Senate votes to confirm US ambassador to Haiti amid gang attempt to seize power in Caribbean country

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The Senate confirmed Dennis B. Hankins as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Haiti, as the country faces a brutal campaign for control by violent gangs.

By a vote of 89-1, Hankins was confirmed to the post. Hankins has worked for years in the Senior Foreign Service and previously served as the ambassador to Mali, and before that, Guinea. 

The sole vote against Hankins’ confirmation was cast by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who told Fox News Digital he plans to block nominees by President Biden until he changes his energy policies.

Then-American ambassador to Mali, Dennis B. Hankins is pictured on December 7, 2021, in Bamako, Mali. (ANNIE RISEMBERG/AFP via Getty Images)

“Until Mr. Biden drops this battle against American energy, I’m going to block every nominee he tries to place at the State and Energy departments,” Kennedy said. “Like the Terminator, I’ll be back again and again to stop his nominees and remind the world that he’s intentionally killing jobs and threatening our national security to placate confused climate extremists.”

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Meanwhile, Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced Tuesday that he would be resigning, but not until a transitional presidential council is formed, which will be tasked with naming an interim PM.

Haiti crowds

Pedestrians and commuters fill a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, March 12, 2024.  (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Henry’s decision came just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Caribbean officials met in nearby Jamaica to address the events unfolding in Haiti, as gangs target police stations, prisons, and the country’s main airport. 

A specialized Marine anti-terrorism unit arrived in Haiti Thursday to help protect the American embassy and potentially evacuate personnel, the U.S. Southern Command told Fox News. 

The task of installing an interim president in Haiti faced a significant obstacle Wednesday when some of the country’s political parties rejected the plan for a transitional presidential council. Former senator and presidential candidate Moïse Jean-Charles claimed he wouldn’t take part in it, according to the Associated Press. Jean-Charles has reportedly been working with a former rebel leader, Guy Philippe.  

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Louis-Jodel Chamblain and Guy Philippe (l-r), Haitian rebel leaders, Cap Haitien, Haiti, photo

Louis-Jodel Chamblain, left, and Guy Philippe, right. (Copyright 2004 The Associated Press)

The unrest in Haiti has led to disagreement among lawmakers and President Biden’s administration in the U.S. 

Blinken revealed Monday that $300 million would be contributed to a multinational security mission to Haiti, led by Kenya. 

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However, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, have presented a hurdle for the administration. 

Michael McCaul

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul

“After years of discussions, repeated requests for information, and providing partial funding to help them plan, the administration only this afternoon sent us a rough plan to address this crisis. Whether it’s ‘credible and implementable’ remains to be seen,” they said in a joint statement to NatSec Daily. “Given the long history of U.S. involvement in Haiti with few successful results, the administration owes Congress a lot more details in a more timely manner before it gets more funding.”

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The most powerful gang in Haiti, which is trying to seize power, is known as the G9 Family and Allies. It is led by 46-year-old Jimmy Cherizier, who is referred to as “Barbecue.” Prior to his becoming a gang leader, Cherizier was once a Haitian National Police officer. 

His murky past of allegedly orchestrating the 2018 La Saline massacre, resulting in 71 deaths and 400 homes being burned down, gave him his nickname of “Barbecue,” but Cherizier said his moniker is due to his mother’s fried chicken street vending business, the AP reported.

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