Slain Haitian president’s widow says husband targeted for political reasons

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The widow of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on Saturday accused shadowy enemies of organizing his assassination to stop democratic change, as a struggle for power intensified in the Caribbean nation.

Moïse was gunned down before dawn on Wednesday at his home in Port-au-Prince by what Haitian authorities said was a unit of trained assassins comprised of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans.

Doubts have grown, though, about that narrative, with families of at least two of the Colombians saying they had been hired as bodyguards.

Martine Moïse, who was wounded in the attack on the president’s private residence and flown to Florida for medical treatment, said her husband was targeted for political reasons.

“You know who the president was fighting against,” she said in a recording released on Twitter, without naming anybody.

“They sent mercenaries to kill the president at his home with members of his family because of roads, water, electricity and referendum, as well as elections at the end of the year so that there is no transition in the country.”

The late president had spoken of dark forces at play behind years of unrest under his mandate — rival politicians and oligarchs angry about his attempts to clean up government contracts and politics — and proposed a referendum to change Haiti’s constitution.

The referendum, scheduled for Sept. 26 along with presidential and legislative elections, could abolish the prime minister’s position, reshape the legislative branch and strengthen the presidency. Critics called it a power grab.

The Haitian flag flies at half-mast at the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday, three days after Moïse was assassinated in his home. (Fernando Llano/The Associated Press)

Moïse’s killing has clouded those plans and led to political disarray in Haiti, where the acting government has appealed for U.S. and UN troops.

The U.S. said it has no plans to provide Haiti with military assistance, while the request to the UN would need Security Council authorization.

Late Friday, the man Moïse appointed as prime minister just before the assassination claimed the right to lead Haiti, pitting him against acting head of state Claude Joseph, whose government has managed the response to the killing to date.

A news vendor sells local newspapers that feature coverage of the assassination of the slain Haitian president, in Port-au-Prince on Saturday. (Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters)

Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who Moïse named prime minister on Monday, told Reuters late Friday he was now the highest authority in Haiti, not interim Prime Minister Joseph, and that he was forming a government.

“After the president’s assassination, I became the highest, legal and regular authority because there was a decree nominating me,” he said.

Henry said his government would create a new electoral council which would determine new dates for elections to be held “as soon as possible.”

But Henry has yet to be sworn in, and Joseph, who was named interim prime minister in April, has stayed put.

The power struggle has created confusion over who is the legitimate leader of the country’s 11 million people.

Elections Minister Mathias Pierre said acting premier Joseph would keep that role until the Sept. 26 vote.



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