The body of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was returned to his hometown on Friday for a private funeral amid heightened security amid violent protests and fears of political volatility in the Caribbean nation.
Martine Moïse arrived with cries of “Justice! Justice! as she headed straight for her husband’s coffin, climbing the stairs and stopping in front of it. Her right arm in a sling, she rested her left arm on the coffin and then brought it to her heart as she stood there in silence. Her eyes filled with tears as her three children joined her.
Minutes later, a group of supporters grabbed a large portrait of Moses and marched with him as the police marching band began to play the national anthem loudly.
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At the start of the ceremony, hundreds of protesters clashed with police outside the private residence. Gunshots erupted and tear gas and black smoke flooded the ceremony. Shouts from protesters focused on religious leaders speaking at the funeral.
Earlier, cries of “Assassin!” filled the air when Haiti’s national police chief León Charles arrived. Haitians dressed in dark suits, shiny shoes, and black and white evening dresses shouted and pointed at nearby seating platforms where Haitian officials and foreign dignitaries sat above at least a dozen. men with powerful weapons.
“You took no action to save Jovenel!” You contributed to his assassination! a woman cried.
On the ground below, a supporter of Moses threatened Charles: “You have to leave now or we will pick you up after the funeral!”
Newly appointed Prime Minister Ariel Henry arrived after cries of “Justice for Jovenel!”
White t-shirts and caps featuring his photo were distributed to supporters the day before what is expected to be the final ceremony in honor of Moses, who was shot several times on July 7 in an attack on his private home which seriously injured his wife, Martine.
“It is something that will remain etched in our memory,” said Pedro Guilloume, a resident of Cap-Haitien who hoped to attend the funeral. “May all Haitians channel solidarity.
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Moses’ body arrived shortly after dawn at his family’s beach property where the funeral is taking place. Six officials carried the brown coffin to a stage where they greeted him and stood before him in silence for several minutes before draping a large red and blue Haitian flag over it.
Before the funeral began, a man wrapped himself in a large Haitian flag and approached the coffin shouting, “We must fight and get justice for Jovenel! Beside him, a man wearing a T-shirt commemorating Moses joined him as he shouted, “Jovenel is dead fat! He died for me and for the rest of the country… We are not going to back down.
The funeral comes days after the installation of a new prime minister backed by key international diplomats in Haiti – a move that appeared to be aimed at avoiding a leadership fight after Moïse’s assassination.
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Henry, who was appointed prime minister by Moïse before being killed but was never sworn in, replaced interim prime minister Claude Joseph, and pledged to form a provisional consensus government until elections are held. .
On Thursday, violent protests hit neighborhoods in Cap-Haitien as groups of men fired shots in the air and blocked some roads with burning tires. A heavily guarded police convoy carrying unknown officials passed through a burning barricade, with one vehicle nearly overturning.
A priest who presided over a mass Thursday morning at Cap-Haitien Cathedral in honor of Moses warned that there was too much blood being shed in Haiti as he called on people to find peace, noting that poorest communities are affected.
On Thursday evening, Martine Moïse and her three children appeared during a small religious ceremony at a hotel in Cap-Haitien where Henry and other government officials offered their condolences.
“They took his life, but they cannot take his memories,” said a priest who presided over the ceremony. “They can’t take his brain. They can’t take his ideas. We are Jovenel Moïse.”
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Moïse was sworn in as President of Haiti in February 2017 and has come under increasing criticism in recent years from those who accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian. He had ruled by decree for more than a year after the country failed to hold legislative elections.
Authorities said at least 26 suspects were arrested in the murder, including 18 former Colombian soldiers. Police are still looking for several other suspects involved in the assassination plot, including a former rebel leader and a former senator.
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