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Exclusive: Haiti’s Senate leader calls on Prime Minister to resign


CNN

By Matt Rivers, CNN

Haiti’s Senate leader Joseph Lambert has joined calls for embattled Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign.

“Ariel Henry must resign because he has lost the trust of the country and he has failed to give results,” Lambert said on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with CNN at the senator’s home in Port-au-Prince. “We need to reestablish the state’s authority and restore security.”

Lambert said he believes a new transition government should be installed until elections can be held next — with himself as the interim president.

“This government doesn’t represent what we need now, we need a large consensus with all sectors. No one will be able to govern Haiti without a larger consensus. That’s what we have been saying and this is where I stand,” he told CNN.

The Prime Minister’s office has responded, saying Henry will not resign.

“Our doors remain open to anyone who wants to join us so we can have free, fair and credible elections. Our government wants to unite, not politicize,” the office said in a statement to CNN.

Henry has been in office since a power-sharing deal was brokered in the weeks after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7.

Moise appointed Henry as Prime Minister, but he had not yet been sworn in at the time of the president’s death. Weeks of political stalemate ensued over who would become de facto leader of the Caribbean nation, with Lambert considered among the contenders. A US-backed agreement ultimately saw Henry become Prime Minster and then-acting Prime Minster Claude Joseph become Foreign Minister.

Since then, Henry has faced a series of crises, including Haiti’s worst earthquake since 2010, the expulsion of thousands of Haitian migrants from the United States and a rise in gang-related kidnappings — among them the abduction of 17 missionaries from the US and Canada more than a week ago.

Perhaps most impactful, however, has been a crushing fuel shortage that has crippled the country. Gangs, including a notorious group called G9, have all but cut off access to key fuel depots on the country’s coast, preventing delivery of fuel around the country and paralyzing capital city Port-au-Prince.

Gang leaders have called on Henry to resign, saying they will end the fuel blockades once he steps down.

Sen. Lambert himself has long had political aspirations for Haiti’s top job. Though he is not the first to call for Prime Minister Henry to step down, his critics accuse the longtime Haitian politician of seeking now to take advantage of the country’s many crises for political gain.

Lambert has also struggled to tamp down widespread rumors that he is working with gangs to delay the flow of fuel, though zero evidence of that has been presented publicly. Haitian politicians have in the past often had relationships with the country’s gangs, using them as political tools to get out or suppress the vote.

“It’s totally false, they are just accusing opponents to hide their own incompetence,” said Lambert in response. “If they have proof there is a politician that is behind the violence they should arrest them and bring them to justice.”

After Moise’s assassination, Lambert led a failed attempt to install himself as interim president. Haiti’s senate voted to place him in the position, but the body did not have a quorum, leading to questions about whether it could even make the decision. Haiti has not held parliamentary elections since 2015, and only 10 senators are still seated. Less than 24 hours after the senate vote, Lambert pulled back and said his swearing-in had been postponed.

Lambert’s Senate term expires in January.

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Journalist Etant Dupain contributed reporting.

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