Seven U.S. members of Congress call on Biden to withdraw support for Haiti's Henry

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry addresses the nation and calls for renewed efforts to organize elections in the Caribbean nation as his adversaries push for the creation of a transition government to tackle escalating gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 7, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol/File Photo

March 17 (Reuters) - A group of seven U.S. members of Congress on Wednesday called on President Joe Biden to withdraw support for Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry, saying he lacks legitimacy to organize the elections needed to resolve the country's political crisis.

Representatives led by Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Haitian American who won a Florida congressional seat in January, said in a letter that the United States should instead support efforts to create a transitional government.

"We humbly request that your administration allow the people of Haiti to determine their own political destiny and withdraw support from the de facto government," reads the letter, whose signatories are all Democrats.

Cherfilus-McCormick said stemming a rise in Haitian migration to the United States will require addressing the country's political situation, which was thrown into turmoil by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July.

"If we look at what are the reasons behind (the immigration), it really comes down to the political instability that's increasing the crime going on in Haiti," she said in a telephone interview.

Henry became prime minister shortly after Moise was killed. He has promised to hold elections but has made little progress in creating an elections council - a crucial first step for holding a vote.

The White House and a spokesman for the office of Haiti's prime minister did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Biden administration has not shown signs that it is interested in abandoning Henry. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols last month described Henry as "the caretaker of the government."

A Haitian civil society group known as the Montana Accord, which includes economists, journalists, and former politicians, has called on Henry to hand over power to a two-year interim government that would seek to improve the security situation.

The group says Haiti cannot hold free elections while gangs control significant parts of the country, and that holding a vote under the current circumstances risks boosting gangs' power. read more

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth, additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.