Saturday, December 4

New Haitian leader with international backing to take over


A new prime minister backed by key international diplomats will take over Haiti, an official said Monday, a move that appeared to be aimed at avoiding a leadership struggle following the assassination of President Jovenal Moïse.

Ariel Henry, who was appointed prime minister by Moïse before he was assassinated but was never sworn in, will replace the country’s interim prime minister, Haitian Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear how quickly Claude Joseph, who has been running Haiti with the backing of the police and military since Moïse’s assassination on July 7, would resign.

“Negotiations are still ongoing,” said Pierre, adding that Joseph would revert to being foreign minister. There were no immediate comments from Joseph.

In an audio recording, Henry referred to himself as prime minister and called for unity, saying he would soon announce to members of what he called an interim consensus government to lead the country until elections are held.

“I offer my congratulations to the Haitian people who have shown political maturity in the face of what can be considered a coup d’état. … Our Haitian brothers gave peace a chance, while leaving the possibility that one day the truth could be restored, “said Henry.

“Now it is up to all national leaders to walk together in unity, towards the same goal, to show that they are responsible.”

The political shift followed a statement Saturday by a key group of international diplomats that appeared to snub Joseph when he called for the creation of “a consensual and inclusive government.”

“To this end, it strongly encourages Prime Minister-designate Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,” the Core Group statement said.

The Core Group is made up of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the European Union, and representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

On Monday, the UN issued a statement calling on Joseph, Henry and other national stakeholders “to set aside differences and engage in constructive dialogue on ways to end the current deadlock.”

The UN added that Joseph and Henry made significant progress last week and that it supports dialogue to find a “minimum consensus” for fair legislative and presidential elections.

Monique Clesca, a Haitian writer, activist and former UN official, said she does not anticipate any changes with Henry, whom she hopes will carry on with Moïse’s legacy. But he warned that Henry could be viewed as corrupt due to the international backing that preceded his takeover.

“There is not only a perception, but the reality that the international community has put it there, and I think that is their burden to carry it,” he said.

“What we are asking is that Haitians really say that this is unacceptable. We do not want the international community to indicate who should be in power and what should be done. It depends on us.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration “welcomes reports that Haitian political actors are working together to determine a way forward in the country.”

“We have been encouraging, for several days, Haitian political actors to work together and find a political way forward,” he said.

Earlier, US State Department spokesman Ned Price had said that the US would continue to work with Joseph after noting that he was incumbent on the job and was serving as interim prime minister prior to the assassination.

The Core Group statement was issued hours after Moïse’s wife, Martine, arrived in Haiti on Saturday aboard a private jet dressed in black and in a bulletproof vest after being released from a hospital in Miami. He has not issued a statement or spoken publicly since his return to Haiti as the government prepares for the July 23 funeral to be held in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. Other events honoring Moïse are planned this week in the capital of Port-au-Prince before the funeral.

Moïse appointed Henry as Prime Minister shortly before his death, but had not been sworn in. The neurosurgeon was previously Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of the Interior. He has belonged to several political parties, including Inite, which was founded by former President René Préval.

The next change of leadership comes as authorities continue to investigate the July 7 attack on Moïse’s private home with high-powered rifles that seriously injured his wife.

Authorities say more than 20 suspects directly involved in the murder have been arrested. Most of them are former Colombian soldiers, most of whom Colombian officials say were misled. Three other suspects were killed, and police are still searching for more, including a former Haitian rebel leader and a former Haitian senator.


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