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Haiti crippled by fuel shortages as gang leader demands prime minister resign

Haiti crippled by fuel shortages as gang leader demands prime minister resign

A member of the Haitian National Police deters protesters in front of the National Palace during a demonstration against insecurity and fuel shortages, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

PORT-AU-PRINCE: Haiti's streets were unusually quiet on Tuesday (Oct 26) and gas stations remained dry as gangs blocked the entrance to ports that hold fuel stores and the country's main gang boss demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign.

Days-long fuel shortages have left Haitians with few transport options and forced the closure of some businesses. Hospitals, which rely on diesel generators to ensure electricity due to constant blackouts, may shut down as well.

The situation has put further pressure on a population already struggling under a weakening economy and a wave of gang kidnappings, which include the abduction earlier this month of a group of Canadian and American missionaries.

Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier, leader of the 'G9' coalition of gangs in the metropolitan area of the capital Port-au-Prince, said in a radio interview on Monday night that he would ensure safe passage of fuel trucks if Henry leaves office.

"The areas under the control of the G9 are blocked for one reason only - we demand the resignation of Ariel Henry," Cherizier said in an interview on Haiti's Radio Mega.

"If Ariel Henry resigns at 8am, at 8.05am we will unblock the road and all the trucks will be able to go through to get fuel."

A spokesperson for Henry's office did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to contact Cherizier.

His statements show how gangs have taken on an increasingly political role following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Cherizier has said Henry should "answer questions" linking him to Moise's murder. Henry has denied any involvement.

Elections had originally been scheduled for November but were suspended after Henry last month dismissed the council that organises elections, which critics had accused of being biased in favour of Moise. Henry has promised to appoint a new non-partisan council that will set a new date.

'THE WORST I'VE SEEN'

A video circulating on WhatsApp bearing the logo of Haiti's foreign aid bureau BMPAD, which oversees fuel procurement, said the country has 150,000 barrels of diesel and 50,000 barrels of gasoline at different terminals. Another 50,000 barrels of gasoline will arrive on Wednesday, according to the video.

A total 100,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline would supply Haiti's fuel needs for five to seven says, said Marc Andre Deriphonse, head of the country's service station owners' association ANAPROSS.

BMPAD Director Ignace Saint Fleur did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Businesses have been warning that they may have to halt operations for lack of fuel. Telecoms firms said some cell towers are no longer in operation.

"This is the worst I've seen," said one motorcycle taxi driver waiting to pick up passengers outside Port-au-Prince, when asked about the fuel shortages. He declined to give his name.

Motorcycle drivers strap one-gallon containers to their bikes in the hopes of filling them with fuel sold on the black market. A gallon of gas on the street can now fetch US$20, compared with typical filling station prices of around US$2.

Transportation industry leaders have called for strikes to protest the wave of kidnappings, which have disproportionately affected truck drivers and public transport workers.

United Nations children's agency UNICEF on Sunday said it had negotiated fuel deliveries to Haitian hospitals but that the provider later refused to make the deliveries, citing security conditions.

At one police station near Port-au-Prince, two officers had been unable to get to work due to fuel shortages, according to a police official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak with reporters.

"Most of our vehicles have about a quarter of a tank," he said.

Source: Reuters/ec

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