(Reuters) – A group of Haitian gangs will temporarily lift a blockade of fuel terminals to allow for gasoline distribution after weeks of crippling shortages, a gang leader said on Friday, adding that they continue to demand that the prime minister step down.
The G9 alliance of gangs has for nearly a month been preventing trucks from reaching the Varreux fuel terminal outside Port-au-Prince, leading to shortages that have forced hospitals, businesses and schools to limit operations.
G9 leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier last month said he wanted to force the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has in response said the government will not negotiate with criminals.
“The doors of the Varreux plant are wide open so that the trucks can get their supplies without fear,” Cherizier said on Friday in comments broadcast online. “Hospitals, schools, universities, embassies must reopen and be able to supply themselves without any problem.”
He said the G9 wants fuel sales to resume for a week so that Haitians can celebrate a Nov. 18 holiday marking the 1803 defeat of the Napoleonic army that paved the way for the former French colony’s independence.
But he added that if Henry did not resign in that period, the gangs would take other actions, without elaborating.
Representatives for Henry’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It was not immediately evident how quickly fuel would once again be available. Many Haitian truck drivers are refusing to transport fuel due to the constant threat of kidnappings by gangs.
Canada said late on Thursday that it was withdrawing non-essential personnel from its embassy, citing security problems that are being exacerbated by fuel shortages. The United States this week recommended that its citizens leave the country.
Henry last month said the government had organized police escorts to ensure the security of fuel delivery trucks.
(Reporting by Gessika Thomas; writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Jonathan Oatis)