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Amid a dramatic standoff, Haiti extends its state of emergency for another 30 days

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Amid a dramatic standoff, Haiti has extended its state of emergency for another 30 days.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Armed gangs continue to demand the ouster of the country's de facto prime minister. They have led coordinated attacks on government buildings, including two prison raids that turned loose thousands of inmates. They are still surrounding the Port-au-Prince airport, and the prime minister, as best we can tell, he remains stranded outside the country.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta is following the story from his base in Mexico City. Hearing Leila describe it, Eyder, it sounds bad in Haiti. How bad is it?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Yeah. It's pretty bad in Port-au-Prince. The airport, as Leila said, is still closed, and local news outlets are reporting that criminal groups have been looting the big containers at the main city's port. So the operator there said that they had no choice but to shut it down. So the prices of goods and fuel has shot up. Some hospitals have closed, others are over capacity. UNICEF says that a lot of basic social services are on the brink of collapse. And as far as we know, Prime Minister Ariel Henry is still in Puerto Rico, but he hasn't made a public appearance for a week now. And the group of Caribbean leaders who are trying to mediate a political solution to this say that the talks have led to no consensus on anything.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. So the prime minister is at the center of this standoff. What do Haitians want?

PERALTA: You know, Haitians have been taking to the streets for more than a year, calling for Henry to resign. And it's important to remember that Henry was appointed, not elected, after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. And what has happened during his rule is that the country has spiraled very close to anarchy. And even though he promised elections, those have never materialized. And what we're seeing right now is a kind of surreal moment. Nearly everyone is calling for his ouster. The people - the rich, the poor, the intellectuals and now even the gangs. And they used to fight against each other. And now they have united to launch coordinated attacks to try to topple the government. And so now these gangs, which have really brought misery to Haiti, are now presenting themselves as liberators.

MARTÍNEZ: So then given all that, why is the United States still standing by Henry?

PERALTA: That's a good question. And I asked this to Daniel Foote, and he's a former American diplomat. He was appointed as the special envoy to Haiti after the president was assassinated. And he quit, in part, because he says the U.S. wouldn't listen when he told them that they shouldn't back Henry, that he didn't have legitimacy, and that picking him would put the country on a path to chaos. Daniel Foote says that this has happened over and over in history, then the U.S. has done the same thing, which is to pick someone they think they can trust instead of learning to trust the leader who the people choose.

DANIEL FOOTE: It's time to give Haitians a chance to fix Haiti, because I guarantee you they won't screw it up as bad as we had.

PERALTA: And Dan Foote says this is complicated but doable. He says there's a big civil society in Haiti that had already put together a good roadmap toward elections, but the U.S. ignored it. Instead, the U.S. is focused on bringing in the Kenyans to lead a peacekeeping mission and avoiding American troops on the ground. It's worth noting that U.S. support for Henry does seem to be softening. At least that's what we can discern from the public statements by U.S. officials.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta. Thanks a lot.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.