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Haiti's Future Is Uncertain Following President Duvalier's Brutal Assassination
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Haiti's Future Is Uncertain Following President Duvalier's Brutal Assassination


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — An already struggling and chaotic Haiti stumbled into an uncertain future Thursday, reeling from President Jovenel Mose's assassination, which was followed by a reported gunbattle in which authorities said police killed four suspects in the murder, detained two others, and freed three officers held hostage.

Officials vowed to find those responsible for the predawn raid on Mose's house early Wednesday, which resulted in the president's death and his wife, Martine Mose, being flown to Miami for treatment.

“The pursuit of the mercenaries continues,” Léon Charles, director of Haiti’s National Police, said Wednesday night, announcing the arrests. “Their fate is fixed: they will fall in the fighting or they will be arrested.”

Officials did not provide any information about the suspects, such as their ages, names, or nationalities, nor did they address a motive or what led police to the suspects, instead stating that the attack, which was condemned by Haiti's main opposition parties and the international community, was carried out by a "highly trained and heavily armed group" whose members spoke Spanish or English.

Following Mose's assassination, Prime Minister Claude Joseph assumed leadership of Haiti with the assistance of police and the military and declared a two-week state of siege, which stunned a nation grappling with some of the Western Hemisphere's highest levels of poverty, violence, and political instability.

Inflation and gang violence are on the rise as food and fuel become scarcer, and 60% of Haitian workers earn less than $2 per day, as the country struggles to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Those in Haiti, as well as family and friends in other countries, were left wondering what would happen next.

“There is this void now, and they are afraid of what will happen to their loved ones,” said Marlene Bastien, executive director of the Family Action Network Movement, a nonprofit that assists residents of Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

She stated that it was critical for US President Joe Biden's administration to play a much more active role in supporting efforts at national dialogue in Haiti with the goal of holding free, fair, and credible elections.

“No more band-aids, the Haitian people have been crying and suffering for too long,” Bastien said, emphasizing the importance of the Haitian diaspora’s involvement.

Haiti had become increasingly unstable under Mose, who had been ruling by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as critics accused him of seeking more power and the opposition demanded he resign.

According to the Haitian constitution, Mose should be replaced by the president of the Haitian Supreme Court, but the chief justice died recently of COVID-19, leaving the question of who should rightfully succeed to the office open.

Meanwhile, Joseph was supposed to be replaced by Ariel Henry, who had been appointed prime minister by Mose just a day before the assassination.

In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Henry stated that he is the prime minister, calling the situation exceptional and confusing. In another interview with Radio Zenith, he stated that he and Joseph had no disagreement: “I only disagree with the fact that people have taken hasty decisions... when the moment demands a little more serenity and maturity.”

Mose had faced large, violent protests in recent months as opposition leaders and supporters opposed his plans to hold a constitutional referendum on proposals to strengthen the presidency.

Hours after the assassination, public transportation and street vendors were scarce, an unusual sight on Port-au-Prince's normally bustling streets. Gunfire rang out intermittently across the city, a grim reminder of the growing power of gangs that displaced more than 14,700 people last month alone as they torched and ransacked homes in a battle for territory.

According to Robert Fatton, a University of Virginia Haitian politics expert, gangs are a force to be reckoned with, and Haiti's security forces may be unable to enforce a state of siege.

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“It’s a really explosive situation,” he said, adding that foreign intervention with a United Nations-style military presence is a possibility. “Whether Claude Joseph manages to stay in power is a huge question, and it will be very difficult for him to do so if he doesn’t create a government of national unity.”

According to The Associated Press, Joseph supports an international investigation into the assassination and believes elections scheduled for later this year should take place, and he has promised to work with both Mose's supporters and detractors.

“Everything is under control,” he assured us.

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Evens Sanon of the Associated Press in Port-au-Prince and Danica Coto of the Associated Press in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report, as did AP writer Joshua Goodman in Miami.

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