Neurosurgeon is Haiti’s newest prime minister

Ariel Henry

Haiti President Jovenel Moïse has tapped Ariel Henry, a former minister of interior and respected neurosurgeon who once charted the country’s public health response to the deadly cholera epidemic, as his latest prime minister.

But the de facto way in which Henry, 71, got the job — there has been no parliament since January 2020, and Moïse, ruling by decree, did not seek a political agreement for making the appointment — may not help tamp down Haiti’s increasingly volatile political and constitutional crisis. Nor may his selection — he is Moïse’s seventh prime minister — and that of a new cabinet be enough to address the mounting humanitarian crisis, prompted by a surging wave of violence by armed gangs.

Already behind an alarming spike in kidnappings, the gangs’ fights over territory and money have forced the displacement of thousands of Haitians from poor, working-class Port-au-Prince neighborhoods since last month. A recent report shared with a disarmament group working with the United Nations said in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area alone there are 162 criminal gangs with 3,000 members.

“Is he a game changer? Is he the man of the moment to tackle threatened, vital national interests? Does he have the political clout to play the role of a neutral broker? Can he exercise leadership in a captured state?” said Michel Eric Gaillard, a Port-au-Prince based political analyst. “Most likely not. How can he maneuver a sinking ship while wearing a straitjacket? It’s an Illusion of hope.”

In a tweet, Moïse, announcing the appointment Monday, said Henry will have to form “an open government” capable of solving “the glaring problem of insecurity and support the [Provisional Electoral Council] for the realization of general elections and the referendum.”