Illustration Credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer
Over two weeks have now elapsed since the assassination of the late President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, who was murdered at his home in a wealthy enclave outside of Port-au-Prince in the early hours of July 7. While the long-term repercussions of Moïse’s assassination for Haiti—not to mention a comprehensive, conclusive investigation into the figures and forces involved in his killing—remain undetermined and unrealized, this week Haiti resolved the crisis of prime ministerial and interim presidential succession that had threatened to plunge the country further into political and social chaos. On Tuesday, Ariel Henry—a trained neurosurgeon and former Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Minister of Interior and Territorial Communities, who had been named prime minister-designate by Moïse only two days before his death—was sworn in as Prime Minister and acting President of Haiti in a ceremony in Port-au-Prince, replacing former interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who had ruled the country as de facto head of state since Moïse’s killing. Joseph, who will evidently retain a ministerial role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced over the weekend that he would step down, ceding power to Henry “for the good of the nation.”
In the days immediately following Moïse’s assassination—as gun battles between security forces and suspects in the president’s killing raged across Port-au-Prince; as armed civilian vigilantes patrolled streets throughout the country, flouting the extralegal “state of siege” declared by Joseph; and as Haiti appeared to be on the brink of collapsing into a violent power struggle between rival political factions—Joseph’s claim to legitimacy received the tacit backing of much of the international community, including the United Nations (UN) and the United States. In recent days, however, Henry had secured the backing of the powerful “Core Group”—an unofficial body consisting of representatives from the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Spain, the European Union, the UN, and the Organization of American States. In a statement released last Saturday, the Core group urged Henry to form a “consensual and inclusive government” and “continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government.” The statement also called upon Haitian society to be fully supportive of Henry’s forthcoming efforts to restore stability to the country; prior to Moïse’s death, Haiti had already faced a mounting security crisis, as gang violence, violent crime, and kidnappings surged across the country. Nevertheless, the international push to schedule presidential elections for as soon as September have been met with skepticism by many Haitian academics and civil society activists wary of Haiti’s history of exploitation and destabilization at the hands of numerous external powers and actors, dating back the historic slave revolt that secured Haiti’s independence from France in 1804.
Regarding the ongoing investigations of Moïse’s death, a senior government minister has admitted that the “big fishes” behind the conspiracy remain unidentified and at large. Two key suspects, however, are in custody. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, a Haitian-born doctor and pastor living in South Florida who had allegedly claimed a divine vocation to lead Haiti, was arrested last week amid reports suggesting that he had discussed plans for a multibillion dollar reconstruction of the country with leading figures in Haiti and the diaspora. The second suspect includes former intelligence officer Joseph Felix Badio, a former member of a government anti-corruption task force and intelligence official in the Ministry of Justice. Last Friday, General Jorge Luis Vargas, director of Colombia’s national police force, announced that Badio—whose whereabouts remain unknown—had ordered two former Colombian soldiers to murder Moïse, after initially informing them that they would only be “arresting” the late Haitian president.
Moïse was buried this morning in his hometown, the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, with numerous international dignitaries (including the U.S. ambassadors to Haiti and the UN, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks, and the newly announced U.S. special envoy to Haiti), as well as his widow, Martine Moïse—who only recently returned to Haiti following an extensive hospitalization in Miami for injuries sustained in the attack that killed her husband—in attendance. Cap-Haïtien—a city far removed from traditional networks of political and economic power, where Moïse remains a beloved figure—was plagued by violent protests in advance of today’s ceremony, as residents vowed to avenge the late president, who is widely viewed in Cap-Haïtien as having been martyred by Port-au-Prince elites.