Assassination Mastermind May Still Be at Large, Haiti’s Caretaker Leader Says
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The mastermind behind the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti is likely still at large for a month, the country’s acting leader said. He said he remained bewildered by the ultimate motive for a crime that shattered the nation and left it in a political vacuum.
“I think there were a lot of people involved; there were people who had access to a lot of money, ”Prime Minister Ariel Henry said in an interview Tuesday at his residence in the capital, Port-au-Prince. “The people they’ve accused so far, I don’t see that they have the capacity, the web, to do that.”
More than 40 people were arrested after Mr. Moïse was shot 12 times and his wife seriously injured on July 7 by a group of assailants who broke into his room. Police and the prosecutor’s office continue to issue warrants for new suspects almost daily. Some of the detainees have been charged, but none have been brought to justice.
Few in Haiti believe that the authorities have moved closer to the people who organized and financed the complex plot. It appears to have been planned for months in Florida and Haiti and involved sending two dozen Colombian ex-commandos to the country.
Although the President had many enemies, Mr Henry, who was appointed by Mr Moïse shortly before his death, said he remained bewildered by the ultimate motive for the crime.
“Maybe I am also in danger because of the people who killed him,” Mr Henry said. “Could they do it again?” I do not know.”
The opposition claimed that Mr. Moïse’s five-year term should have ended on February 7, five years to the day since his predecessor, Michel Martelly, resigned. But Mr. Moïse had clung to power, reigning by decree. He argued that an interim government had occupied the first year of his term. Protesters took to the streets of Haiti to demand his dismissal.
But Mr Moïse had said he would not run for another term in the general election scheduled for September 26 and that he was due to resign seven months before the murder.
Claude Joseph, then prime minister, took control of the Haitian government immediately after the assassination, but pressure from foreign powers led to an agreement to let Mr. Henry, 71, take office on July 21.
On Monday, the chief prosecutor of Port-au-Prince began to issue the first charges in the assassination investigation, and the suspects arrested – including the security chiefs of Mr. Moïse, the Colombian ex-commandos and Haitian businessmen – have been transferred to a prison in preparation. for testing. But despite some progress, the investigation got bogged down from the start in irregularities and attempted subversion.
At least three judicial officials who gathered evidence and conducted initial interviews with key suspects are now in hiding after receiving numerous death threats.
Mr Henry said his main goal now was to organize free and fair elections to stabilize the country. He said he was in talks with political parties and civilian leaders to appoint a new electoral council and draft a new constitution that will be presented to voters for approval.
He promised to improve Haiti’s serious security crisis before the vote: parts of the capital remain under gang control. He also ruled out asking for the help of troops for the vote from allies, including the United States, saying the task would be given to the national police.
The assassination of the Haitian president
Mr Henry has said he will not stand for election. Despite the challenges of guiding the country through a political and security crisis, he said, he continues to practice his main profession, as a neurosurgeon. He will perform his next operation on Thursday.
“My mission is to create an environment for elections with broad participation,” he said, adding that he hoped the vote would help break Haiti’s chronic political instability. “If we can have one, two democratic transfers of power, Haiti will be fine. “
But, raising a note of uncertainty, the acting prime minister said Haiti’s security and political challenges made the scheduled date of the September 26 elections unlikely. He declined to provide a new deadline.
His ambivalence over keeping the election date has been criticized by some Haitian politicians, who say the country needs a roadmap for a new government to avoid mass unrest following the murder of Mr. Moses.
“If they don’t hold the elections before 2022, this country will explode,” said Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s election minister, who was organizing the upcoming vote in Mr. Moïse’s government. “It’s a volcano that’s burning inside.”
Richard Miguel contributed reporting.
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