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There’s a power struggle in Haiti following the assassination. Who are the contenders?

UPDATED: Fri., July 9, 2021

By Asta Hemenway Miami Herald

After Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated and his wife wounded in their Port-au-Prince home early Wednesday, the question now is: Who will lead the country?

Haitian authorities identified four arrested Colombian nationals in connection with the assassination and two South Florida Haitian American men on Thursday, James J. Solages, 35, and Vincent Joseph, 55. There are said to be 40 to 50 presumed assassins, most of whom are Colombian.

Who are the two men competing for power in Haiti?

Two men are vying to lead Haiti during the turmoil left by a power vacuum: Claude Joseph, the prime minister, and Ariel Henry, the man Moïse just appointed to be the next prime minister.

While the Supreme Court president would be Haiti’s next leader if the office of president were suddenly vacant, that’s not possible because René Sylvestre died from COVID-19 on June 23.

The U.S. supports Joseph’s ascension. Henry said that’s a mistake.

Claude Joseph

Recognized by the Biden administration as acting prime minister, Claude Joseph is at the front of the line in the rivalry. Joseph, who informed everyone about President Moïse’s assassination, said he’s in charge and added the country is now under martial law and closed the borders.

The State Department told reporters Joseph is the incumbent and will continue to work with him and other Haitian officials.

Joseph told the Associated Press the police and military were handling the county’s security. He added he’d work with the president’s allies and opponents while calling for this year’s elections to be held.

He met with international representatives in Port-au-Prince to increase confidence in his control. Urging for calm, the U.S. said it wants to see elections happen soon for parliament and the presidency.

Ariel Henry

Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, is also trying to assert his leadership. Moïse selected him a day before his death to be the next prime minister. But he hasn’t been sworn in yet.

The U.S. has strongly supported Joseph and asked for requests for help to come from his office. But Henry, 71, told the Miami Herald the U.S. is wrong and insisted that he’s the prime minister.

Henry, a former minister of interior, worked on charting Haiti’s public health response to the cholera epidemic. He is Moïse’s seventh selected prime minister among a disbanded parliament that ended in January 2020 when the president began ruling by decree.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said she’s standing behind the U.S. decision to support Joseph’s calling the shots. During a news conference Thursday with several other officials including Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, she urged President Joe Biden to appoint a Haitian American envoy.

Joseph has to take power “according to the constitution … they have to listen to him, he has to be the conduit, he has to be the voice of Haiti until we can get us an envoy,” she told the Herald.

Wilson said no one is safe in Haiti, so Joseph should ask the U.S. for help provide security.

“And how did they get in? That could be me,” she told the Herald. “The first thing we should be doing is the Haitian government needs to reach out to the White House and requesting security. The State Department should be finding a way to send security to Haiti because this is the calm before the storm.”

Action must be taken soon to prevent an international crisis, she said.

“I have never been afraid, but I am terrified, and I am terrified because I thought I knew Haiti.”

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