SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Violent protests mar funeral of slain Haiti president

On Friday, murdered President Jovenel Moise’s burial was roiled by close gunfire and protesters, forcing a high-level US delegation to leave suddenly and other officials to get into vehicles for protection.

The state funeral in Cap-Haitien, in the north, was meant to promote national unity, but the unrest revealed deep divisions over the July 7 atrocity, in which suspected foreign gunmen walked into the Moises’ residence seemingly unchallenged and shot the president multiple times, injuring his wife as well.

Smoke billowed into the event from stacks of burning tires and destroyed cars blocking roads outside the property where the ceremony was place, raining black ash on mourners.

Moise’s widow Martine finished the ceremony with an emotional speech that alternated between French and Creole, calling for justice for her husband, turning on his enemies and promising to continue his work to establish a more just Haiti.

“The fight isn’t finished yet,” she remarked, her face obscured by a wide-brimmed black hat and her bandaged right arm in a sling. “He has already paved the route for us. Even though the journey is long, Jesus will be with us until we arrive.”

There have been few explanations as to who planned the murders or why they were carried out.

There were no early reports of protesters or mourners at the funeral being injured. Outside the servicing site, Reuters witnesses smelled gas and heard detonations that sounded like gunshots.

During the riots, a nearby home furnishing store was looted, according to local media. As the last mourners left the enclosure, lines of people lugging washing machines and other household items could be observed nearby.

The U.S. delegation filed out of the makeshift arena hosting the service less than an hour after entering. During the service, dozens of armed security personnel formed protective cordons around officials in the stands.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the situation in Haiti as he announced the U.S. delegation had returned home safely.

“We strongly urge all parties to express themselves peacefully, and call on Haiti’s leaders to be clear that their supporters must refrain from violence,” he said in a statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, led the American delegation. Earlier, as her team arrived in Cap-Haitien, she called on Haiti’s new Prime Minister Ariel Henry to create conditions for legislative and presidential elections “as soon as feasible.”

“The Haitian people deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity,” said Thomas-Greenfield on Twitter.

PROTESTS IN HOMETOWN

Trouble flared minutes after a brass band and church choir music formally opened Moise’s funeral ceremony.

Punctuated by declamations from supporters who accused authorities of responsibility for Moise’s death, the service played out in an atmosphere of tension, and the organizers brought the program to close nearly an hour ahead of schedule.

Angry shouts were sometimes drowned out by loud swells of somber devotional music played on loudspeakers.

Wrought with emotion, Moise’s immediate family eulogized the late president as a champion of the poor who had dared to challenge Haiti’s dominant political and economic elites.

Arguing the Haitian system was stacked against him from the start, Martine Moise said her husband had been a victim of hate-filled enemies and “corrupt oligarchs.”

She stayed with his coffin for more than an hour after it was carried to a canopied mausoleum, laid in a concrete tomb about ten feet (three meters) deep, then covered by iron bars, and sealed with planks of wood, cement and large rocks.

The tomb stood near a mausoleum to Moise’s father, who died last year.

Earlier, arriving Haitian officials met with protests, with many directing anger at national police chief Leon Charles.

“Why do you have all this security, where were the police on the day of the president’s assassination?” one protester said.

The demonstrations have convulsed Cap-Haitien, his hometown, for three days. Protesters have vented anger over the many questions that remain unanswered over his death.

Some saw in the assassination the continuing hand of foreign powers in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, which was the first state in Latin America and the Caribbean to become independent from Europe at the start of the 19th century.

Haitian officials say the attack was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombian former soldiers, at least six of whom had previously received U.S. military training.

The turmoil has pushed Haiti up Biden’s foreign policy priorities and on Thursday the U.S. State Department named a special envoy for the country. But Biden has rebuffed a request by Haiti’s interim leaders to send troops.

Moise himself faced major protests. A Senate audit accused him of involvement in embezzling over $2 billion of Venezuelan aid, claims he dismissed. He angered opponents by ruling by decree and tabling legislation to expand presidential power.

Gang violence surged on his watch and the economy struggled. But support for him was prominent in his hometown. Banners celebrating Moise festooned buildings along the narrow streets of Cap-Haitien’s old town, with proclamations in Creole including “They killed the body, but the dream will never die.”

    Source:
  • Reuters