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Haiti crippled by fuel shortages as gang leader demands prime minister resign

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October 27, 2021

By Brian Ellsworth and Gessika Thomas

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) -Haiti’s streets were unusually quiet on Tuesday and gasoline stations remained dry as gangs blocked the entrance to ports that hold fuel stores and the country’s main gang boss demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign.

Days-long fuel shortages have left Haitians with few transportation options and forced the closure of some businesses. Hospitals, which rely on diesel generators to ensure electricity due to constant blackouts, may shut down as well.

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The situation has put further pressure on a population already struggling under a weakening economy and a wave of gang kidnappings https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/kidnapping-haiti-shines-spotlight-gangs-risk-experts-say-2021-10-19, which include the abduction earlier this month of a group of Canadian and American missionaries.

Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, leader of the “G9” coalition of gangs in the metropolitan area of the capital, Port-au-Prince, said in a radio interview on Monday night that he would ensure safe passage of fuel trucks if Henry leaves office.

“The areas under the control of the G9 are blocked for one reason only – we demand the resignation of Ariel Henry,” Cherizier said in an interview on Haiti’s Radio Mega.

“If Ariel Henry resigns at 8 a.m., at 8:05 a.m. we will unblock the road and all the trucks will be able to go through to get fuel.”

A spokesperson for Henry’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to contact Cherizier.

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His statements show how gangs have taken on an increasingly political role following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Cherizier has said Henry should “answer questions” linking him https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haiti-official-resigns-over-pms-links-suspect-presidents-slaying-2021-09-15 to Moise’s murder. Henry has denied any involvement.

Elections had originally been scheduled for November but were suspended after Henry last month dismissed the council that organizes elections, which critics had accused of being biased in favor of Moise. Henry has promised to appoint a non-partisan council that will set a new date.

Kidnappings have been in the headlines for months as Haitians from all walks of life face abduction by the increasingly powerful gangs.

The missionaries traveling as part of a trip organized by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were abducted by a gang called 400 Mawozo that operates east of the capital and is seeking a ransom of $1 million for each person.

Christian Aid Ministries asked people in a statement on Tuesday to remember both those “being held hostage as well as those recovering from the experience of being kidnapped.”

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The State Department said last week the U.S. government had dispatched a “small team” to assist in efforts to locate and free the missionaries.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday the United States had deployed “a significant number of law enforcement specialists and hostage recovery specialists” to Haiti.

‘THE WORST I’VE SEEN’

Haiti’s foreign aid bureau, BMPAD, which oversees fuel procurement, tweeted a video saying the country had 150,000 barrels of diesel and 50,000 barrels of gasoline, with another 50,000 barrels of gasoline set to arrive on Wednesday.

A total of 100,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline would supply Haiti’s fuel needs for five to seven says, said Marc Andre Deriphonse, head of the country’s service-station owners’ association, ANAPROSS.

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Businesses have been warning that they may have to halt operations for lack of fuel. Telecoms firms said some cell towers are no longer in operation.

“This is the worst I’ve seen,” said one motorcycle taxi driver waiting to pick up passengers outside Port-au-Prince, when asked about the fuel shortages. He declined to give his name.

Motorcycle drivers strap one-gallon containers to their bikes in the hopes of filling them with fuel sold on the black market. A gallon of gasoline on the street can now fetch $20, compared with typical filling-station prices of around $2.

Transportation industry leaders have called for strikes to protest the wave of kidnappings, which have disproportionately affected truck drivers and public transport workers.

United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/unicef-warns-haiti-fuel-shortages-put-hospitalised-women-children-risk-2021-10-24 it had negotiated fuel deliveries to Haitian hospitals but that the provider later refused to make the deliveries, citing security conditions.

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At one police station near Port-au-Prince, two officers had been unable to get to work due to fuel shortages, according to a police official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak with reporters.

“Most of our vehicles have about a quarter of a tank,” he said.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Peter Cooney)

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One of suspected killers of Saudi journalist Khashoggi arrested in France – RTL

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December 7, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at the Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, French RTL radio reported.

RTL said the person arrested was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been involved in the killing of Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Writing by GV De Clercq, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Biden, Putin begin talks, RIA says, after U.S. warning of toughest sanctions yet if Russia invades Ukraine

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December 7, 2021

By Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden began a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Russian state television said, after U.S. officials warned Moscow could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine.

The officials said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.

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The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.

But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.

Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.

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The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying that the U.S. sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

Ahead of his first direct talks with Putin since July, Biden discussed the sanctions plan with European allies on Monday, seeking a strong joint stance in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They called on Russia to defuse tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams would stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a “coordinated and comprehensive approach”, the White House said.

Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.

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A separate source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin’s inner circle has been discussed but no decision made. Sanctions against Russia’s biggest banks and curbing the conversion of roubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Alexander Marrow, Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Catherine Evans and Mark Heinrich)

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Britain reports 101 more cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

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December 7, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has found a further 101 confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the UK Health Security Agency said on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 437.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg)

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