Haiti’s interim government said it asked the U.S. to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare the way for elections in the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.
“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help,” Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Friday. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”
The stunning request for U.S. military support recalled the tumult following 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 the Marines into Haiti, justifying the American military occupation — which lasted nearly two decades — as a way to avert anarchy.
But the Biden administration has so far given no indication it will provide military assistance. For now, it only plans to send FBI officials to assist with the ongoing investigation into a crime that has plunged Haiti, a country already wracked by gaping poverty and gang violence, into a destabilizing battle for power and constitutional standoff.
On Friday, a group of lawmakers declared loyalty and recognized Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled senate, as provisional president in a direct challenge to the interim government’s authority. They also recognized as prime minister Ariel Henry, whom Moïse had selected to replace Joseph a day before he was killed but who had not yet taken office or formed a government.
Joseph expressed dismay that others would try to take advantage of Moïse’s murder for political gain.
“I’m not interested in a power struggle,” said Joseph, who assumed leadership with the backing of police and the military. “There’s only one way people can become president in Haiti. And that’s through elections.”
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Joseph spoke as more details emerged of a killing that increasingly has taken the air of murky, international conspiracy involving a Hollywood actor, a shootout with gunmen holed up in a foreign embassy and a private security firm operating out of a cavernous warehouse in Miami.
Among those arrested are two Haitian Americans, including one who worked alongside Sean Penn following the nation’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Police have also detained or killed what they described as more than a dozen “mercenaries” who were former members of Colombia’s military.
Some of the suspects were seized in a raid on Taiwan’s Embassy where they are believed to have sought refuge. National Police Chief Léon Charles said another eight suspects were still at large and being sought.
The attack, which took place at Moïse’s home before dawn Wednesday, also seriously wounded his wife, who was flown to Miami for surgery. Joseph said he has spoken to the first lady but out of respect for her mourning has not inquired about the attack.