Haitians held official ceremonies Tuesday to honor assassinated President Jovenel Moise while preparing to install a new interim leader and arresting at least three police officers implicated in the killing.
Designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry was to be sworn in to replace interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed leadership of Haiti with the backing of police and the military after the July 7 attack at Moise’s private home.
Moise was shot multiple times and his wife was seriously wounded, and while officials have arrested at least 26 people in the case, it remains unclear who ultimately was behind the attack.
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Police Chief Leon Charles announced four more formal arrests on Tuesday – at least three of them police officers, whose ranks he did not release.
“There was infiltration in the police,” he said.
Authorities earlier said they had detained and isolated – but not formally arrested – several high-ranking police officials as they tried to determine why the attackers were able to reach the president without any of his guards being injured.
Henry, a neurosurgeon and former cabinet minister, was scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday afternoon after promising to form a provisional consensus government to lead Haiti until elections are held.
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“We will need this unity to overcome the many challenges that beset us,” Henry said. “Some have observed the latest events with amazement, others wonder with reason about the management of the country.”
Henry said he has met with various unidentified actors as well as civil society and the private sector. “I intend to continue and deepen these discussions, because it is the only way to bring the Haitian family together,” he said.
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The government released the names of Henry’s cabinet, with the ministers of justice, economy, finance, agriculture and others keeping their positions.
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Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press on Monday that Joseph would step down and cede the position to Henry, who was chosen for the post by Moise shortly before he was killed but had not been sworn in.
The change in leadership comes after a group of key international diplomats called on Henry to create a “consensual and inclusive government” in a statement issued Saturday that made no reference to Joseph. The Core Group is composed of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the U.S., France and the European Union as well as representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia, said Joseph’s departure was to be expected.
“Joseph’s fate was sealed over the weekend,” he said. “Everything that happens in Haiti has a powerful foreign component.”
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A main opposition coalition known as the Democratic and Popular Sector called Henry a puppet of the international community and rejected his appointment.
“This step is only a political provocation that will add fuel to the fire and push the country further into crisis,” it said.
On the same day the Core Group issued its statement, first lady Martine Moise arrived back unannounced in Haiti to the surprise of many. She had been recovering at a hospital in Miami after being seriously injured in the attack. On Monday, her office issued the first public statement since the killing, thanking Haitians for their support.
“Your moral support gives the presidential family the courage to go through this great ordeal and helps it transcend these moments of indescribable pain,” it said.
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On Monday, the U.N. said that Joseph and Henry had made significant progress in the past week to end the impasse and that it supports dialogue to find “minimal consensus” for holding fair legislative and presidential elections.
The police chief said Tuesday that in addition to the new arrests, seven high-ranking police officials – including those with the president’s security detail – had earlier been placed in isolation, though they are not formally considered suspects.
He said a total of 26 suspects arrested including 18 Colombians, five Haitians and three Haitian-Americans.
© 2021 The Canadian Press