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The Power Struggle In Haiti Persists Following Moïse's Assassination


What did Haitians think of their assassinated president? President Jovenel Moise was killed last week after a divisive tenure. On this program in recent days, we've heard a journalist who said the president was dismantling democracy. We have also heard the Haitian ambassador, who defended the president's record.

NPR's Jason Beaubien has been listening to the people Moise governed. Jason, good morning.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What are you hearing there in Port-au-Prince?

BEAUBIEN: You know, it is interesting. Moise was an incredibly polarizing figure. Yesterday, supporters of Moise set up a shrine to him outside the presidential palace. This was one of the first memorials that's been erected since he was killed more than a week ago. And this was a crowd that said that Moise had been a reformer, that he was trying to change Haiti for the better. One man I talked to, Emmanuel Prince, said Moise was assassinated because he stood up to the corrupt Haitian elite. And Prince says Moise was not killed by the Colombian mercenaries as police have claimed.

EMMANUEL PRINCE: The Colombian was here, but that's a Haitian killed him. The system killed him because he working for the nation, for the poor people. That's why it was happening.

BEAUBIEN: You know, but there are other people who strongly disagree with that narrative about Moise. They say that he was a dictator who was ruling by decree, that he was unlawfully clinging to power. You know, he did let Parliament fall apart. He hadn't held new elections. And the biggest complaint I was hearing is that he let criminal gangs just run rampant and take over entire neighborhoods - kill, kidnap, extort with impunity. Just up the street from this memorial - this vigil to Moise, 40-year-old Civil Dieu-Seul says the dead president worked against the poor in Haiti and gave to the rich.

CIVIL DIEU-SEUL: (Speaking Haitian Creole).

BEAUBIEN: He says Haiti got far, far worse under Moise's time in office.

And one of his friends said he was actually happy to hear that Moise had been assassinated. He said, if I could invent a hell for Jovenel, it would have - I would have done it. He said, I ask God to forgive me, but I take pleasure in the death of Jovenel Moise.

INSKEEP: Wow. Well, given those divided views, what do Haitians do now?

BEAUBIEN: You know, so various groups are trying to come together and figure out exactly the answer to that. One group is called the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, and it's trying to take a very broad approach to reform in the country. It's using this moment to spur that reform. Monique Clesca is a former U.N. official. She's on the commission. I talked to her yesterday, and she said that this moment is incredibly important for Haiti.

MONIQUE CLESCA: We need something different. It's time to move Haiti into the 21st century. Let's make out of this tragic, dramatic situation an opportunity.

BEAUBIEN: She says that President Moise left Haiti in shambles with a government that's barely functioning, not functioning at all in some parts of the country. And she says the only solution is for Haitians to come together. And she calls this infighting that's been happening between the political elite shameful. But she thinks that maybe this brutal killing of Moise inside his own home is so shocking that it may pull - it may push Haitians together.

INSKEEP: Not only inside his own home, but one of his own top security officials has now been arrested.

BEAUBIEN: That's right. Dimitri Herard was arrested, taken into custody. Prosecutors are confirming that. He's not the only one who's been questioned about why it is that Moise could have been killed inside his own home and none of his bodyguards even injured.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Port-au-Prince. Jason, thanks.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.
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