Haiti prepared Thursday to bury its assassinated president under tight security, just over two weeks after his assassination further rocked a country mired in poverty, corruption and political instability and fueled long-standing racial tensions among its population.
Jovenel Moise, who was 53 when he was shot at his home in the early hours of July 7, will be buried Friday in Cap-Haïtien, the main town in his northern hometown.
The city was calm on Thursday but a day earlier clashes broke out during the visit of police chief Léon Charles. He was booed and heckled while inspecting the security arrangements for the funeral.
Local residents criticized the police chief for failing to protect Moise, whose wife Martine was seriously injured in the gun attack, apparently carried out by a group of retired mainly Colombian soldiers – without that the presidential guard was not injured.
So far, more than 20 people have been arrested, most of them Colombians, and police say the plot was organized by Haitians with links outside the country and political ambitions.
But the matter remains obscure, with many unanswered questions.
Haitians have expressed shock that those charged with protecting the president and his house have failed so abjectly to do so. The impoverished Caribbean nation is riddled with crime and powerful gangs – problems that only worsened during Moses’ reign.
His death rekindled long-standing tensions between northern Haiti and the west, where Port-au-Prince is located. Some have even erected barricades on the roads leading to Cap-Haitien to prevent residents of the capital from attending the funeral.
“We will do everything to honor him as he deserves, at the height of his importance for our city,” said the mayor of Cap-Haitien, Yvrose Pierre.
– Pray for justice –
A Catholic mass was to be held for Moses on Thursday at the city’s cathedral, followed by a procession in his honor.
“His murder saddened me a lot. I prayed for his soul. I prayed for justice, ”said a woman standing near the cathedral, who only gave her first name Carine.
Memorial ceremonies in honor of Moses were also held this week in Port-au-Prince.
# photo1 One of them was new Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was sworn in on Tuesday and vowed to restore order and hold long-delayed elections, as Haitians and the international community want.
The State Department on Thursday appointed a new United States special envoy to Haiti to help inaugurate the organization of the elections.
So far, the country has no functioning parliament and only a handful of elected senators. The interim government installed this week has no president.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Henry on Thursday to express “Washington’s commitment to support the Haitian people following the heinous assassination” of Moise.
Blinken also “stressed the importance of establishing as soon as possible the conditions necessary for Haitians to vote in free and fair legislative and presidential elections.”
France also released a press release on Thursday calling for legislative and presidential elections “as soon as conditions allow”.
Moise had ruled Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree after legislative elections scheduled for 2018 were delayed due to multiple disputes.
In addition to presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti was due to hold a constitutional referendum in September after being postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
© 2021 AFP