White House Welcomes New Developments In Haiti

A large group of mostly Haitian protesters march in a very peaceful demonstration, protesting the recent assassination of their President Jovenel MoÏse, on the streets of north-central Paris, between Place de La République, on the way to Place de la Bastille, with a sign, saying The Americans are complicit!. (Photo by Owen Franken - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. Tues. July 20, 2021 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes reports that Haitian politicians are discussing ways of working together in the wake of the July 7th assassination of President Jovenel Moise, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Claude Joseph, who has nominally led Haiti as acting prime minister since the July 7th assassination of President Moise, will hand power to a challenger backed by the international community today, Haiti foreign ministry senior official Israel Jacky Cantave said. The new government will be installed with Prime Minister Ariel Henry at its head and Claude Joseph will retain the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, according to Le Nouvelliste citing an official source close to the Prime Minister’s office

The announcement appears to end a power struggle in the Caribbean nation between Joseph and Henry, the 71-year old neurosurgeon who was appointed prime minister by Moise two days before the killing but had yet to be sworn in.

Joseph, who has nominally led Haiti as acting prime minister since the assassination of President Moise, said in a Washington Post interview published on Monday he has agreed to step down, handing power to a challenger backed by the international community.

Moise was fatally shot when attackers armed with assault rifles stormed his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince. The assassination has pitched the already troubled nation into chaos, coming amid a surge in gang violence that has displaced thousands of people and hampered economic activity in the poorest country in the Americas.

Joseph told the Washington Post that he and Henry had met privately over the past week, adding that he agreed to step down on Sunday “for the good of the nation” and is willing to transfer power “as quickly as possible.”

“Everyone who knows me knows that I am not interested in this battle, or in any kind of power grab,” Joseph said.

“The president was a friend to me. I am just interested in seeing justice for him,” Joseph added.

Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, and has grappled with a series of coups and foreign interventions.

On Saturday, the important Core Group of international ambassadors and representatives urged “the formation of a consensual and inclusive government.”

“To this end, we strongly encourage the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,” the group said.

The Core Group is made up of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the European Union and special representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

The group also called for the organization of “free, fair, transparent and credible legislative and presidential elections as quickly as possible.”

A Colombian police chief said on Friday the assassination may have been ordered by a former Haitian justice ministry official, citing a preliminary investigation that has implicated Haitian-Americans and former Colombian soldiers.

Martine Moise, the assassinated president’s widow, returned to Haiti on Saturday for his funeral after she was treated in a Miami hospital for injuries sustained during the attack. A state funeral for Moise is set for July 23rd.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham, Doina Chiacu and Chizu Nomiyama)