Haiti’s most powerful gang leader, Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier, has called for the overthrow of his nation’s prime minister as he led armed followers on a march through Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, September 19.
Mr Cherizier, who leads the ‘G9 Family and Allies’ coalition of gangs, called on Haitians to take to the streets against Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
He was joined by armed gang members as he walked through the streets of the capital, where his followers blocked roads and banged drums.
‘We are launching the fight to overturn Ariel Henry’s government in any way,’ Mr Cherizier said, and promised daily demonstrations in parts of Port-au-Prince. ‘Our fight will be with weapons,’ he added.
Mr Henry has been governing on an interim basis since and has pledged to hold elections once security has been re-established in Haiti.
Gangs have exploited political chaos in Haiti to seize control over much of the capital ever since President Jovenal Moise was assassinated in July 2021.
Mr Cherizier is a former police officer who was the first person sanctioned by the United Nations in 2022 under a new sanctions regime aimed at those ‘threatening the police, security or stability of Haiti’.
He is accused of crimes against civilians, including a massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of La Saline, in 2018.
Mr Cherizer issued a stark warning to the international community on Tuesday. ‘The international community cannot continue to do this in Haiti,’ he said. ‘If the international community has nothing to do with [Jovenal Moise’s] death, they must not support Ariel Henry.’
There are over 200 gangs operating in Haiti, according to an estimate by the International Crisis Group. The United Nations estimates that at least 1.5m, or half of Port-au-Prince’s population has been affected by violence involving gangs.