White House Calls on Haitian Leader to Resign, Considers Sending Elite Soldiers to Embassy

After years of propping up Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, the White House is calling on him to step down as opposition groups and gangs take control of Port-au-Prince

Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a series of conversations with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry pressuring him to resign. Henry rose to power with the Biden administration’s support after the former leader was assassinated in 2021. As Prime Minister, Henry has lost control over most of the capital city to opposition groups and criminal gangs.

The Miami Herald reports, “Blinken pressed Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, to announce his resignation and a political transition in a series of phone calls that took place Thursday and were described as ‘tense.’”

After President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, the White House worked to push Henry into power. Under his term in office, the Haitian government has increasingly lost control over Port-au-Prince.

The Biden administration attempted to prop up the Henry government by establishing an armed international force to deploy to Haiti with UN Security Council approval. In October, the body approved the US plan for Kenya to lead an armed international “police” force in Haiti.

However, the White House’s plan has faced considerable opposition in Haiti and Kenya. The Kenyan opposition leader sued President William Ruto at the country’s high court to block the proposal.

In January, the top court in Nairobi ruled in favor of the opposition, blocking the deployment. Last week, Ruto and Henry inked an agreement paving the way for the Kenya-led armed deployment to move forward.

While Henry was in Kenya signing the agreement, opposition groups in Port-au-Prince carried out a series of attacks on prisons and the main airport. After leaving to meet with international partners and ink the agreement with Ruto, Henry has been unable to return to Haiti.

In response, Washington is considering sending an elite Marine unit to the US embassy in Port-au-Prince. A State Department statement described the situation in Haiti as “untenable.”

“For more than a year, the United States has encouraged Prime Minister Henry and other key stakeholders in Haiti to reach a compromise that will end the ongoing political stalemate,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. “In the past week, the political crisis in Haiti, combined with escalating violence and civil unrest, has created an untenable situation which threatens the country’s citizens and security.”

It is unclear if Henry plans to listen to Washington’s requests, or if he has the ability to hold onto power without US support. Also, there is a question of what the Kenyan force in Haiti would do without a standing government to support.

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.