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Senate confirms new ambassador to troubled Haiti

The Senate on Thursday confirmed career foreign service member Dennis Hankins to be US ambassador to Haiti, where widespread violence has brought social order to the brink of collapse.

The final bipartisan roll call vote was 89 to 1.

Key senators involved in Haiti policy told CNN last week they were anxious to get an ambassador on the ground to better assess needs there as the Caribbean nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has been gripped by highly coordinated gang attacks on law enforcement and state institutions. There has not been an ambassador in place since 2021.

The unrest has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes and prompted United States, Germany and European Union embassies in Haiti to evacuate personnel. A US Marine unit specializing in terrorism has also been deployed to support security at the US embassy, which will remain open while limited operations “focused on assistance to US citizens and supporting Haitian led efforts to secure a peaceful transition of power” will continue, US Southern Command said Tuesday.

Hankins’ confirmation comes after Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced on Monday that he would resign following weeks of chaos.

President Joe Biden nominated Hankins in May 2023. The former ambassador to Mali and to Guinea has worked for the State Department for nearly four decades. He served in Haiti earlier in his foreign service career.

The role opened up when Michele Sison left the post in October 2021, going on to serve as assistant secretary of state for international organizational affairs.

CNN’s Colin McCullough, Caitlin Stephen Hu, and Helen Regan contributed to this report.

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