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Conditions In Haiti Remain Tense After Last Week's Presidential Assassination


Who is really in charge in Haiti? And who should be? President Jovenel Moise was assassinated last week. Numerous people are accused of the attack that killed him, and police with U.S. assistance are searching for more. In a moment, we will question Haiti's ambassador to the United States. We begin with NPR's Jason Beaubien, who is in Port-au-Prince, as he has been many times before. Jason, good morning.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's it like there? And how does it compare to your previous times?

BEAUBIEN: You know, things are still quite tense here. You know, the hotel that I'm staying in is locked down. I, this time, just came into the airport, came straight to the hotel. You know, flights in and out of the country are still limited. There's only a few. The border with the Dominican Republic remains shut. But, you know, it has been a week since the assassination, and life is definitely starting to come back. There are businesses that are reopening - you know, shops and markets along the side of the street, people selling stuff. Still some problems with gasoline - there's long lines at a lot of the gas stations, the ones that are open. And trash has always been a bit of a problem here, but there were quite a few trash fires sort of burning in the streets, sort of trash that hadn't gotten picked up.

But clearly, it is getting better than those days immediately after the assassination when, basically, Port-au-Prince was shut down, and you saw these images of those completely empty streets. So things are coming back to life.

INSKEEP: So the authorities are making some changes in the wake of the assassination. Senior members of the assassinated president's former security have been replaced. Why?

BEAUBIEN: You know, the head of the Haitian National Police, Leon Charles, he says that these are precautionary measures that are being taken against the heads of these various agencies that were responsible for presidential security. You know, he says that they're investigating what their involvement was. But it is clear that just about everybody at the top of each of these different units - it's the USP, which is the presidential security unit; a team - the CAT (ph) team. It's at the national police. And then the person in charge of actual general security for the presidential palace - they've all been ousted.

And the big question is how these killers, whoever they were, managed to get into the president's residence, kill him, and somehow none of the president's security were injured or killed in the incident. And that's feeling really suspicious. A lot of people are asking that question, as well as the head of the national police at the moment.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention the attack has been blamed on foreign mercenaries. It's been blamed on a guy with connections to the United States. The investigation continues.

BEAUBIEN: Right, yeah.

INSKEEP: But as it does, Jason, a kind of baseline question here - who is in charge of the country in the wake of the president's assassination?

BEAUBIEN: So there's three main players. There's the prime minister, Claude Joseph, who had been acting prime minister and was supposed to be replaced on the day that Moise was assassinated. And then you've got Ariel Henry, who is a 73-year-old neurosurgeon, who was the person who was supposed to be coming in to replace Claude Joseph. Then you've got Joseph Lambert, who is the president of the Senate and some opposition leaders, as well as the remnants of the Senate. The Senate actually hasn't been operating in session because there haven't been elections, and there hasn't been a quorum. But they got together, and they said that Lambert should be the head. And so he's actually been put forward as well.

But Claude Joseph, who had been acting as prime minister, really has stepped forward and has taken the role, and it's pretty clear that he is taking charge right now. However, that could change.

INSKEEP: Jason, thanks for the update. We'll continue listening for your reporting.

BEAUBIEN: Sounds good. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.