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Interview With Special Presidential Envoy For Hostage Affairs Roger D. Carstens; Interview With Resigned In Protest From U.S. State Department And Former U.S. State Department Foreign Affairs Officer Annelle Sheline; Interview With Washington Post Reporter And AyiboPost Editor-In-Chief Widlore Merancourt. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.

American journalist Evan Gershkovich is still behind bars in Russia one year later, and I speak to the special presidential envoy for hostage

affairs, Roger Carstens, about U.S. efforts to free him. And we discuss the ongoing Israeli hostage crisis.

Then, we bring you a report on the latest from Gaza, as another State Department staffer resigns over U.S. policy there. Annelle Sheline joins me

for her first television interview.

Also, ahead --


WIDLORE MERANCOURT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AYIBOPOST: Two of the biggest prisons in Haiti has been, you know, left open with thousands of inmates, some of

them who are criminals, quite frankly, in the country, released in streets.


AMANPOUR: -- as Haiti extends its state of emergency, Washington Post reporter, Widlore Merancourt, gives Hari Sreenivasan an update on the

violent gang wars.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Abroad, alone and locked away on trumped-up charges. It is the stuff of nightmares. And yet, for one year, that's been reality for Wall Street

Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. He's being held in a Russian prison on the charges of espionage, something he and everyone who knows him denies.

And now, a Moscow court has extended his detention by three more months.

At the same time, in Gaza, more than a hundred hostages are still being held captive, taken during the brutal October 7th attack on Israel.

Negotiations to free them and build a ceasefire have dragged on in Qatar for months.

My first guest finds himself at the center of both these crises, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens. Mr.

Carstens, welcome back to our program from Washington.

Can I just start by asking you, what went through your mind, for what possible reason could Moscow extend Evan's detention for another three

months, right at the time of this, you know, anniversary, if you want to put it that way?

ROGER D. CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: Oh, Christiane, thanks for having me on today to talk about this. I'm grateful

for the light that you're shining on this topic.

The reason for the extension, I will never really know. If you were to ask what I hope, I would hope that they're extending it so that we have another

90-day period in which to seek ways to come up with a deal that will bring both Evan and Paul Whelan home.

I can say that we've had seen in the past that once a trial starts in Russia, the Russians will usually follow through. And so, if the trial

process starts with Evan, that might take us into about a seven, eight, nine, 10-month period where we may have a harder time trying to come up

with a deal and make a deal to bring him home.

So, I think, to my mind, I'm hopeful that the Russians are thinking that in the next 90 days they can work with us to come out with that deal that

brings him home before the trial actually starts. But it's hard to get into their heads on this.

AMANPOUR: When you say hopeful, are there any concrete discussions on what might unlock this crisis? I mean, for instance, clearly, I assume, given

what we saw with Brittney Griner, what we've seen with the case of the Iranian Americans, there's always some kind of a swap. Who are they saying

they want in return for Evan?

CARSTENS: Well, to get to the first part of your question, we do have an open line or open channel with the Russians that we've been using to

discuss these cases. It's the same channel that brought home Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner. We've using it to talk about the return of Paul Whelan

and Evan Gershkovich. So, there is open communication that takes place between us.

As you've probably heard before, we made what we felt was a strong offer last November to the Russians. The Russians rejected it. And in that time

since then, we've been trying to come up with something else that the United States can pull together and deliver that they Russians will accept.

AMANPOUR: What was your strong position then? Who are you offering? What are offering to the Russian?

CARSTENS: Yes, it's one of those questions that if I were in your chair, I'd be asking the same thing. But from my side of the house, if we get into

the details, it might actually take me further away from getting Paul and Evan home.


I would say I was asked the same questions before we brought Brittney and Trevor Reed home. In fact, the 46 people that this administration's brought

home, usually there's a back and forth that's I think very positive with members of the media or members on Capitol Hill, and the details are

usually what's the forefront of everyone's minds.

But if you start talking the details and negotiating in public, to at least my belief, you take yourself further away of achieving your objective,

which is actually getting them home. So, we don't really negotiate in public. So, if I may, I'd like to keep some of the details close to my

chest here.


CARSTENS: But I can tell you that what we're doing seems to be working. And if we just need to really find that one way that -- that one offer

that's going to work on the Russians that's going to bring Evan and Paul home.

AMANPOUR: So, there's Evan, you've mentioned Paul Whelan, who was a Marine vet. He's been jailed for five years. And now, the latest Russian American

ballerina, Ksenia Karelina, she was arrested in January. She was accused of treason for helping Ukraine.

So, are all these -- when you deal with this, do you deal with them all together or they're all separate? I mean, they're all being held by Russia.

Are they -- you know, do you put all their fates on the table or separately?

CARSTENS: Well, my office is charged with coming up with the negotiating strategy to bring home Americans that have been determined to be wrongfully

detained by the U.S. secretary of state. And right now, two Americans, Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich.

The other two Americans that might be on your radar screen, Ksenia, the ballerina, and Alsu, the RFE journalist, they've not yet been determined to

be wrongful. What I can tell you is we're looking very closely at those cases. We're trying to find out more information, but it sometimes takes a

long time.

I mean, I have to say with Evan, it was just so right in your face. You know, he was just recently accredited again by the Russians, his visa was

approved. He was arrested and the next day. The FSB put out a press release. It was pretty clear immediately that Evan was being taken and used

as a bargaining chip against the United States.

With the other two cases that have recently popped in the last few months, we're still going through the determination process, gathering information

that we can present to the secretary for him to eventually make a decision.

AMANPOUR: So, he works, as we all know, for "The Wall Street Journal." They have put out an editorial claiming that Gershkovich's arrest was

because "authoritarian governments don't fear the U.S. response." They suggest that the Biden administration arrest journalists in America.

Here's what they said in that regard. One response that the Biden administration hasn't attempted is arresting or expelling Russian

journalists operating in the United States.

What is your response to that? And I think this precedent. I do believe the United States arrested Iranians who were, you know, journalists in the

United dates?

CARSTENS: Well, Christiane, in a way, I have the pleasure of being much more focused than that and to the point that my job is to find that way

that's going to win in the negotiation to bring people home. Questions on what we might do with their journalists, I would leave that to the White

House and others.

Maybe my thoughts are, though, that we often don't play by the same rules that others play by. I think we accept the fact that journalism is a part

of our life, we embrace it. It's reasons why I like to come on shows like this and frankly, be held accountable by the members of the media. It's a

part of the system that I think we all embrace.

And so, the thought of expelling journalists, again, that's going to be up to someone else to make that decision. But I think, to my mind, we are

probably not going in the same direction that the Russians are going in in terms of clamping down on media freedom and arresting journalists.

AMANPOUR: You just said earlier that you have, under the Biden administration, brought back 46 hostages. So, where does that leave you --

I don't know whether you want to say the exact number, but where is the direction of travel? When you bring them back on more being taken hostage?

What is the direction of travel right now in terms of Americans being captured in these countries?

CARSTENS: That's a great question. You would think that common sense would tell you that if we bargain to get -- bring back Americans that the other

sides out there would go in and grab more Americans. But what we're finding is the statistics, the mathematics don't really add up in that direction.

There was a time when I had over 50 cases, not all that long ago. Right now, my numbers are hovering and bouncing in between 20 and 30. So, our

numbers are actually going down and we're finding that a lot of these countries that have had a tendency to take Americans are not necessarily

going back out to restock the pond, as we say.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to ask you to respond then to what your predecessor, Robert O 'Brien, who worked in a job similar to yours. He was

the -- you know, your predecessor under the Trump administration.


He basically says on the big cases, I think the Biden administration may have unintentionally created a market for future hostage taking. You save a

current hostage with a big monetary concession or by releasing an arms merchant, but you transfer the misery to the next hostage that's taken.

Why do you think he says that? What is your response, given what you just told me about the direction of travel, that they're not "stocking up" after

you've had hostages brought back?

CARSTENS: You know, Robert's a good friend and I still talk to him frequently. I sometimes call him to get advice or get his take on a case

that I might be working on. I find him to be a very smart person, very experienced. But really what I can do is just point to the numbers.

What we're finding, I guess mathematically, is we had a lot of cases. We've worked through them. They're going down and we're not finding that people

or the other side, whether it be the Russians or the Venezuelans or, you know, pick your country, they're not necessarily going out and grabbing

more people.

So, Robert's snapshot might be a little different than mine. I'm simply looking at the spreadsheet every day that comes back to my desk. And over

time, those numbers have actually gone down.

AMANPOUR: So, would you agree that things have actually changed? I mean, there was a time when the United States just point blank didn't do any

trades for hostages. They thought that it was rewarding terrorism.

Obviously, after James Foley was killed so brutally by ISIS, Diane Foley really, really went on the offensive, so to speak, to try to figure out how

to do what other countries do. And it appears that the United States is doing more of that.

What are you -- you're doing that, you're getting more people back, but is there a deterrence that you can be confident in? I will tell you why,

because I spoke to Evgenia Kara-Murza, as you know, her husband, Vladimir, who's the Russian-British citizen, another, you know, like Alexei Navalny,

a political opponent of Putin's and has been jailed for his stance on the Ukraine war. This is what she told me just this week, Evgenia, about

deterrence. Take a listen.


EVGENIA KARA-MURZA, WIFE OF JAILED ACTIVIST VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: I believe that if dictators work together, adopting each other's practices and

propping each other, democracies should also bring -- join their efforts to try and curb the rise of the number of political prisoners and hostages

around the world, and this cooperation could be achieved through the work of those hostage affairs offices working in cooperation, working together

in different democracies to establish a set of instruments that would prevent dictators from taking hostages in the first place.


AMANPOUR: I mean, she praised your work, and I wonder whether you agree with that. How do you convince them, and what kind of a coalition, what

does it look like?

CARSTENS: So Evgenia is a hundred percent right. I fully agree with the words that she's just offered. Secretary Blinken about -- over two and a

half years ago charged me with trying to work on a deterrence effort that will, in one day, put this this horrific practice on the dustbin of

history. And we've been working with like-minded partners, partners and allies ever since.

There's a great effort being led by the Canadians who put out the declaration against arbitrary detention in state-to-state relations a

little over two years ago. And right now, we have 75 signatories who've signed up to support this effort. And we're trying to work with these like-

minded countries to find tools that could be used to levy against countries that seem to take people and use them as political bargaining chips.

And the goal is to -- if you can build a coalition of like-minded countries maybe 10, 20, 30, 40 countries who are willing to actually take action when

a country takes a citizen of one of them as a hostage then we might find a way to raise the price of other countries taking our citizens and have this

problem go away.

I would be thrilled if in 10 to 15 years I get to dismantle my office because we've found a way to actually deter this practice.

AMANPOUR: And now on a gigantic scale in the middle of a war you've got all these, you know, more than a hundred hostages being held by Hamas in

Gaza. About 130 are left from the original 240. Israel believes that a number of that 130 may and are dead, including an American-Israeli.

You had five U.S. dual national citizens being held, one of them was confirmed to have been killed this week. What are you doing, you know, to

try to get them back? Are you working on the bigger picture to get them all back or are you trying to focus with the Hamas people in Qatar on getting

yours back?

CARSTENS: So, Christiane, I'll answer the first part of your question first and that is, this is a huge problem, obviously, in the geopolitical

space, but I see it as also a horrific event happening in lives of so many different family members.


I've had a chance to talk to every single family of American citizens that are being held in Gaza. And, frankly, I probably talked to about 40 Israeli

families, so I'll probably talk to roughly 50 families whose loved ones are held there. And, you know, it's very hard to listen to their stories and

listen the pain that they're in, and they we're all waiting for some sort of solution, which, of course, we and the government are trying to work

with our partners and allies to bring about.

But there's a real human cost here, and I know you know that from the time that you've spent talking to people that have gone through these horrific

events. But in terms of the broader scale, I can't get into details. What I tell you is I think that we've come up with what we seem to believe is a

broad contour to a plan that could work, but we have to just keep going after it.

I would say that if you focus on the day-to-day and the details that keep coming out daily, in a way, it kind of detracts from the overarching

objective, which is to keep pushing, keep -- getting -- trying to work towards that broader contour of a plan that can eventually bring everyone


So, what are we doing? We're working hard. And I can tell you that the president of the United States, Secretary Blinken and Director Burns, are

personally seized with this, and they've been putting this front and center into everything that they're doing to try to resolve this crisis.

AMANPOUR: As you know many Israeli people, the families of those who are held hostage in Gaza are very angry with their own government. They don't

believe that the government is putting -- many of them don' believe the government is pulling it front and center.

And indeed, the government also blamed the United States this week for the abstention in that ceasefire vote in the Security Council for emboldening

Hamas, for making Hamas believe that it can still hold the hostages with no consequences. What is your reaction to that?

CARSTENS: Well, Christiane, I try to stay out of the politics of it. You know, obviously, the politics bleed over into what we're trying to do in

terms of bringing people home. I think in the terms to the family members, again, I've talked to so many of them, and I have heard their stories. I've

heard their frustrations. And I just can't even imagine being in their shoes.

I mean, I've been doing this job for four years. I've probably talked well over 100 families going through this. And yet, I've never been through it

myself. So, it's impossible for me to actually go through what they're going through. And I understand their frustrations. I think if I were in

their shoes, I'd probably feel the same way.

What I will assure them is that this has the focus and attention of the president, the secretary of state, the director of CIA, I would say pretty

much the entire U.S. government, and certainly in my office, where we go to bed every night feeling like, you know, what else could we have done to try

to like forward this process? What else could we do tomorrow to try to bring this to some sort of resolution or closure?

So, you're going to get 100 percent of the U.S. government in our efforts to solve this problem. And that's all we can do, is just keep pushing

forward and taking one step forward at a time.

AMANPOUR: Robert Carstens, Special Envoy, thank you so much. Roger.

And next, as internal and international pressure builds over efforts to free hostages, so too does condemnation of Israeli policy as the

humanitarian situation deteriorates.

Today, the 24th Palestinian child, 30th person overall, has died from hunger in Gaza, according to medical sources. Melissa Bell joins me from

Jerusalem with the latest.

Melissa, this is an ongoing crisis of not enough aid distributed inside Gaza. What is the latest you're hearing now from there?

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, of course, Christiane as ever so difficult for us to get information from

inside. We rely on a small army of Palestinian producers both inside and outside the Gaza Strip to speak to people, to speech medical sources, to

find out what's going on. And then, of course, there are the figures that it's very easy to lost in day after day, the horrendous figures coming more

than 32,500 Palestinians that have now lost their lives.

But on that point, I'd like to bring to your attention one video that was shot by one freelance cameraman we employed a week and a half ago. This is

Mohammed Naeem al-Najar. He was six years old in this video being treated for severe malnutrition in Northern Gaza and it is he who died today

bringing that terrible toll caused by what is likely all too sadly, Christiane, to be the beginning of a famine to 30.

As you mentioned, I think it's important to put a face on the beginning that famine. We've been hearing today from the United Nations of their

fears that this could worsen. Publishing a map showing how difficult it is to get aid inside and calling again for more to be done to get that

desperately needed help in to Gaza. There are still, says the United Nations, great impediments and time is running out.


More broadly, of course, there continues to be throughout the Gaza Strip, Christiane, the bombings, the violence, the military campaign itself, not

least around Al-Shifa and Al Amal hospital complexes, that continued today. And we have been hearing both from the IDF and from local sources that

there was intense combat, close-quarter combat as well as intense airstrikes.

And there is -- the civilian told to that. We've been speaking to one family near Al-Shifa who spoke today, Christiane, of an airstrike that

followed an artillery hit that they'd suspected was a warning to them, unable to get out, the strike then hit the family. Six children, they say,

were buried under rubble with some of them, they say, still alive, that they simply can't reach to.

Then there is, of course, what we fear might happen next in Rafah, more than a million people living in dire circumstances and very little to

suggest that Israel has any intention other than to go ahead with the ground campaign that the United States is trying to convince it to avoid,


AMANPOUR: And, Melissa, we've obviously heard from -- and we've seen the pictures of the protests, we've talked to certain Israelis who've been

protesting this week because they want their family members back who are being held in Gaza.

What are you picking up? What is the mood amongst Israelis right now?

BELL: There is, of course, so much focus on the hostages, Christiane. We saw this week the arrest of two hostage family members quickly released.

But nonetheless, part of those daily protests outside the defense ministry in Tel Aviv because they so desperately want their family members out.

And to add to that, of course, you have things like the testimony a couple of days ago of Amit Soussana, one of the hostages who was released in

November who spoke to "The New York Times" about her 55 days of captivity, the fear the shackled ankle, slowly going through every step of what had

happened to her, including for the first time a sexual assault. This weighs heavily on Israel's collective conscience. And of course, there is a great

deal of focus on that.

There is very little, however, Christiane, in the Israeli press, about the suffering of the civilians inside Gaza. The drums of war beat loudly here,

as you'd expect. And I think perhaps that is made even stronger than it might be by the government's message, which is that it is plowing ahead

with this offensive, as relentless as it is with its sights now on Rafah, because it believes that is the only way of forcing Hamas to the

negotiating table.

Again, when there was a lull a couple of days ago in those hostage talks, Israeli officials saying, look, the United States needs to put pressure on

Hamas to bring them to the table, or we will have no choice but to head into Rafah. And they are -- what they say is that they believe this is the

only way of getting Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas, to change what they describe as his calculus, Christiane.

Melissa Bell, thank you very much indeed.

Now, the Biden administration is becoming more outspoken about the crisis in Gaza. Just this week, allowing that ceasefire resolution that I talked

about to pass at the U.N. Security Council. But for some, that was too little too late.

State Department Staffer Annelle Sheline has resigned in protest, deciding to do it publicly. After colleagues convinced her to speak out on their

behalf. In an op-ed for CNN, she said her job to advocate for human rights was impossible, saying, "Whatever credibility the United States had as an

advocate for human rights has almost entirely vanished since the war began."

And Annelle Sheline is joining me now. It is her first television interview. Welcome to the program. So, let me just hear it in your words.

It's a pretty big step to take, especially as a young State Department staffer just in your first year to do this and to do it publicly. What was

the, if there was, you know, the straw that broke the camel's back?


me and for drawing attention to this issue. I think as it became clear what U.S. policy was going to be as far as enabling the ongoing military

operations in Gaza, as well as the intentional use of starvation as a weapon, I initially hoped to make a difference inside the State Department,

through the dissent cables, through internal forums, speaking with supervisors.

And then, eventually, it became clear that, from my position inside the State, there was really very little that I could do. And so, as you

mentioned, I was initially just going to resign quietly. I just didn't want to be part of this government anymore. But as I started to let colleagues

know of my intention they said, please speak for us, please use your voice.


You know, many of these are individuals who feel they cannot resign or who are still doing very important work inside the State Department. And so, I

decided that I would go ahead and go public.

AMANPOUR: Was it painful? Do you -- did you -- what risks did you feel you were taking? What consequences for your life, for your child? You have a

one-year-old child I believe. A mortgage.

SHELINE: Yes. Those are all concerns. I do think I'm privileged. You know, I'd only been at the State Department for a year. I have an academic

background. I have a PhD in political science. I had previously been in the think tank sector. Whereas, I think for a lot of my colleagues who spent

their whole careers inside government or inside the State Department it's - - it is much more challenging to think about, you know, trying to leave.

Although, plenty of colleagues have said that it is something that they're considering, that they see what the U.S. government is doing as just -- in

such direct to contravention to the mission that they believe they're trying to uphold by working for the U.S. Department of State and in

contravention of American values more broadly.

AMANPOUR: Again, just to, you know, say it again your job was to promote human rights in North African and Middle Eastern countries, and you've

decided that you don't think, under the circumstances, that is a terrible position for you.

You just talked about using starvation as a weapon of war. Yes, the E.U. has said that, yes, the U.N., yes, other international organizations but

not the United States. Let me play this from the -- a briefing on Monday by the State Department about whether the U.S. believe that the Department,

that you just left, believes that that is happening. Take a listen.


MATTHEW MILLER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have not made an assessment or drawn the conclusion that they are in violation of

international humanitarian law when it comes to the provision of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. That said, we do believe there is very

much more that they can do to let humanitarian assistance go in.


AMANPOUR: So, you can hear the U.S. saying that over and over again now, I mean, really for a long time. So, they're trying to thread a needle, and

they are dropping aid, they are complaining and demanding that more aid goes in. Tell me what you're noticing about maybe a shift in the public

posture of the administration.

SHELINE: I think it's encouraging that we have started to see some degree of a shift, but at present, it has made almost no difference to the lives

of people starving and being bombed inside Gaza. I think to the extent that even things like the U.S. being willing to abstain at the U.N. Security

Council is significant. But then the administration came out and immediately said that that was nonbinding.

So, in general, I just find that the way the administration is trying to do this, I think they made a political calculation, that they thought that it

made the most sense politically to maintain this extreme support for Israel, regardless of the illegal behaviors that Israel engages in.

And I just want to be clear that Israel is in violation of U.S. laws, whether it's the Leahy laws or Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act.

The law is very clear here. And I worry very much that not only -- when the administration flouts those laws, it's not only having a devastating effect

for the people of Gaza, but for U.S. moral standing abroad.

And this administration came in, pledging to reestablish America's moral leadership, to reengage in international institutions. To -- this was

something that many of my colleagues inside state really believed in. And this is part of why so many people are feeling so betrayed by the decisions

this administration keeps making.

AMANPOUR: When you say violates U.S. laws, and you mentioned the Leahy law, can you just lay that out in case for people who don't know?

SHELINE: The Leahy laws require that if a foreign -- if units of a foreign military are -- if it has been determined that they have engaged in gross

violations of human rights, that those units are no longer eligible to receive U.S. military assistance. In addition, the other law related to

foreign assist -- to humanitarian aid is that if a foreign country is blocking American humanitarian aid, they also render themselves ineligible

to receive U.S. military assistance.

So, under these laws, as you mentioned, plenty of other international and, you know, other international institutions and other countries have made

those designations, have said that that Israel is indeed committing these actions and yet, the U.S. government is not yet willing to acknowledge



AMANPOUR: Do you think -- I mean, you've just left. So, you've obviously been privy to discussions over the last months. Do you think that the

United States might move in that direction, this administration, because it's not just Leahy and that was, you know, years ago, but it's right now

senators like Chris Van Hollen and others are saying that we need to make conditional our military support on the respect for international

humanitarian law?

Do you think that the U.S. is moving in that direction as President Biden increasingly expresses discontent, distress, and disagreement with the

tactics if not the strategy of Israel's defending itself?

SHELINE: I certainly hope so. But I would push back against the characterization of Israel's behavior as self-defense. The administration

continues to use those words, because self-defense is permissible under the U.N. Charter.

But the actions that Israel is engaged in as far as -- like we already discussed, the use of starvation as a weapon of war, continuing to hit

buildings, institutions that are protected under international humanitarian law such as hospitals, the ways that Israel is conducting this war, I would

argue are -- fall far outside the bounds of what might credibly be considered self-defense.

And instead, I would argue that with -- you know, I would add to the argument others have made that Israel is committing war crimes and is

possibly engaging in an act of genocide.

AMANPOUR: And again, I have to say that obviously the State Department position is allegations that Israel is committing genocide unfounded.

That's the State Department position. And you would expect me to read that position out.

What is the atmosphere in the dissent channel? Because there is a dissent channel, as you all talk about. It has existed, I believe, since the

Vietnam War. And the spokesman, Miller, was very careful to say that the secretary of state appreciates the dissent, appreciates a conversation

whether or not they agree with what you say, they appreciate the ability for you to be able to say it.

I mean, you're not denying that you were able to say it, right? You're basically denying that it made a difference.

SHELINE: Yes. I very much appreciated that inside state there -- they -- on this issue, they did cultivate an atmosphere of openness, like I

mentioned, the open forums, the dissent channel. It is something very much that is in discussion.

At the same time, as the spokesperson mentioned, they're not going to change the policy no matter how many members of the rank-and-file pushback

against it. This is something that does get decided at the very top.

Unfortunately, I do think it's going to require President Biden himself to realize that this is either becoming potentially so politically costly that

he realizes it's time to change course, or I hope would re-examine his assessment of this situation and think more deeply about how history is

going to view his actions here, both in terms of U.S. law and the impact on the people of Gaza.

AMANPOUR: Annelle, very quickly. I wonder, because you are the second to actually resign. There was Josh Paul. We also interviewed him. It's two

people. It's not a massive -- you know, it's not a herd, so to speak. And there are obviously people inside the State Department who support the

administration's policy.

Can you give us a sense from what you know inside the State Department of how much the support is? Can you make that judgment?

SHELINE: I know that I speak for many people. There's a group, for example, called Feds United for Peace. They're outside of state, but in

other government agencies, there are many other groups of people who are very concerned about this, Staffers for Ceasefire, for example, among Hill


People are shocked and appalled by what the U.S. government is doing. Many people continue to do the very important work inside the State Department

and continue to feel that their efforts are making a difference on, you know, the many, many issues that the State Department is involved in. But

on the other hand, I do know people who may be considering resigning.

AMANPOUR: Well, we appreciate you telling us your truth and thank you for being with us. Annelle Sheline, thank you so much indeed.


And now, to Haiti, a country the U.S. is also looking at, it is teetering on the brink of collapse amid escalating gang violence.

France has evacuated some 240 people from there and more than 1,500 have been killed by the violence in Haiti so far this year. That is from the

U.N.'s Human Rights Office announcing today.

Meanwhile, Haiti's transitional presidential council is still being finalized. It's aiming to appoint a new prime minister to "put Haiti back

on the path of democratic legitimacy, stability, and dignity."

Now, Widlore Merancourt is a reporter at "The Washington Post" and editor- in-chief of the Haitian publication, AyiboPost. He joins Hari Srinivasan from Port-au-Prince to discuss the deteriorating situation there.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Widlore Merancourt, thanks so much for joining us.

You have been reporting and living in Haiti for years now. Just in the last few weeks and months, describe what you have seen of your country.

WIDLORE MERANCOURT, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AYIBOPOST: Well, Haiti is living today, probably it was crisis, you know,

for the past decade. You know, and the 29th of February in Haiti launched a series of attacks against these institutions. But not just these

institutions, they also attacked private institutions, businesses, and hospitals.

We have about 15,000 people displaced by the violence, but this is on top of more than 300,000 people who are already displaced by gang violence in

Haiti. The humanitarian crisis is extremely dire. The political crisis also that is piling up on top of this is not offering, you know, any relief


SREENIVASAN: What led to this most recent crisis?

MERANCOURT: Well, this most recent crisis is brought by a coalition of gangs in Haiti. They call themselves Live Together, which is very

Orwellian. It's a beautiful French expression, meaning, you know, as I said, viv ansanm, viv ansanm. It's a coalition of gangs, led by Jimmy

Cherizier, he's a former police officer.

His goal, stated at the time, you know, late in February, was to topple the government of Ariel Henry. But, you know, during this month of March, Ariel

Henry announced that his government is going to resign, the attacks did not stop. And until today, we still have police officers being killed by these


And, you know, in the course of this coordinated attack that I mentioned before, two of the biggest prisons in Haiti has been, you know, left open

with thousands of inmates, some of them, you know, some of the worst criminals, quite frankly, in the country released in the streets.

SREENIVASAN: So, maybe a simple question, maybe a complicated one, who's in charge?

MERANCOURT: Well, that's a good question. Haitian people are asking themselves this question, because in practical terms, the government is not

-- is nowhere to be seen, quite frankly, in Haiti.

We are talking about probably the worst humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 300,000 people. And today, as I said

before, more than 350,000 people are displaced by gang violence. We have hundreds of hospitals -- I mean, six in 10 hospitals are today closed.

We have, you know, the airport that is closed by the gang's violence. And on top of that, you also have the main port of Port-au-Prince, the

Caribbean Port Services attacks at least twice by the gangs.

And we are in the country where the vast majority of things that we consume in Haiti comes from abroad. So, when you have the airport that is closed

and you have also the ports that are not working properly, that means, you know, crucial goods and crucial things that people need to function, we are

talking about food, we are talking about medical supplies, we are talking about more than 300 containers of humanitarian supplies seized by the

gangs. And the government is not really, you know, communicating on this issue.

SREENIVASAN: So, if you can't get goods and services, I should say goods, into the country, what's the ripple effect there? That means a business

selling that good has to shut its doors. That means the employees of that business are out of work. That means the people buying food from that

business no longer can, right?

MERANCOURT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that's -- it's adding on a crisis that already existed, right? When goods cannot come in, you have, as you

said, the street markets, the supermarkets, which, you know, don't have enough supplies to kind of put things on the shelves for people to buy.


But even before that situation, even when the port were functioning, you know, more or less, the inequality inside of Haiti made it so that, you

know, it was already extremely difficult for the vast majority of people to go around and buy food and find, you know, food.

So many people rely on humanitarian assistance in Haiti. And, you know, for the 2020 year, the need for humanitarian assistance is about $600 million.

And only 7 percent of that is funded. We are -- you know, if you talk to humanitarian folks in Haiti, they will tell you that they have a sense of

what some folks call the Haiti fatigue, which means maybe because there are so many other crises around the world today, or maybe the world has turned

its back to Haiti, the level of needs that the Haitian people have, the dire humanitarian situation we have, you know, is not met by any help.

And that also means, you know, on practical terms, Haitian people going without food, about half of the country today, is in acute hunger.

According to the U.N., you have hundreds of thousands of people, you know, living in camps, being displaced by the gang violence. You have hospitals,

as I said, closed down by the gang violence. You have hundreds of thousands of kids. You know, with hundreds of schools being closed, these kids are

being denied the right to have an education. You know, on a random basis, you go industries of Port-au-Prince today, you see dead bodies.

SREENIVASAN: Tell me a little bit about who is filling this leadership vacuum. Who runs the gangs right now? Who's the kind of de facto head or

most powerful person in Haiti?

MERANCOURT: So, historically in Haiti, the gangs are linked to the political sector and also the business sector. They use these young events,

you know, sometimes from extremely poor areas to advance their own interests.

But increasingly, in the past years, we are seeing the gangs kind of go rogue and they don't particularly have a centralized leader with a

centralized sort of set of goals. We have this (INAUDIBLE) sort of toxic soup of different gangs doing different things, kidnapping people,

ransacking business, extorting people, et cetera.

But they also have some common interests. This is why late last year, Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer, announced this Live Together alliance,

and he resurrected this alliance, you know, a couple of weeks ago with the stated goal to attack the government.

SREENIVASAN: What do we know about Jimmy Cherizier? I mean, he's named Barbecue.

MERANCOURT: Well, Jimmy Cherizier is a former police officer in Haiti, which is an interesting fact, because one of the most important components

of the insecurity today in Haiti is the lack of faith of the Haitian people in the formal institutions set up to protect it, right?

You have police officers being also implicated in massacres, in gun activities, and sometimes in kidnapping. So, he rose to prominence around

the year 2019. He participated, you know, around that time in many massacres, including one in the La Saline. Dozens of innocent people were


The Haitian National Police was trying to interview him to understand his war in, you know, these massacres. He left. He fled. And this is around the

time he became the thug that we today know him for.

You know, in the aftermath of these events, he was kind of just one of the civil gang leaders, powerful gang leaders, you know, terrifying the Haitian

population here in Port-au-Prince. But, you know, he made sort of a transition in the past couple of years to have a so-called political speech

with some, you know, stated objective that would be to conduct what they call a revolution. This revolution would be against the corrupt political

class and also the corrupt business class in Haiti.


It's a beautiful speech. But just like any speech, if you make extraordinary claims, you need extraordinary proof. And the proof today on

the ground is the vast majority of the victims of gang violence, the vast majority of the victims of, you know, the shootings, the killings and then

the rapes, the poor people living in apartments.

SREENIVASAN: Look, without a functioning police force, or at least any visible police presence on the street, and gangs essentially carving up

different parts of the country, what does that do to, I don't know if the word is morale, but how people feel today, considering all of the different

types of challenges that Haiti has faced for so long?

MERANCOURT: Well, I regularly talk to police officers, right? In the past week, since the 29th of February, about 12 police stations were either

burned down or directly attacked by the gangs and the attacks, you know, continuing.

When I talk to police officers, they -- you know, these are the people set up to protect the Haitian population and they are extremely discouraged.

They think like the leadership of the police is ineffective. They are on arms and unable to defend themselves, you know, correctly against the gangs

that are more than -- more powerful than ever in Haiti.

So, if the police is, in that stage, you can imagine what it is to be a regular Haitian going around Port-au-Prince. But not just Port-au-Prince,

the Haitian capital, also in so many other places. I mean, I think the vast majority of the country, quite frankly, is under the influence of gang's

activities, making it, you know, difficult for goods to flow, making, you know, displaced people, making it extremely hard for families to get

together, you know, sowing chaos and death, you know, amongst people. The anxiety that causes.

I have neighbors speaking to me about their kids, you know, kids as little as, you know, 7, 8, 10 years old regularly speaking about death and, you

know, being extremely stressed if their parents goes around. And it's not farfetched ideas that, you know, even if you're not in a place entirely

under the control of gangs, you know, one of the most fears -- and most important fears in Haiti today is being hit by stray bullets.

And you are in a city where, you know, the vast majority of the hospitals are closed. The most important hospital, the public hospital in Port-au-

Prince today is closed due to the gang violence. Many doctors are not going to work because, you know, they fear for their lives. And we are talking

about a country where more than 40 percent of Haitian trained doctors today already left Haiti. The few ones that are still operating, you know,

working in extremely dire conditions.

SREENIVASAN: Do people in Haiti want outside intervention? I mean, this is a country that has had so many different experiences with the outside world

trying to help and that effort backfiring. Where are people now? What is the public sentiment of wanting an intervention from the West, the U.S.,


MERANCOURT: OK. So, I think there are a few things happening. The first thing is the history. The last big foreign intervention in Haiti was, you

know, from 2004 and 2017 with the United Nations.

And although this mission helped calm down against the violence, helped stabilize the country for a moment, but it was responsible for hundreds of

cases of violation of human rights. We have a mission that brings cholera to Haiti. And for a long time, the United Nations refused to recognize its

war in bringing the cholera that killed about 10,000 people and infected 800,000 more. And still today, Haiti is facing this cholera while we have

all the crises that I described before.

You also have, you know, the implication of the U.S. in supporting the dictatorship of Duvalier from 1957 to 1986, you have the U.S. occupation

from 1914 to 1924. You have, you know, the -- if you go even up, you can also find the independence ransom, the 1825 ransom that Haiti had to pay to

France after Haiti's soldiers' kind of took their freedom from France.


So, I think this backstory is fresh in people's memory. But at the same time, many Haitians actually recognized that the Haitian national police,

the Haitian forces, are unable to top down against the gangs, to fight back against the gangs that are extremely powerful.

Collection of business, Meta (ph), conducted a pool in the past years that would indicate the vast majority of people are for some intervention.

However, how this intervention is, you know, going to be conducted, what component of it is going to be, you know, supporting and strengthening the

Haitian national police? These are open questions, because if this is to be sustainable, if this is to be doable, it has to be something led by the

Haitian people. Haitian people can, you know take their own destiny and bring security to their own communities.

SREENIVASAN: I know this is difficult to measure, but can you detect what the level of optimism or hope is in people that this crisis too shall pass?

Are they increasingly depressed about what's happening right now? What do you get as a sense when you go out in the field and report so many of your


MERANCOURT: I spoke about, you know, hundreds, thousands of doctors fleeing Haiti in the past years to find a better life abroad, to find, you

know, other opportunities, but so many doctors actually today go every day to the few hospitals that are functioning to help people.

When I'm meeting with humanitarian people, not just people coming from abroad, in international institutions, but the vast majority of the folks

going to distribute food, going to help in poor neighborhoods, going in neighborhoods actually controlled by against our Haitian, Haitian

institutions and Haitian people.

When I speak to, you know, police officers who, despite everything, despite the fact that they are not paid well, despite that fact they're unequipped,

they feel a sense of duty. So many of them tell me to serve and to help.

When I see regular Haitians, you now, helping and sharing what they have to help neighbors and to assist however they can, these are small indications

for me that people are not hopeless, people taking responsibility, and people know that, you know, a better future is possible whenever they get

together and try to do something about their own situations.

SREENIVASAN: Widlore Merancourt of "The Washington Post" joining us from Haiti. Thanks so much for your time.

MERANCOURT: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, we remember a pioneering figure in behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman. He passed away peacefully this week

at age 90. He won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics alongside Vernon Smith for their revolutionary work that changed the way we understand human error

and decision-making.

Kahneman was a master and exposing the behavioral quirks that we all have and how irrational we can all be. In 2021, he explained to Bianna Golodryga

how this irrationality impacts acceptance of the COVID vaccines.


DANIEL KAHNEMAN, NOBEL PRIZE WINNER: Society has to accept some risks, some non-zero risks. Eliminating the risks completely is not rational

because eliminating the risk of vaccines completely means that many people will die from the disease. So, some balance must be found.


AMANPOUR: Balance indeed. Former Princeton University colleague Eldar Shafir called Kahneman "a giant in the field." And in 2013, he was awarded

the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

And that's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can always

catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.