PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Hundreds of Haitians sought solace in prayer during Sunday church services as a struggle for political power threatened to further destabilize their fragile country following the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse.
Leaders of Catholic and Protestant churches have called for calm and told people to stand strong as concern for the future grows, with authorities providing no answer or theory on the perpetrator of the murder by a group of men armed early Wednesday at the president’s home. Martine Moïse, the president’s wife, was seriously injured and was transported to Miami for treatment.
“Faced with this situation, we will not be discouraged… You must stay and fight for peace,” said Father Edwine Sainte-Louis during a sermon broadcast on television which included a small photo of Moses with a banner. who said: “Haiti will remember.”
Authorities arrested at least 19 suspects, including 17 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans. At least three others were killed and six are on the run, the government said. Prosecutors have called for prominent political figures, including presidential candidate Reginald Boulos and former President of the Haitian Senate Youri Latortue, to meet with officials for questioning as the investigation continues. Authorities also said they plan to question at least two members of Moses’ security.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph currently rules Haiti with the help of the police and the military, but he faces increasing challenges for his power.
Ariel Henry, who Moses named as prime minister a day before his assassination, said he believed he was the legitimate prime minister, a claim also supported by a group of lawmakers who are members of Moses’ Tet Kale party. This group also supports Joseph Lambert, head of the dismantled Senate of Haiti, as the country’s provisional president.
Haiti, a country of over 11 million people, currently has only 10 elected after failing to hold legislative elections, leading Moïse to rule by decree for more than a year until his death.
As the streets were quiet on Sunday, government officials are worried about what to expect and have requested military assistance from the United States and the UN.
“We still believe there is a path to chaos,” Haiti’s election minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby told Fox News on Sunday that the Pentagon was analyzing the request to send troops to Haiti and no decision had been made. He said a team, largely made up of agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, was visiting Haiti “right now” to help with the assassination investigation.
“I think this is really where our energies are best applied right now, to help them mobilize to investigate this incident and determine who is to blame, who is responsible and how to hold them accountable in the future. “Kirby said.
The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990. The last United Nations peacekeeping mission arrived in 2004 and all military peacekeepers left the country in 2017. But a stabilization group remained behind. place to train the national police, help the government to strengthen the judicial and legal systems. institutions and monitor human rights. This mission ended in 2019 and was replaced by a political mission led by an American diplomat, Helen La Lime.
In addition to helping normalize the country, the UN peacekeeping force played an important role after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. But Nepal’s UN troops are widely blamed for inadvertently introducing cholera, which has afflicted over 800,000 people and killed over 9,000 since 2010. Some troops have also been implicated in sexual abuse. , especially against hungry young children.
Laurent Dubois, an expert from Haiti and professor at Duke University, said questions about Moses’ assassination could go unanswered for a long time.
“There are so many potential players who could be behind,” he said, adding that the political strength of Pierre, the acting prime minister, is an open question. “There will be maneuvers for positions of power. This is a big concern. “
In Port-au-Prince, resident Fritz Destin hosted a sermon from a priest urging people not to be discouraged.
“The country needs a lot of prayers,” he said. “Violence makes life a little uncertain.
AP videographer Gerardo Carrillo contributed to this report.