New team of marines deployed to Haiti for U.S. embassy security amid gang violence

A new team of U.S. Marines has been sent to Haiti to help protect the American embassy, the U.S. military said Wednesday, a day after the country’s prime minister announced his resignation following months of rising unrest and gang violence.

The U.S. Southern Command said in a statement that a fleet-anti-terrorism security team, known as FAST, was deployed to the embassy in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, which has been at the center of the chaos and civil disorder.

The Marines are in the beleaguered Caribbean nation to “maintain strong security capabilities at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and conduct relief in place for our current Marines, a common and routine practice worldwide,” the statement said.

The statement added that the embassy remains open, although only limited operations continue, including “supporting Haitian-led efforts to secure a peaceful transition of power.”

A spokesperson said that “U.S. Southern Command is prepared with a wide range of contingency plans to ensure the safety and security of U.S. Citizens in Haiti.”

The U.S. military initially flew in forces on Sunday to airlift nonessential personnel out of the country, in a procedure that was described as standard practise.

A political transition deal in Haiti marks a key step forward for the violence-ravaged country but far more needs to be done, with some experts warning the situation could deteriorate further.
A man walks past the US embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 12, 2024. Clarens Siffroy / AFP – Getty Images

Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Tuesday he would stand down once a transitional government — agreed at a meeting of Caribbean leaders and the U.S. on Monday — was appointed.

No timeframe was given for the transition and Henry remains prime minister, although he is in Puerto Rico and unable to return to Haiti after armed gangs calling for his resignation took control of major airports.

The military statement said that the U.S. Department of Defense has doubled its funding for a multinational security mission in Haiti and was working with Kenya and other partners to “restore security in Haiti.” Additional support could include planning, information sharing, airlifts and medical support, it said.

While the departure of Henry was a key demand of the armed gangs that now control large parts of the capital, it appears that their campaign may not stop there.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency Tuesday, gang leader Jimmy Cherizier — known as “Barbecue” — said he had a message for any hotel owners sheltering politicians: “We are coming for you.”

“We won’t lie to people, saying we have a peaceful revolution. We do not have a peaceful revolution. We are starting a bloody revolution in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to leave Haiti.

Journalist and author Mitch Albom, who founded the Have Faith Haiti nonprofit which works with children and orphans, said on Instagram on Tuesday night that he, his wife and eight volunteers were evacuated from the country, where they had been sheltering after a state of emergency was declared.

“My wife and I are safe tonight. Many Americans, Canadians, and others who are still stuck are not. The people of Haiti are not,” he wrote.

“I hope that our attention can turn to them and how we can help restore peace and safety to a beautiful country and its people, including our kids, who deserve so much better,” he added.