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Morning new brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Facing a revolt by gangs at home and increasing calls for him to leave his post from the international community, Haiti's de facto prime minister says he intends to resign.

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PRIME MINISTER ARIEL HENRY: (Non-English language spoken).

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In his speech, Ariel Henry thanked the Haitian people for the opportunity to serve his country with, quote, "integrity, wisdom and honor."

For more than two weeks now, gangs have brought the country's capital to its knees. They've attacked the airport, police stations and jails, letting free thousands of inmates. Meanwhile, Ariel Henry has been stranded outside the country. Now, he says he will resign once a transitional council is formed.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta is making his way to Haiti - joins us now to explain what's happening from the neighboring Dominican Republic. So let's start first with what happened. What caused this resignation?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So yesterday, Caricom, which is the association of Caribbean nations, called an emergency meeting that included the United States. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, went to Jamaica. And then, very late at night, the leaders from the Caribbean nations said they had brokered a way forward in Haiti. They said that Ariel Henry had agreed to resign and that it would happen after a nine-member transitional council appointed a new interim prime minister. We hadn't seen Henry for more than a week. He hasn't been able to get back into Haiti because of the violence, and we presume he's still in Puerto Rico. But we finally saw him in a video he released confirming the news last night. He said that watching all of the violence taking place in Haiti was revolting, and that the government he led could not be insensitive to what was happening, A.

MARTÍNEZ: He hasn't been prime minister that long. What's made him so unpopular?

PERALTA: So Henry became prime minister in 2021 after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. He was appointed - not elected - and he has been controversial from the get-go. Haitian prosecutors have implicated him in the assassination of the president - a charge that he denies. And Henry had also promised to move Haiti toward elections, and that hasn't happened. Haiti hasn't had elections in so long that the terms of all the country's politicians have expired. And at the same time, gangs have taken control of something like 80% of the capital. And this latest crisis was sparked by an announcement by Henry that he would delay elections until next year. That's when the gangs really got involved in politics. They used to fight each other. Now they're united. They've launched coordinated attacks in an effort, they say, to topple the government.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. All right. So gangs now getting into politics - I mean, so does this deal, then, now put an end to the chaos and violence in Haiti?

PERALTA: I think that's the hope of the international community - that at least it brings down the temperature. But I think the chances of that are not great. The gangs were not consulted in this deal. And whether anyone likes it or not, they are an important constituency in Haiti. We haven't heard from them. But, in the past, they've said that they will not support a government imposed from abroad. Also, Haiti is a fractured country. There's something like 100 political parties, but this Caricom deal only takes into account seven of them. And that feeds a common criticism I've heard in Haiti about all this, which is that the international community is making decisions for Haiti without consulting many Haitians.

And finally, at the center of this deal is a peacekeeping mission led by the Kenyans. That's still what the international community thinks will bring order to Haiti, but it's still unclear when that deployment can happen.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta on his way to Haiti. Eyder, thanks.

PERALTA: Thank you, A.

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MARTÍNEZ: President Biden and former President Donald Trump don't agree on much, but they do agree that Georgia is a key state to win the White House.

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DONALD TRUMP: With your vote, we are going to win the state of Georgia in an epic landslide.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: 'Cause you really want to do it again because you are going to win this primary for us on Tuesday and because we're going to win in November.

FADEL: The state also highlights some of the obstacles the candidates will face in the general election, and it's where they both campaigned this weekend.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Stephen Fowler joins us now from Atlanta on this primary day. So Georgians got to hear from both candidates over the weekend, effectively kicking off the general election campaign, Stephen, so what message do these dueling rallies send?

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Well, A, that Georgia is on the mind for both the Trump and Biden campaigns - and no wonder because, as you may remember, it was decided by about 12,000 votes in 2020.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, 11,780, Stephen - how can anyone forget that? Yeah.

FOWLER: Exactly. So it's expected to be close again. I mean, look, Trump spent the last three years insisting he didn't lose the state. It's been on the front lines of the fight over the direction of the Republican Party and how Trumpy it should be. Biden won in Georgia by stitching together this disparate coalition that he needs to replicate this year - from young people to Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters to moderate suburban types that backed his campaign in 2020.

MARTÍNEZ: I'm sure, at the campaign events, voters expressed optimism that their particular candidate would prevail in Georgia, but what about people with concerns about each of them winning the state?

FOWLER: Yeah, so I had two pretty clear-eyed conversations with both a Republican and a Democrat about the pitfalls the presidential candidates face in the Peach State. Ruwa Romman is a Democratic state lawmaker and the state's only Palestinian American elected official.

RUWA ROMMAN: We're saying, please understand there is a sizable group of people that can absolutely have your back come November, but we need you to do the right thing or else we are going to really struggle to turn out our communities. Because I promise you, me being Palestinian - if I go tomorrow and I tell my community to vote for Joe Biden before we've seen a serious change in policy, they are absolutely going to turn against me, too.

FOWLER: Romman voted a blank ballot in this primary over concerns with Biden's support for Israeli military operations that's led to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. She says displeasure with a Trump-Biden rematch might lead to nonwhite voters in Georgia showing up less, but there's still plenty of time to fix it.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so what about Republicans and what they think about Trump's chances in Georgia? Because, after all, this is a state where he faces criminal charges for trying to overturn the last presidential race.

FOWLER: The rift within the Republican Party may be a little bit harder to patch, especially given Trump's track record in states like Georgia. Here's Gabriel Sterling. He works in the Georgia Secretary of State's office and is a longtime player in Republican politics.

GABRIEL STERLING: Lost in 2018, lost in 2020 - the ones who, like, glommed on to Stop the Steal lost in 2022. We barely won the House. We lost the Senate again. We lost the Senate twice because of Trump decision-making and Trump endorsements.

FOWLER: He says the voters to watch this year are the well-educated suburbanites that, so far, are voting Nikki Haley in the GOP primary.

STERLING: This isn't rocket science. You can see the people who are uncomfortable with President Trump. They were the reason he won in 2016 and the reason he lost in 2020. Those are sort of the new swing voters.

FOWLER: So if the election were held today, A, well, most people probably wouldn't be happy voting for either candidate. But come November, what the voters in Georgia's important demographic groups do across the political spectrum will likely play an outsized role in who wins, yes, both Georgia and also the White House.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Stephen Fowler in Atlanta. Stephen, thanks.

FOWLER: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: Inflation has been coming down in recent months, but the road to price stability remains bumpy.

FADEL: Yeah, gas prices in particular have been going up in recent weeks. That's after a long period when falling gas prices helped keep inflation in check. We'll see where things stand a bit later this morning when the Labor Department reports consumer prices for February.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. Scott, I sent you a picture earlier this morning of a gas station that I took in downtown LA - $7.39 a gallon for gas.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Thoughts and prayers, A.

MARTÍNEZ: Anyone that complains about gas that doesn't live in California, I don't want to hear about it. But I know that gas prices have gone up by - what? - 20 cents a gallon over the last month. What's that about?

HORSLEY: Two sure signs of spring, A, are cherry blossoms and rising gasoline prices.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

HORSLEY: And this year, they're both coming early. We typically see prices start to climb in the spring, as days get longer and people start driving more. It's also the time of year when refineries are doing maintenance and switching over to summer blends. So production of gas drops. All that appears to be happening on an accelerated schedule this year. Patrick De Haan, who's with GasBuddy, says, at the beginning of the year, there were more than 30 states where the average price of gas was under $3 a gallon. Today, that's down to about four states.

PATRICK DE HAAN: We're getting to that time of year where March Madness also hits gas prices, and we are indeed down to our last four states where the average price of gasoline is below $3 a gallon. But I do expect that that count will probably drop to zero here over the next two to three weeks.

HORSLEY: Now, one thing to note is we're not seeing a similar jump in diesel prices. As the weather warms up and demand for heating oil drops, diesel prices could fall further. That's important because diesel prices can affect the cost of all the other stuff that gets trucked around the country.

MARTÍNEZ: And what is happening to all those other prices and to inflation more broadly?

HORSLEY: Well, the price of a lot of stuff has actually been leveling off and, in some cases, even coming down. If you strip out food and energy, goods prices have actually fallen over the last year. Most of the inflation we're seeing now is on the services side - things like restaurant meals and doctor's visits. Importantly, housing - it was the cost of housing that led to somewhat higher than expected inflation in January, and we'll find out this morning what happened in February.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. The Federal Reserve had been trying to counter inflation with high interest rates. So now the big question is when the Fed might start lowering rates because that would bring some relief to consumers. So any indication if that's coming soon?

HORSLEY: Not yet. The central bank wants to see more evidence that inflation is going to keep on coming down. The Fed is not too bothered by the normal gyrations in gas prices, but it wants to be sure those other prices, especially for services, are not going up too fast. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week he and his colleagues don't want to cut interest rates too early and run the risk of reigniting inflation. On the other hand, they don't want to wait too long and slow the economy down more than they have to.

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JEROME POWELL: We want to keep the economy growing. We want the labor market to remain strong. We want inflation to continue to move down closer and closer to that 2% objective. That's the economy that we're trying to achieve. And I think there's a - you know, we're on a good path so far to be able to get there.

HORSLEY: So on a good path, but not quite to the finish line just yet. We'll see if today's report brings us closer to that 2% inflation target and closer to a time when the Fed is ready to start taking its foot off the brake.

MARTÍNEZ: Just don't put the foot on the gas, right? Just - too expensive to do that. NPR's Scott Horsley - thanks a lot, Scott.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.