Haiti’s struggle has worsened in the year since the president’s assassination

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A year has passed since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his private home, where an elite security team was tasked with protecting him. Not only have authorities failed to identify and arrest all those who planned and funded the murder, but Haiti has slipped into free fall as violence mounts and the economy collapses.

Many have fled Haiti over the past year, making potentially deadly journeys aboard rickety boats carrying hundreds of Haitians that have repeatedly surfaced the shores of nearby nations. They chose to take that risk instead of starving and fearing for their lives like many people left behind do.

“Every day is a struggle. It’s a fight to stay alive. It’s a fight over food. It’s a struggle for survival,” said Hector Duval, a plumber who now drives a motorcycle taxi to make more money as Haitians fear boarding slow-moving buses and risk being killed by rival gangs.

Since Moïse was shot dead at his home near the capital Port-au-Prince on July 7, the number of killings has skyrocketed and thousands of families have been displaced by gangs fighting for territory.

An overwhelmed government struggles to crack down on the gangs and stem the rise in their-related kidnappings. At the same time, attempts to form a coalition government have failed in recent weeks and efforts to hold general elections have stalled, leaving many wondering where Haiti is headed.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised to form a new provisional council to organize general elections, but this has not happened. There was no parliament because the government did not organize elections in 2019 and Moïse dismissed most lawmakers in early 2020 and ruled by decree for more than a year before he was killed.

Meanwhile, hopes of a trial for those arrested in the assassination were dashed by the resignations of four judges tasked with overseeing the investigation, with some saying they feared for their lives.

Henry himself recognized the uncertainty hanging over the case. Last month he tweeted: “I have an uneasy feeling that those who dreamed up and funded this macabre plan are still on the streets, still escaping our justice system.”

At a memorial service on Friday, he expressed “my determination to relentlessly support the continuation of the investigation until it is completed.”

As he spoke, hundreds of Moïse supporters in T-shirts demanding justice marched through the capital to the house where he was killed, chanting “Jojo, we will never forget you!” Some also called for his arrest by Henry.

More than 40 people were arrested in Haiti, including high-ranking police officers and a group of former Colombian soldiers. At least two out of three suspects arrested outside of Haiti have been extradited to the US to face charges including conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States.

Many relatives of the soldiers in Colombia are calling for a due process and an improvement in the dire prison conditions.

“Often there is neither food nor drinking water,” Nataly Andrade, wife of retired Col. Giovanny Guerrero, told The Associated Press. She visited him in prison in May and was shocked at how much weight he had lost. In recent weeks, at least eight inmates unrelated to the Moïse case have died in southern Haiti from heat and malnutrition.

The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti noted that the investigation appears to have stalled and urged the authorities to bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible.

“Since this crime, the growing insecurity linked to the increase in violence by armed gangs has terrorized Haitian citizens and monopolized public debate in a context where the challenges facing the country are increasing by the day,” it said .

The US State Department issued a similar statement, expressing concern about the “limited progress” of the investigation and calling on Haitian authorities to provide increased security for those involved in the case and to maintain the chain of custody for key evidence .

Moïse’s widow Martine issued a statement this month saying she would not be attending any of Thursday’s commemorations organized by the Haitian state “whose head of government is the subject of serious suspicion of (involvement in) the assassination of the President of the Republic.” ”

Henry brushed those allegations aside but last year fired a chief prosecutor who asked a judge to charge the prime minister with murder and prevent him from leaving the country. The prosecutor found that Henry had spoken twice to a prime suspect hours after the murder.

Henry’s office said the Prime Minister was unable to identify everyone who called him that day or determine the nature of the calls because he could not answer all calls. The suspect remains at large.

Henry urges Haitians to focus on transforming their country.

“It is imperative that Haitians work together to reconcile sections of our society that are too divided,” he said. “This is a must if we are to restore security, deal with armed gangs and their sponsors, create a climate conducive to holding high-turnout elections, and rebuild our democratic institutions.”

But more and more Haitians blame Henry for the growing insecurity.

The United Nations says nearly seven kidnappings are reported a day and that in May alone more than 200 murders and 198 kidnappings were reported in the country of more than 11 million people. These kidnappings included two busloads of children and three UN staff and their families. In addition, a gang recently took control of part of the Haiti Court of First Instance, looting and burning files and evidence.

“Even though we have a prime minister, nobody is running the country right now,” said Ralf Jean-Pierre, a Les Cayes businessman who lives in Port-au-Prince, while scanning the street as he spoke, afraid he might do it any moment be kidnapped.

He said life for him and his family has become extremely difficult because he can no longer transport goods such as bananas, yams and tomatoes that grow in southern Haiti to the capital since warring gangs opened the main road connecting the two regions , have taken over.

The lack of access also means not enough aid is reaching those affected by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the south almost a year ago, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying or damaging hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings.

Haitians have fled in large numbers — the largest single example in late May, when 842 Haitians were stranded on the Cuban coast after their captain abandoned the boat. Hundreds of others have landed in Florida, while dozens have died at sea in recent months.

Claudia Julmiste, a nursing student, said she’s trying to make ends meet by reselling underwear, bras and wigs she buys in the neighboring Dominican Republic, even though Haiti’s double-digit inflation has hit her and many others hard.

“I’m trying to make the best of it here,” she said. “I don’t want to be one of those kids who gets on a boat at sea to die, but Haiti doesn’t offer anything.”

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press writer Astrid Suárez in Bogota, Colombia contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/haitis-struggle-worsened-in-year-since-slaying-of-president/2022/07/07/7e9ad4ca-fde2-11ec-b39d-71309168014b_story.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world Haiti’s struggle has worsened in the year since the president’s assassination

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: dustinhuang@24ssports.com.

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