Powerful gang leader says fuel can start flowing in Haiti – Finger Lakes Times

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Updated: November 8, 2022 @ 10:33 am
Haiti police on patrol keep their eyes on traffic during a stop at a police checkpoint in Tabarre, near the U.S. Embassy, just east of metropolitan Port-au-Prince. (Jose A. Iglesias/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

Haiti police on patrol keep their eyes on traffic during a stop at a police checkpoint in Tabarre, near the U.S. Embassy, just east of metropolitan Port-au-Prince. (Jose A. Iglesias/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)
The leader of a powerful gang alliance that has spent the past two months blocking the flow of fuel, food and drinking water in poverty-stricken Haiti declared its blockade of the country’s main oil terminal and seaports over Sunday.
“The drivers and employees of Terminal Varreux can descend without fear,” gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, the head of the G-9 Family and Allies, said in a video taped message Sunday where he began by giving the date as proof of its authenticity.
A former Haiti National Police officer turned gang leader who goes by the name “Barbecue,” Cherizier said he and his “Revolutionary Forces” have been closely following what’s being said about Haiti and the inability of the country’s political and civil society leaders to come together without “hypocrisy” for the good of the country. As a result, the alliance has decided to allow fuel to once more flow.
“We are asking all truck drivers, and all implicated in the distribution of gas, to take all dispositions to permit fuel to be distributed to pumps,” he said.
Since Tuesday, the gang has been locked in a confrontation with specialized units of the Haitian national police, which finally took control of the Varreux terminal on Thursday. But even as Cherizier’s video message made the rounds Sunday, police were reporting heavy shootings in the area where the terminal is located. A number of gang members have reportedly died or been injured in the gun battle, police sources have said.
Cherizier last month was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council after it agreed, at the urging of the United States and Mexico, to impose an assets freeze and a travel ban on gang leaders and private citizens who arm and financially support them. The resolution, which passed unanimously, is aimed at targeting those engaged in acts that threaten the country’s peace, security and stability.
“We are sending a clear message to the bad actors that are holding Haiti hostage: The international community will not stand idly by while you wreak havoc on the Haitian people,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at the time of the vote. “Sanctions are at their most effective when they are targeted specifically towards bad actors and allow humanitarian aid to reach civilian populations.”
On Friday, the United States and Canada announced their own sanctions, after weeks of quietly canceling some individuals’ travel visas. Joseph Lambert, the current president of what’s left of the country’s 30-member Senate, and former Senate President Youri Latortue, both had sanctions imposed against them by the Treasury Department, State Department and Canadian government.
In a statement, Canada said it has reason to believe that, “these individuals are using their status as former or current public office holders to protect and enable the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other (forms) of corruption.”
Both politicians, appearing on the popular Ranmase radio political talk show Saturday, denied any involvement with gangs or drug trafficking, and accused the U.S. and Canada of sanctioning them because of their opposition to Henry, and foreign intervention in Haiti.
The blockade of Varreux, which stores most of Haiti’s petroleum, had left Haiti without gasoline, diesel and propane as Haitians were already seeing food prices rise more than 50% with inflation hovering at about 30% amid gang violence and kidnapping.
In exchange for unblocking the terminal and the roads leading to the ports, Cherizier had demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. His video clips always showed him to physically be in the vicinity of the Varreux port area with a wall of burning tires in the background.
On Sunday, he delivered his speech not from the streets but from La Saline inside an unusually closed room where cameras did not show him to be surrounded by his heavily armed soldiers. He made no mention of controlling Varreux and denied the decision to allow fuel to flow once more was due to negotiations with the government.
“We have never negotiated or send anyone to go negotiate with Ariel Henry,” Cherizer said. “We made this decision among ourselves … to allow the fuel to be distributed and we want the people to know it’s not a decision we took because we negotiated whatsoever with Ariel Henry.”
The G-9 Family and Allies began blocking the Varreux fuel terminal in mid-September as popular anti-government protests spread through Haiti following a decision by Henry to raise the price of fuel, and to crackdown on contraband and arms trafficking at the seaports.
Since then, Haitians have struggled to find fuel, food, water and medicines as they deal with a resurgence in deadly cholera. The ongoing blockade has forced the closure of hospitals and kept more than 2.4 million children out of school after the academic year had to be postponed.
In response to the brewing humanitarian crisis, the government asked for the rapid deployment of a multinational force to help the Haiti National Police confront the gangs and create “a humanitarian corridor” to get aid to those in need. Though police have been inside the Varreux terminal since Thursday, they still were not able to secure roads for trucks to travel safely.
On Saturday, police reported being under heavy gunfire from gangs who were firing from inside houses in the nearby La Saline and Cité Soleil slums. In their resistance, the gangs had even managed to disable the second of three large armored vehicles the Haitian government recently acquired from a Canadian firm.
Cherizier acknowledged that the situation in Haiti has become grave. However, he said his gang alliance, who led a similar months long blockade of the terminal last year, is not responsible for the crisis.
“We are patriots, we are nationalists,” he said, wearing a black beret, and standing in front of a red, blue and white Haitian flag. “We are people who carry this country in our heart.”
“The situation has become worse and sadder,” Cherizier added.
Theirs is a battle, he insisted, to change the way of life in Haiti’s ghettos and provincial provinces, “to see a different Haiti, one where we are proud, to say ‘We are Haitian.’ ”
Before ending his speech, he asked Haitians if they were happy with their situation where a food crisis is worsening, cholera is surging and kidnappings are rampant. He then issued a list of demands to the authorities, which include a reopening of schools and a clean up of all areas to remove the mountains of trash that have been piling up for months in the capital due to the escalating gang violence.

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