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Haiti's leader is locked out of country amid pressure to resign

Ariel Henry, Prime Minister of Haiti arrives for dinner at the the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday, June 22, 2023   -  
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Michel Euler/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry is struggling to stay in power as he tries to return home, where gang attacks have shuttered the country's main international airport and freed more than 4,000 inmates in recent days.

As of midday Wednesday, Henry remained in Puerto Rico, where he landed the day before after he was barred from landing in neighboring Dominican Republic because officials there closed the airspace to flights to and from Haiti.

Locked out of his country for now, Henry appears to face an impasse as a growing number of officials call for his resignation or nudge him toward it.

Here's what to know about the embattled prime minister and the crisis he faces:

Who is Ariel Henry?

The 74-year-old neurosurgeon who trained and worked in southern France got involved in Haitian politics in the early 2000s, when he became leader of a movement that opposed then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

After Aristide was ousted, Henry became member of a U.S.-backed council that helped choose the transitional government.

In June 2006, he was named director-general of Haiti’s Ministry of Health and later became its chief of staff, helping to manage the government’s response to a devastating 2010 earthquake.

In 2015, he was named minister of the interior and territorial communities and became responsible for overseeing Haiti’s security and domestic policy.

Months later, he was appointed minister of social affairs and labor but faced calls for resignation after he quit the Inite party.

He then largely disappeared from the limelight, serving as a political consultant and working as a professor at Haiti’s medical university until he was installed as prime minister shortly after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who had selected him for that position.

Moïse’s party likely thought Henry would bring credibility and some kind of constituency, said Brian Concannon, executive director of the U.S.-based nonprofit Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

“It seems to me he must have been a pretty big figure. Presidents don’t just pick random people,” he said.

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