Caribbean leaders meet with Haiti's prime minister. Foreign force deployment is on the agenda

People walk past burning tires during a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Banks, schools and government agencies closed in Haitis northern and southern regions on Monday while protesters blocked main routes with blazing tires and paralyzed public transportation, according to local media reports. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph) (Odelyn Joseph, Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

GEORGETOWN – Caribbean leaders met with embattled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Sunday to talk about his country’s unrelenting gang violence, with one top official noting that his continued presence as head of government remains a main stumbling block to progress.

Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell told The Associated Press that opposition leaders and other groups in Haiti oppose Henry as prime minister, even as the regional trade bloc known as Caricom keeps trying to help change the country’s situation.

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Mitchell said the international community also questions how the country would function if Haiti’s prime minister resigns or is removed, adding that “there needs to be a political solution.”

In brief comments to the AP, Henry said that calls for his removal are a power grab, and that nothing will happen “unless we work together.”

Earlier this month, demonstrators across Haiti organized protests that turned violent as they demanded that Henry resign.

Mitchell spoke to the AP after meeting with Henry and other Caribbean leaders behind closed doors in Guyana before a four-day Caricom summit in the South American country. Officials including U.S. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols are expected to attend.

Mitchell said that Caribbean leaders were scheduled to meet with Thomas-Greenfield on Monday morning.

“Haiti is the only topic. Nothing else, really,” he said.

In a statement Sunday, Haiti’s government said that Henry would attend the Caricom summit, which will host talks about the participation of Caribbean countries to help boost a U.N.-backed deployment of Kenyan police officers to help fight gang violence.

Nations including Jamaica, the Bahamas, Belize, Burundi, Chad and Senegal have said they plan to send forces.

After the Caricom summit, officials said that Henry is scheduled to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to “finalize the modalities” of the deployment, which has been halted by a court order.

Mitchell said that the international community has pledged more than $100 million for the mission to Haiti, with the U.S. pledging another $200 million, adding that the political situation remains problematic.

U.S. and U.N. officials said in a recent statement that Thomas-Greenfield “will continue to rally global support” while at the summit, and “reiterate the urgency of establishing a credible and inclusive path toward elections to enable the return to democratic order for the Haitian people.”

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