Haiti awaits new chief as official mourning starts for Moïse

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Youths stand at a gate along the seashore in the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, July 19, 2021. The country of more than 11 million people are still reeling from the July 7 killing of President Jovenel Moise. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — While they await a new leader, Haitians are beginning a series of official ceremonies Tuesday to honor President Jovenel Moïse nearly two weeks after he was assassinated at home.

The ceremonies come as designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry prepared 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 Moïse’s private home. Moïse was shot multiple times and his wife was seriously wounded.

Henry is scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday afternoon after promising to form a provisional consensus government to lead Haiti until elections are held.

“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.

The government released the names of Henry’s cabinet, with the ministers of justice, economy, finance, agriculture and others keeping their positions.

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 Moïse 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.”

On the same day the Core Group issued its statement, first lady Martine Moïse 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.

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.

Authorities have arrested more than 20 suspects for alleged direct links to the killing. The majority of them were former Colombian soldiers, many of whom officials say were duped.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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