Haiti’s interim government called on the United States and the United Nations to deploy support troops to protect crucial infrastructure facilities as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare for elections following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
The surprising request for US military support was reminiscent of the tumult that followed Haiti’s last presidential assassination, in 1915, when an angry mob dragged President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam out of the French embassy and beat him to death.
In response, President Woodrow Wilson sent Marines to Haiti, justifying the US military occupation, which lasted almost two decades, as a way to avoid anarchy.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s electoral minister, defended the government’s request for military aid, stating in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that local police forces are weak and lacking in resources.
“What do we do? Do we let the country fall into chaos? That private property is destroyed? What people die after the assassination of the president? Or, as a government, do we prevent it?” He asked.
“We are not asking for the occupation of the country. We are requesting that small troops assist us and help us. As long as we are weak, I think we will need our neighbors.”
The assassination has plunged Haiti, a country previously devastated by poverty and gang violence, into a destabilizing battle for power and a constitutional stalemate.
On Saturday, a senior official in Joe Biden’s administration said the United States has no plans to offer military aid for now.
The US government will send senior personnel from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to Port-au-Prince on Sunday to assess the situation and see how the United States can help, according to the official, who asked to remain anonymous in order to comment publicly.
Haiti also sent a letter to the United Nations requesting assistance, Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Saturday. The letter called for troops and security at key facilities, according to a UN source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the letter are private.
“We definitely need help and we have asked our international partners to help us,” Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the AP in a telephone interview Friday night. “We believe that our partners can support the national police to resolve the situation.”
On Friday, a group of lawmakers announced their allegiance to Joseph Lambert, president of Haiti’s now-dismantled Senate, and recognized him as interim president, in direct challenge to the authority of the interim government.
They also recognized as prime minister Ariel Henry, whom Moïse had selected to replace Joseph the day before he was assassinated, but who had not yet taken office or formed a government.
One of those legislators, Rosemond Pradel, stressed to the AP that Joseph “is neither qualified nor does he have the legal right” to lead the country.
Joseph, who assumed the leadership with the backing of the police and the military, said he was not “interested in a fight for power”.
“There is only one way that people can become president of Haiti. And that is through elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, more details emerged of the murder that increasingly takes the air of a murky international conspiracy: A shootout with gunmen hiding in a foreign embassy, a private security firm operating out of a warehouse in Miami, and the brief mention of a Hollywood star.
Among those arrested are two Haitian Americans, including one who worked alongside Sean Penn after the nation’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Police have also detained or killed more than a dozen former members of the Colombian army.
Some of the suspects were detained in an operation at the Taiwanese embassy, where they are believed to have sought refuge.
Haitian National Police Chief Léon Charles said eight other suspects remain at large and are wanted by police.
The attack on Moïse at his home early Wednesday morning also seriously injured his wife, who was flown to Miami for surgery. She issued a statement Saturday implying that the president was assassinated for trying to improve conditions in the country.
“The mercenaries who assassinated the president are currently behind bars,” he said in Creole, “but other mercenaries currently want to kill his dream, his vision, his ideology.”
Colombian authorities reported that the men were recruited by four companies and traveled to Haiti via the Dominican Republic.
Colombian soldiers trained by the United States are often recruited by security companies and mercenary armies in conflict zones because of their experience in a decades-long war against left-wing rebels and drug cartels.
The sister of one of the suspects killed, Duberney Capador, told the AP that she last spoke with her brother on Wednesday night – hours after Moïse’s murder – when the men, hiding in a home and surrounded, were trying to desperately to negotiate his surrender and avoid a shootout.
“He told me not to tell our mother, so she wouldn’t worry,” Yenny Capador said, fighting back tears.
At night, the Colombian government stated that it seeks to repatriate the bodies of those who died at the hands of the police after the attack.
“We reiterate our willingness to help clarify the facts and locate those responsible for this atrocity,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry tweeted. “We are working with the Haitian authorities to advance the repatriation of the bodies of our nationals, who have the right to a dignified burial in their country.”
Who is behind the attack is unknown. And there are still questions about how the perpetrators managed to enter the president’s residence posing as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), facing little resistance from those they were assigned to protect the agent.
Capador added that his brother, who retired from the Colombian army in 2019 with the rank of sergeant, was hired by a private security company under the agreement that he would provide protection to powerful people in Haiti.
Amid the confusion, hundreds of Haitians gathered outside the US embassy in Port-au-Prince on Friday, pleading for a way out of the country. Women carried babies and young men waved passports and ID cards as they shouted, “Shelter!” and help!”.
“This country has nothing to offer,” lamented 36-year-old Thermidor Joam. “If the president can be assassinated with his own safety, I have no protection of any kind if someone wishes to kill me.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.