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Haitian Gangs Torch Ministry as Political Violence Escalates

(Bloomberg) -- Gangs in Haiti set the Interior Ministry ablaze overnight and attacked police stations and government offices in the capital as the Caribbean nation descends further into chaos.

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Le Nouvelliste and other local media reported intense fighting in downtown Port-au-Prince, as more than a week of violence aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry reached a new peak. The fire at the ministry was first reported by the Miami Herald.

The 15-member Caribbean Community, or Caricom, has called for an emergency meeting in Jamaica on Monday to address the crisis in the nation of almost 12 million people.

In a statement late Friday, Caricom Chairman Mohamed Irfaan Ali said the group had been talking to stakeholders, including Henry, but there was no agreement on how to move forward.

“We are acutely aware of the urgent need for consensus,” Irfaan Ali said. “We have impressed on the respective parties that time is not on their side in agreeing to the way forward. From our reports, the situation on the ground remains dire, and is of serious concern to us.”

Read more: US Calls on Haiti’s Prime Minister to Back Political Transition

Henry, who left Haiti on Feb. 25 to build support for a multinational security force led by Kenya, has been unable to return to the country, as gangs have attacked the capital and closed the main airport. The Biden administration has called on Henry to support a transition of power.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Kenyan President William Ruto discussed the crisis in a call on Saturday, including mutual support for the multinational force and “creating the security conditions necessary to conduct free and fair elections,” according to a State Department statement.

Henry was last seen in Puerto Rico as he faces growing pressure — both domestically and from abroad — to resign and make way for a transitional government.

Read more: UN Security Council Weighs Urging Haiti Elections as Chaos Grows

Amid the power vacuum there are also growing attempts to install a new government.

Among those vying for power is Guy Philippe, who led a coup in 2004 and spent several years in prison in the US on money laundering charges. On Friday he told Reuters that he intended to become president, and that Henry should resign.

(Updates with US statement in seventh paragraph.)

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