Haiti PM Addresses Gangs and Kidnappings, Reassures Nation It Isn't Running Out of Fuel

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry—in his first public address since the October 16 missionary kidnappings—condemned gangs and kidnappings and assured his country that they are not running out of fuel, despite recent shortages, the Associated Press reported.

The prerecorded public address was posted Friday, where Henry did not specifically mention the kidnapping of the missionaries but condemned kidnappings in general.

"All those who take the Haitian people hostage, terrorize the population, are the enemies of the people....If they do not stop their wrongdoing, the law will apply to them. The only option for bandits and all their sponsors is imprisonment or death if they do not want to change professions," Henry said.

Henry also said that ships are waiting to unload fuel and that the country would not run out of gas. Henry also announced his creation of a crisis unit made up of top justice, police, public works, finance, trade and other departments in hopes of finding a "quick solution" to the fuel problems.

The fuel shortages have affected hospitals, ambulances, schools, public transportation and more in the country.

The prime minister's address came days after a widespread strike that led to businesses, schools and public transportation in the capital of Port-au-Prince and beyond shutting down. Protests have sought to fight the lack of fuel and blamed gangs for blocking gas distribution terminals. One gang leader said he would lift the blockade if Henry stepped down as prime minister.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Haiti Protests
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry made his first public address since the October 16 missionary kidnappings, condemning gangs and kidnapping and assuring his country that they are not running out of fuel, despite recent shortages. Above, Barbecue, the leader of the G9 and Family gang, stands next to garbage to call attention to the conditions people live in as he leads a march against kidnapping through the La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on October 22, 2021. Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

The leader of the 400 Mawozo gang that kidnapped the missionaries, including five children, has said he would kill them if his demands are not met. Haitian officials have said the gang is seeking $1 million per person, but that it wasn't clear if that included the children, the youngest of whom is 8 months old.

He also condemned those who are helping criminals by giving them weapons, ammunition and money, including "all those who deal with them so that they can take power. They are all enemies of the Haitian people, and we are treating them as enemies."

Henry noted that he became prime minister roughly three months ago following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and found "a country torn, divided, with a state in tatters whose democratic institutions are dysfunctional.

"The nation lives under the thumb of bandits. Citizens cannot leave the capital to go to the south. The country's economic situation is dire. Inflation and high cost of living keep their hold on national life. The budget deficit has reached an unprecedented level and the gourd [currency] continues to drop sharply against the U.S. dollar."

"This is really catastrophic," Solon Cledion, director of a private school in Port-au-Prince, said in a telephone interview. "The day-to-day is difficult....We wonder how long this is going to last."

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders said that its trauma hospital in Tabarre has been forced to limit patients and is only treating life-threatening emergencies. The aid group relies on generators due to ongoing power outages in Haiti.

"Without fuel, we can't run our hospital," Dr. Kanouté Dialla, the hospital's manager, said in a statement. "We are doing our best to maintain our activities by adapting them from day to day, but this situation is unsustainable."

Henry acknowledged the dire situation, noting that patients with COVID-19 who depend on respirators are among those who are at risk of dying if fuel is not available. In his speech, he congratulated one man who he said drove through dangerous communities to transport fuel and oxygen to a hospital and saved the lives of 60 patients.

The prime minister said he is aware of people's anger and that his administration is addressing the country's multiple problems.

"To all those who have legitimate demands, who have declared they are fed up with inflation, poverty and insecurity, I guarantee that their voice is heard by the government," he said. "Gangs are our enemies. No real solution to the country's problems will emerge if we do not arm ourselves with the courage to fight and eliminate this scourge."