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Haiti is in the midst of one of the worst political crises in its history

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We go next to Haiti, where it seems democracy has fallen apart. The country does not have a single regularly elected official. Everybody's terms expired, and nobody has held new elections. Last week, some police turned on the de facto prime minister. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Prime Minister Ariel Henry had just returned to the country when he found himself surrounded by angry protesters at the airport in Port au Prince.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

PERALTA: In previous weeks, more than 10 police officers had been killed by gangs, so some of them turned on the country's de facto prime minister. They blocked roads by burning tires, and some of them made it to the terminal building, destroying some property.

ROBERT FATTON: So you have a really critical situation in the police, and that is the only real institutional force that could reestablish a semblance of order. And it's falling apart itself.

PERALTA: That's Robert Fatton, who studies Haiti at the University of Virginia. He says right now, there is very little keeping Haiti together. Gangs are running rampant. The country hasn't held elections in so long, it doesn't have a single legitimately elected official. And now that Prime Minister Henry has seemingly lost the police, he can only head in one direction, hoping for the continued support of the international community.

FATTON: So we are indeed facing the precipice, and it's very unclear what might happen.

PERALTA: Henry came to power in the summer of 2021. The president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated. And amid a power struggle, the U.S., Canada, France and other members of the so-called core group put their weight behind Henry. Later, Haitian authorities expressed suspicion that Henry was involved in the assassination of the president. Cecile Accilien, a professor at Kennesaw University, says this is the historical pattern in Haiti. Western powers have always chosen their interests and stability over doing what's right for the Haitian people.

CECILE ACCILIEN: Yes, Haitians are responsible. You've had ongoing corrupt government, but the U.S. has supported this corruption.

PERALTA: For decades, Accilien says, the U.S. has supported the governments that created the gangs, and now that the leader they helped bring to power has failed, she says, the U.S. has to own it.

ACCILIEN: Yes. They have to untangle this. It's their mess.

PERALTA: Henry has called for an international force to help stabilize Haiti. But the U.S. says it's unwilling to lead that force, and they haven't been able to convince anyone else to take the plunge. In a statement to NPR, a State Department spokesperson would not say whether the U.S. still supports the prime minister, but they said they were encouraged by a recent political accord. The so-called national consensus plan would form a transitional council that would plan elections for this year. Monique Clesca, who is part of a group of Haitians looking for a holistic solution to the crisis, laughs at the suggestion.

MONIQUE CLESCA: We can't even go to the bank. You can't go anywhere. And they want him to be organizing elections this year. This is a farce.

PERALTA: If things are to change for good in Haiti, she says, the U.S. and its allies need to stop propping up corrupt regimes.

CLESCA: It's not at all going to be easy, but we must start. We can't just keep saying it's OK to have a criminal organization running a country.

PERALTA: Part of that, says Clesca, means ending support for Prime Minister Henry. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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