US delegation to the funeral of the President of Haiti leaves early due to security concerns

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CAP-HAÏTIEN, Haiti – Spurred on by protesters and surrounded by phalanxes of heavily armed guards, foreign diplomats and Haitian politicians attended the funeral of the assassinated President of Haiti on Friday, a tense event that exposed the problems of a broken nation rather than an opportunity for healing to offer .

Less than half an hour after the funeral, foreign dignitaries, including the American delegation led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, left for safety concerns over reported shots fired outside the event. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “The presidential delegation is safe and will be held accountable in the face of reported non-funeral shootings”. and returned to the United States to shorten the visit to Haiti.

When President Jovenel Moïse’s flag-covered coffin was moved onto a white-draped central stage carried by men in military uniforms, a moment that many hoped would contribute to reconciliation was overshadowed by tensions that exploded in the streets the day before and carried over to Friday.

A line from Mr. Moïse’s supporters stood at the entrance to the funeral that was held at his place Family homestead and shouted to arriving politicians: “Justice for Jovenel!”

When Haiti’s National Police Chief Leon Charles arrived, the crowd crowded around him, shouting and pointing. When he passed a tribune of invited guests, many jumped up there too to shout their displeasure.

“He killed the president!” Marie Michelle Nelcifor called out, adding that she believed Mr Moïse called Mr Charles while assassins attacked his home, but that Mr Charles did not send police officers to defend him. “Where were the security guards?” She asked.

Others were angry that the president would be buried before the investigation into him began Assassination Completed. “You bury him surrounded by his murderers!” called Kettie Compere, a mother of two, who looked up at the grandstand of the diplomats and Haitian politicians where Mr. Charles had settled.

As Martine Moïse, the President’s widow, She arrived dressed in black with a big black hat and a mask with a photo of her husband on it, the crowd buzzed around her and sang “arrest her, arrest her”.

Speaking of which publicly for the first time since the attack in which she was also injured, Ms. Moïse gave an emphatically political laudation. While she tells the mourners that her family “lives in dark days”, she also implied that her husband was killed by the country’s leading middle-class families.

“Is it a crime to want to free the state from the clutches of the corrupt oligarchs?” She said, standing around the podium with her three children.

“The raptors are still walking the streets with their bloody claws,” she said. “They’re still looking for prey. They don’t even hide. They watch me and listen to us, hoping to scare me. Your thirst for blood has not yet been quenched. “

The smell of tear gas wafted over the family compound during the funeral. Afterward, guests returning to the nearby town of Cap-Haïtien saw the fresh remains of burning tires and drove through streets blocked with felled trees and rocks.

As the American delegation arrived at Cap-Haïtien airport on Friday, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said: “Our delegation is here to deliver a message to the Haitian people: you deserve democracy, stability, security and prosperity, and we stand by” To you in this time of crisis. That is why we come here out of solidarity with the Haitian people at this difficult time. “

The murder of Mr Moïse, 53, on July 7th in the bedroom of his house near the capital Port-au-Prince plunged the 11 million Caribbean into one of its deepest crises. Officials have blamed a group of Colombian mercenaries, but many questions remain unanswered, including who planned the assassination and why no members of his security team were injured. Several members of these security personnel have been questioned and taken into custody.

Under pressure from Western countries, led by the United States, Haiti’s other vigilant political leaders have pledged an orderly transition and democratic process. But even before the funeral it was clear that deep divisions would shape and possibly undermine a place of reconciliation that many hoped for.

Just hours earlier, the northern city of Cap-Haïtien – 30 minutes from his family home – had burned with anger and frustration, revealing Haiti’s distrust of the elite in the less developed north of the country.

Black smoke from burning tires billowed across the streets on Thursday, a common form of protest in a country divided on geography, wealth and power. Many demonstrators ran through the narrow colonial streets shouting: “You killed Jovenel and the police were there.”

“We sent someone alive, they sent him back a body,” shouted Frantz Atole, a 42-year-old mechanic, promising violence. “This country will not be silent.”

A new government was installed in the capital this week, with leaders promising to investigate the killings and to build consensus between the country’s political factions and its citizens Groups.

But Thursday’s unrest threatened to turn hopes for a consensus into a naive, unrealized dream.

“The Port-au-Prince bourgeoisie is responsible. You are the reason for all of this, ”said Emmanuella Joseph, a 20-year-old high school student who cried into a washcloth by the roadside at the end of an ongoing protest.

She added that the president’s killers were outsiders who had long interfered in the country’s fate. “What kind of nation comes and kills a president?”

Cap-Haïtien was once the capital of the French colony of St. Domingue, which claimed one of the most brutal slave plantations in the world and was later overwhelmed by the most successful slave rebellion in the world. Banners reading “Justice for President Jovenel” and “Thank you, President Jovenel” were lined up on its streets. You gave your life for the struggle of the people and it will go on. “

In the immediate vicinity of the city’s main stone square, where rebel leaders were executed more than two centuries ago, mourners lined up on Thursday to sign books of condolence and light candles before a large photo of the president was taken in a government building.

“We live in such a fragile time,” said Maxil Mompremier in front of the Notre Dame de L’Assomption cathedral from colonial times, where Moïse’s supporters had previously gathered for a service. “Nobody understands what happened. Lots of people are scared. “

Mr. Moïse, who comes from the north of the country, was not very well known in the center of power in Port-au-Prince when the ruling party voted him a candidate in the 2015 elections. Born in the city of Trou-du-Nord, he later began his entrepreneurial career in Port-de-Paix, where he became President of the Chamber of Commerce.

The fact that he was killed far away in Port-au-Prince ignited old divisions between the less developed north and the country’s capital and economic metropolis. It also deepened the rifts between the country’s small elite and its destitute majority.

“It occurs incessantly in the entire history of Haiti,” said Emile Eyma Jr., a historian from Cap-Haïtien, speaking of the resentments of the northerners.

Harold Isaac, Zachary Montague, and Rick Gladstone contributed to the coverage.


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