‘We Need Help’: Haiti’s Interim Leader Requests US Troops

haiti protests
Haitians gather in front of the U.S. Embassy amid rumors on radio and social media that the U.S. will be handing out exile and humanitarian visas, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, July 9, 2021, two days after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s interim government has asked the U.S. and U.N. to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare for elections in the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.

Amid the confusion, hundreds of Haitians gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince pleading for a way out of the country. Women carried babies and young men waved passports and ID cards as they cried out, “Refuge!” and “Help!”

“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.”

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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 help investigate 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.

Haiti also sent a letter to the United Nations requesting assistance, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Saturday. The letter asked for troops and security at key installations, according to a U.N. source speaking on condition of anonymity because details of the letter are private.

On Friday, a group of lawmakers announced they had 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.

One of those lawmakers, Rosemond Pradel, a former secretary general of Haiti’s provisional electoral commission, told the AP that Joseph “is neither qualified nor has the legal right” to lead the country.

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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