to send $10 million in weapons and ammunition to Haiti’s paramilitary National Police.

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“The United States is surging support for the Haitian security forces to bolster their capabilities as they fight to defend their country,” declared State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Omitted from the announcement is the fact that there is no multinational police force in Haiti. Kenya long ago offered to send a handful of officers to spearhead the effort, but Kenyan courts blocked the plan as unconstitutional. Ariel Henry was in Kenya attempting to rally support for intervention when the gangland insurrection broke out and he has been exiled to Puerto Rico ever since.

Several Haiti experts told Reuters it was “utopian” to expect the transitional council to “rapidly” establish a new government.

“Perhaps a time frame ought to have been determined. In the meantime, Mr. Ariel Henry remains prime minister. As it stands there is no guarantee the members already chosen will be retained, as no verifications have been carried out in this respect,” said Port-au-Prince lawyer Camille Fievre.


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