Joseph Odelyn/AP
Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph gives a press conference in Port-au-Prince on July 16, 2021, the week after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Mr. Joseph said that he would step down, allowing Ariel Henry to become prime minister.

In bid for stability, Haiti's interim prime minister to step down

Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph agreed to step down on Monday in accordance with the wishes of slain President Jovenel Moïse. In his place, Ariel Henry will assume the position of Haiti’s interim prime minister in the near future.

Haiti’s designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry will replace the country’s interim prime minister to honor the wishes of the country’s slain president, an official told The Associated Press on Monday.

It wasn’t immediately clear how quickly interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who has been leading Haiti with the backing of police and the military since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, would step down.

“Negotiations are still in course,” Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre said, adding that Mr. Joseph would go back to being minister of foreign affairs.

Mr. Joseph could not be immediately reached for comment, and Mr. Henry did not return a message for comment.

The change follows a statement Saturday from a key group of international diplomats that appeared to snub Mr. Joseph as it called for the creation of “a consensual and inclusive government.”

“To this end, it strongly encourages the designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to continue the mission entrusted to him to form such a government,” the statement from the Core Group said.

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

The U.N., OAS, and U.S. State Department did not offer further explanation when contacted.

Monique Clesca, a Haitian writer, activist, and former U.N. official, said she doesn’t anticipate any changes under Mr. Henry, whom she expects to carry on Mr. Moïse’s legacy. But she warned that Mr. Henry might be viewed as tainted because of the Core Group’s involvement.

“If he accepts this, there is not only a perception, but the reality that he has been put there by the international community, and I think that’s his burden to carry,” she said.

“What we’re calling for is for Haitians to really say this is unacceptable. We do not want the international community stating who ought to be in power and what ought to be done. It is up to us.”

Mr. Moïse designated Mr. Henry as prime minister a day before he was killed, but he had not been sworn in. The neurosurgeon was previously minister of social affairs and interior minister. He has belonged to several political parties including Inite, which was founded by former President René Préval.

First lady’s return

The Core Group statement was issued hours after Mr. Moïse’s wife, Martine, arrived in Haiti on Saturday aboard a private jet clad in black and wearing a bulletproof vest. She has not issued a statement or spoken publicly as the government prepares for the July 23 funeral that will be held in the northern city of Port-au-Prince. Other events to honor Mr. Moïse are planned this week in the capital of Port-au-Prince ahead of the funeral.

Some experts – like many in this country of more than 11 million people – were surprised at how quickly Ms. Moïse reappeared in Haiti and questioned whether she plans to become involved in the country’s politics.

“The fact that she returned could suggest she intends to play some role,” said Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and Duke University professor. “She may intervene in one way or another.”

Search for a resolution

Authorities in Haiti and Colombia say at least 18 suspects directly linked to the killing have been arrested, the majority of them former Colombian soldiers. At least three suspects were killed and police say they are looking for numerous others. Colombian officials have said that the majority of former soldiers were duped and did not know of the assassination plot.

Police in Haiti on Sunday identified another suspect in the case: Pierre Joseph Ashkard. Online records show he is a Canadian-based businessman who runs a medical business in Texas with Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian physician and pastor whom local authorities recently arrested and consider a key suspect.

A day after the killing, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price had said Mr. Joseph was the incumbent in the position and was serving as acting prime minister before the assassination: “We continue to work with Claude Joseph as such,” he said.

On July 11, a delegation of representatives from various U.S. agencies traveled to Haiti to review critical infrastructure, talk with Haitian National Police, and meet with Mr. Joseph, Mr. Henry, and Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert in a joint meeting.

The deepening political turmoil has prompted dozens of Haitians to visit the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince in recent days to seek a visa or political asylum.

“We can’t stay anymore in the country,” said Jim Kenneth, a student who would like to study medicine in the U.S. “We feel very insecure.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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