The group of foreign powers monitoring Haiti's situation has changed its mind as to who should lead the country to speedy elections to restore normalcy following President Jovenel Moïse earlier this month.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph had been recognized by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States among other foreign powers as the man in charge, but they have changed their minds after verifying somebody else had better credentials.
The representatives in Haiti of the United Nations, the OAS and the European Union and a group of six other ambassadors, including that of the United States, have now expressed their support for Ariel Henry, who had been appointed prime minister on July 5, in the last decree signed by Moïse two days before his death, but who had not taken the oath of office, which allowed Joseph to lead the government with the support of the Police and the Army.
In a new statement, the foreign powers called for the formation of a consensus and inclusive government and strongly encouraged Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government.
The so-called Core Group is made up of the US, France, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Canada, the EU, and representatives of the UN and the OAS. This group was initially established as a facilitator of the work of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (Minustah), deployed between 2004 and 2017. According to the ambassadors' vision, Henry should be in charge of organizing in the shortest possible time presidential and legislative elections, which must be ”free, fair, transparent and credible.
Senate Speaker Joseph Lambert had also been appointed acting president by a group of his peers within the Upper House last week.
At any rate, Joseph still seems to be the actual man in charge. When Moïse's widow Martine landed Saturday in Port-au-Prince back from Miami where she was flown to receive medical treatment for the wounds she sustained during the attack that resulted in the killing of the president, it was Joseph who went to the airport to welcome her back.
Martine Moïse is scheduled to attend the state funerals, which have been scheduled for next Friday in Cap-Haitien, the largest city in the north of the country and close to the Trou-du-Nord commune, where her husband was born.
Meanwhile, in Washington, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity was quoted as saying that all seven Colombian nationals arrested by Haitian authorities in connection with Moïse's assassination “had been approved for a variety of training activities held both in Colombia and the United States between 2001-2015” and the State Department, as well as the Department of Defense, were reviewing their records to see if any additional suspects have ties to the US.
Moïse was shot and killed in the early hours of July 7 at his private residence in a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince.
Haitian National Police (HNP) Chief Léon Charles said 18 Colombians have been arrested in connection with the killing. Last week, Colombia’s President Iván Duque said in a radio interview that most of the detained Colombians had been duped into thinking they were to provide bodyguard services for the Haitian leader.
Charles also said five Haitian police officers were also in isolation because of their alleged involvement in the assassination plot. Investigators are questioning all police officers who were on duty when the attack occurred, he said. We have 18 assailants under detention. Three were killed during the attack, and there are five Haitian Americans who we are taking a close look at, Charles said.
We are working both internally and externally with the assistance of our international partners to move the investigation forward. There are Interpol and FBI agents here on the ground to help us analyze evidence that will help us trace and identify the masterminds, he added.
A fourth alternative to fill the void left by Moïse's death was the so-called Haiti Civil Society Commission, composed of representatives of all sectors of Haitian civil society who wanted to appoint a new president. “We’re not in a hurry. We want to allow the country to find a way to enter into dialogue and agree on solutions that fundamentally address the biggest preoccupations of the Haitian people,” Ted Saint Dic, one of the organizers of the commission, had said last week.
Joseph was quoted Friday as having told a Creole news outlet that “After the president was killed, someone in authority had to step in to take over. Nine days have passed and here we are. That is why I stepped up as interim prime minister to move forward along with the other government ministers.”
About himself plus Henry and Lambert, Joseph said: “We have three leaders plus the other sectors — we have to put our heads together to find a solution. That's what's important. I am appealing to all sectors of society to unite to resolve this political crisis.”
Haiti’s parliament has been out of session since January 2020 when the terms of most of the legislature expired. Elections have not been held to select new members due to mass protests, the coronavirus pandemic and uncontrolled gang violence.
To add to Haiti's political instability, a group of supporters of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide took to the streets of Port-au-Prince last week to welcome him back after undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness in Cuba. Aristide fans waved Haitian flags, white flags, freshly picked tree branches, homemade signs and played traditional festive rare music as they waited to see him.
Aristide was Haiti's first democratically elected president after dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was removed from power in 1986.
He ruled from Feb. 7-Sept. 30, 1991, when he was deposed in a military coup. After living in exile in the United States for three years, he returned to lead Haiti in October 1994 until 1996.
A year later, he created the Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family) political party. He ran for president as its candidate and won in 2000. Haiti's constitution bars heads of state from holding consecutive terms. In July 2001, Aristide was ousted in another military coup and lived in exile in South Africa until spring 2011, when he was allowed by then-President Michel Martelly to return to Port-au-Prince. He has mostly stayed out of the limelight, but his party remains active in politics.
President Moïse's death also cleared the way for the arrival into the country of the first batch of anticoronavirus vaccines. Half a Million Doses were delivered last week through the UN's Covax program. It was a donation from the government of the United States. Haiti was the only country in the Americas without a single dose of a covid-19 vaccine.
US President Joseph Biden's administration plans to donate an additional 500 million doses globally next year, and 200 million by the end of 2021.