WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Dennis Hankins as the U.S. ambassador to Haiti as the Caribbean country faces escalating violence and political uncertainty.

The near-unanimous vote comes about 10 months after President Joe Biden nominated the longtime diplomat to the post in May 2023. Hankins was confirmed in an 89-1 vote, with 10 senators not voting.

The White House had urged a “swift confirmation” for Hankins amid growing gang violence in Haiti.

“This is a critical time to make sure that we have an ambassador in place and we certainly urgently need him in place,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters earlier on Thursday. “And again, we’re working with our partners on Capitol Hill to get him confirmed as soon as possible. We certainly hope that that vote proceeds swiftly and in the affirmative.”

Hankins steps into the post just days after Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, announced his resignation plans as violent gangs have swept through much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Earlier this month, the plane Henry was on landed in Puerto Rico because of threats at a Haiti airport. The gang leader, Jimmy Cherizier, called “Barbecue,” had threatened additional violence if Henry did not step down.

Gangs in Haiti attacked government institutions and the National Penitentiary, which led to nearly all of the estimated 4,000 inmates escaping.

In response to the unrest, the U.S. added security forces at the American embassy and airlifted nonessential personnel out of the country.

Biden detailed his decision to deploy military personnel to the embassy, writing in a Thursday letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson that “United States Armed Forces personnel are anticipated to remain in Haiti for as long as the security environment requires.”

“Although this military security force is equipped for combat, its movement was undertaken as a precautionary measure solely for the purpose of protecting United States diplomatic facilities and diplomatic personnel,” Biden said in the letter.

Hankins has worked as a foreign policy adviser in the Pentagon and has held U.S. diplomatic posts in countries including Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Mozambique, according to the White House. He has also worked in Haiti as the nonimmigrant visa chief and refugee coordinator.

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