Members of the Haitian transitional council, Global, International, Port-au-Price, Haiti

As Haiti’s Transitional Council Names PM, Gangs Want Seat At Table

Haiti’s gangs, which have formed a loose confederation, are seeking to have their voices heard—and have threatened violence if they do not receive a seat at the table.

Haiti’s Transitional Council has named Fritz Bélizaire, a little-known former minister of sport, as the next Prime Minister in hopes of providing stability to the country.

The country has been besieged with violence since the assassination of President Jovenel Möise in 2021. Bélizaire’s appointment was met with surprise, even from members of the transitional council, some of whom didn’t know who Bélizaire was.

Haiti’s gangs, who have formed a loose confederation, are seeking to have their voices heard. They have threatened violence if they do not receive a seat at the table. In separate statements, two gang leaders, Vitel’homme Innocent and Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier, warned of consequences if the gangs are ignored by the council. 

Innocent spoke to CNN in an interview that was released on April 29. During the interview, he described his regrets over entangling Kraze Baryé, the primary gang he leads, in Haitian politics.

“Yes, I have an armed group. I direct them,” Innocent said when CNN asked him about Kraze Baryé’s involvement in kidnappings. “But when you really think about it, would these guys really have any clue who to kidnap and who not to kidnap? Not at all.”

Innocent continued, insinuating that the Haitian power structure remains the same, regardless of who is in charge.

“It’s really the same people sitting with (regional organization) CARICOM to represent the country. If you choose to block them, they’ll call us and say: ‘I have such and such a job…Fix it for us.’ And then you hear so-and-so has been kidnapped. Or so-and-so has been taken hostage.”

Cherizier, meanwhile, issued a warning on social media which declared that the confederation of gangs, Viv Ansanm, loosely translated as “live together,” demanded to be taken seriously.

“Viv Ansanm is ready to talk. It’s either we are all at the table, or the table gets destroyed with all of us,” Cherizier said. 

Haitians have been divided as to the question of whether the transitional council will help bring calm to Haiti, whose largest seaport has been occupied by gangs as its capital, Port au Prince, has been largely under the jurisdiction of the gangs since late February.

“The task is really monumental,” Robert Fatton, an expert in Haitian politics, told the Associated Press. “How you extricate yourself from that is very complicated. “I don’t expect the presidential council to come up with a solution. Those gangs are simply not going to go away by simply saying, ‘We want you to be nice guys.’

Interim Prime Minister Michel Boisvert echoed those concerns as he told the council after the swearing-in of Bélizaire, “The task ahead is daunting,” Boisvert said. “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the population expects a lot from you … everything becomes a priority alongside security.”

Those expectations and the distrust of the Haitian populace were immediately made clear by some pedestrians, as the AP reported, one man yelled, “Thieves and gangs! That’s all they are!” as he passed by on his motorcycle.

Fatton cautioned that “if things don’t change with the security situation,” he believes that the council’s solutions will inevitably fail. “They have a very short period to get their act together and get results.”