Official: Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister to Step Down

By DÁNICA COTO

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph gives a press conference in Port-au-Prince, Friday, July 16, 2021, the week after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s on July 7. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry will replace the country’s interim prime minister to honor the wishes of the country’s slain president, an official told The Associated Press on Monday.

It wasn’t immediately clear how quickly interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who has been leading Haiti with the backing of police and the military since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, would step down.

“Negotiations are still in course,” Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre said, adding that Joseph would go back to being minister of foreign affairs.

Joseph could not be immediately reached for comment, and Henry did not return a message for comment. However, he released an audio recording in which he referred to himself as prime minister and called for unity.

Henry said he would soon announce the members of what he called a provisional consensus government that would lead the country until elections are held.

“I present my compliments to the Haitian people who have shown political maturity in the face of what can be considered a coup. ... Our Haitian brothers gave peace a chance, while leaving the possibility that the truth could one day be restored,” Henry said.

“Now it is up to all the national leaders to walk together in unity, towards the same goal, to show that they are responsible.”

The political turnover followed a statement Saturday from a key group of international diplomats that appeared to snub Joseph as it called for the creation of “a consensual and inclusive government.”

“To this end, it strongly encourages the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,” the statement from the Core Group said.

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

Monique Clesca, a Haitian writer, activist and former U.N. official, said she doesn’t anticipate any changes under Henry, whom she expects to carry on Moïse’s legacy. But she warned Henry might be viewed as tainted because of the Core Group’s involvement.

“If he accepts this, there is not only a perception, but the reality that he has been put there by the international community, and I think that’s his burden to carry,” she said.

“What we’re calling for is for Haitians to really say this is unacceptable. We do not want the international community stating who ought to be in power and what ought to be done. It is up to us.”

The U.S. Embassy issued a brief statement saying it encouraged civil society to play an active role in building consensus in Haiti, adding that it was essential to strengthening democracy.

The Core Group statement was issued hours after Moïse’s wife, Martine, arrived in Haiti on Saturday aboard a private jet clad in black and wearing a bulletproof vest after being released from a hospital in Miami. She has not issued a statement or spoken publicly since her return to Haiti as the government prepares for the July 23 funeral that will be held in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. Other events to honor Moïse are planned this week in the capital of Port-au-Prince ahead of the funeral.

Moïse designated Henry as prime minister shortly before he was killed, but he had not been sworn in. The neurosurgeon was previously minister of social affairs and interior minister. He has belonged to several political parties including Inite, which was founded by former President René Préval.

The upcoming change in leadership comes as authorities continue to investigate the July 7 attack at Moïse’s private home with high-powered rifles that seriously wounded his wife.

Authorities say more than 20 suspects directly involved in the killing have been arrested. The majority of them are former Colombian soldiers, most of whom Colombian officials say were duped. Another three suspects were killed, with police still seeking additional ones, including an ex-Haitian rebel leader and a former Haitian senator.



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