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Haiti’s acting prime minister to step down, turn over power to Moïse's earlier pick

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 7/19/2021 Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Haitian Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks during a press conference at his residence on July 16, 2021, in Port-au-Prince. © Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/AFP/TNS Haitian Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks during a press conference at his residence on July 16, 2021, in Port-au-Prince.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Acting Haitian prime minister Claude Joseph says he plans to transfer power on Tuesday to Dr. Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon and longtime political stalwart whose designation earlier this month as the next in line for the post was “the final wish of President Jovenel Moïse.”

He’ll be the seventh Haitian prime minister in four years.

“There is no pressure for me to make this decision,” Joseph told the Miami Herald in an interview. “I just decided to transfer power to him because he was the last wish of the president, even though the process wasn’t completed.”

In reaction to the news, Henry, 71, said: “Tomorrow, the reconciliation government that President Jovenel Moïse wanted will be in place.”

The two men have been at the center of a power struggle — along with the head of the Senate, Joseph Lambert, as well as human rights and civic leaders and the political opposition — ever since Moïse’s shocking death.

Moïse, 53, was killed in a brazen middle-of-the-night attack at his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince on July 7, while his wife, Martine Moïse, was wounded, resulting in her being flown to Miami for medical care. She returned to Port-au-Prince Saturday, accompanied by security, to help prepare her husband’s state funeral. The funeral will take place Friday in the city of Cap-Haïtien after a period of mourning that will begin Tuesday.

The assassination of Moïse, who became president in 2017 and had been ruling by decree, has left Haiti with an even greater power vacuum. The volatile nation was already reeling from a deepening political and constitutional crisis with non-functioning parliament, a lack of elected mayors and just 10 lawmakers.


Video: Haiti interim prime minister Joseph set to step down this week (Reuters)

At the time of Moïse’s death, he was facing a surge in gang violence and kidnappings — and pressure from the United States and others in the international community to hold general elections before the end of the year.

Though Haiti has remained relatively calm in the days since Moïse’s killing, the lack of clarity over who will govern in the coming days and months has been a major worry for the international community, which is opposed to a transitional government and is has advocated for elections before the end of the year.

Worried about a push by some civic leaders backing a transitional government and sensing that Henry was facing difficulty forming a government, foreign diplomats over the weekend stepped into the political fray. In a rare statement, they showed support for Henry and called for him to continue to form his government.

Joseph, 43, will remain as part of the new government in his role as foreign minister. He said he has no interest in being associated with a fight for power.

“People thought we were fighting against each other,” he said. “We were never adversaries or rivals. Ariel and I have been talking about what we should do to move the country forward.

“Everyone needs to come together to change the country,” he said, adding that “you don’t need to be in the government to do that. What matters most now is elections.”

Joseph has said that in addition to elections, his top priority is to see the multinational probe into who killed Moïse come to its fruition.

“I will still keep a close eye on it. It’s one of the reasons I stayed in the government,” he said. “It’s because of Jovenel Moïse I am here. Jovenel Moïse put me in those positions — ambassador, ministry of foreign affairs and then prime minister. I have a debt, a moral obligation to him. He has to find justice.”

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