Haiti’s interim prime minister says he will step down


Claude Joseph, who has nominally led Haiti as acting prime minister since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, will hand power to a challenger backed by the international community possibly as soon as Tuesday, a Haitian official said.

The announcement appears to end a power struggle between Joseph and Ariel Henry, the 71-year old neurosurgeon who was appointed prime minister by Moïse two days before the killing but has yet to be sworn in.

Haiti Foreign Affairs Ministry senior official Israel Jacky Cantave said that Joseph took charge following Moïse’s assassination to help ensure continuity of state, but he would hand over power to Henry now that there is a consensus on the future of the country and protests have calmed.

Cantave said that Haiti’s Council of Ministers would meet on Monday and that if all goes well, Joseph could hand over power to Henry in a ceremony on Tuesday.

Reuters was unable to immediately reach Joseph by phone for comment, but in an interview with the Washington Post published Monday, he said he had agreed to step down.

Moïse was fatally shot when assassins armed with assault rifles stormed his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince on July 7. The assassination has pitched the already troubled nation into chaos, coming amid a surge in gang  violence that has displaced thousands of people and hampered economic activity in the poorest country in the Americas.

Families displaced by gang violence live in a shelter created about a month ago at the Saint Yves Church in Port-au-Prince on July 18. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

Joseph told the Washington Post that he and Henry had met privately over the past week, adding that he agreed to step down on Sunday “for the good of the nation” and is willing to transfer power “as quickly as possible.”

“Everyone who knows me knows that I am not interested in this battle, or in any kind of power grab,” Joseph said.

“The president was a friend to me. I am just interested in seeing justice for him.”

Ambassador group urged Henry to form government

Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic  dictatorship in 1986, and has grappled with a series of coups and foreign interventions.

On Saturday, the important Core Group of international ambassadors and representatives urged “the formation of a consensual and inclusive government.”

“To this end, we strongly encourage the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,” the group said.

WATCH | Canadian diplomats among group snubbing interim Haitian prime minister: 

A key group of international diplomats, including the Canadian ambassador, appeared to snub the interim leader of Haiti by urging the designated prime minister to form a government following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 3:33

The Core Group is made up of ambassadors from Canada, Germany, Brazil, Spain, the United States, France, the European Union and special representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States. 

The group also called for the organization of “free, fair, transparent and credible legislative and presidential elections as quickly as possible.”

The U.S. State Department and the White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Henry told Reuters on July 9 that he considered Joseph to be not interim prime minister but a foreign minister who had taken on the office.

“My installation should be done as soon as possible. I’m working on the formation of a government, I am consulting, and I should speed up my consultations,” he said in the interview.

A Colombian police chief said on Friday the assassination may have been ordered by a former Haitian justice ministry official, citing a preliminary investigation that has implicated Haitian-Americans and former Colombian soldiers.

Martine Moïse, the assassinated president’s widow, returned to Haiti on Saturday for his funeral after she was treated in a Miami hospital for injuries sustained during the attack.

In this handout photo, Haiti’s former first lady, Martine Moïse, wearing a bullet-proof vest and with her right arm in a sling, arrives at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince on July 17. (Haiti’s Secretary of State for Communication/The Associated Press)

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