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The Investigation Continues Into The Haitian President's Assassination


Two and a half weeks after gunmen shot and killed Haiti's president in his private residence, Jovenel Moise will be laid to rest today. More than two dozen people have been arrested, but authorities have still not said who they think was behind the killing. Supporters of Moise are demanding justice for the slain president, who had grown increasingly unpopular in Haiti and leaves behind a politically unstable country. NPR's Carrie Kahn covers Haiti. She joins us from Mexico City with the latest. Carrie, let's start with that funeral - not in the capital. Tell us where it will be and who'll be there.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It's in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, which is close to the town where Moise hails from. He has more supporters there, and they are very protective of him. Like you said, they're out in force. They want to make sure Moise's killers, they say, are brought to justice. Many officials are there in attendance, including dignitaries from around the region. His wife is there. She survived the attack on their residence, as well as their three children are there, too. But because it's not in the capital, fewer people will attend. But there is a lengthy viewing period and an open casket, followed by a Catholic funeral Mass.

MARTÍNEZ: After Moise's assassination, we hadn't seen many protesters out on the streets until yesterday. What happened?

KAHN: Exactly. Supporters of Moise have been out the last two days in Cap-Haitien. They've been blocking some roads, lighting tire fires, shooting guns into the air. They say they don't want the elites at his funeral or politicians who may have contributed to his death. Look, you know, Moise was a banana exporter from the north. He was plucked out of obscurity to be president by the previous leader. He was an outsider, a very unlikely politician, and supporters and operatives in his political party now are really playing up that narrative, saying he was killed because of his defender-of-the-poor ideals.

But Moise faced a lot of opposition in the country, too. He faced accusations of mass corruption and increasing authoritarianism. Particularly of late, protests were continual, calling for his resignation. He was a very polarizing figure. I spoke with Robert Fatton, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, about Moise's legacy. He says this democratic defender portrayal - he called it a gross exaggeration. He says all you have to do is look at the conditions of Haitians four years since Moise took office.

ROBERT FATTON: Corruption persists. The government has become totally dysfunctional. And you have the security situation that has degenerated because of the presence of gangs.

KAHN: Gangs, Fatton says, who don't just prey on Haiti's wealthy now, but they're also attacking the poor.

MARTÍNEZ: What's going on with the investigation into who killed Moise?

KAHN: There have been more than two dozen arrests, including three Haitian police officers. More officers are under preventive detention. These were the officers detailed to Moise's security. And there are the 18 Colombians, former military soldiers, that have been arrested, too. A lot of focus is on this one Haitian doctor who was a pastor in South Florida. He reportedly hired the Colombians as security guards, as he was planning to make this triumphant return to Haiti as some sort of national savior. But investigators still aren't saying a whole lot about what they're turning up. And so it's still unclear who financed this plot, and the bigger question, why kill the president?

MARTÍNEZ: And the other part of this - a couple of weeks after Moise was killed, there were several people claiming to be head of state. That was settled earlier this week. What have we heard from the new prime minister?

KAHN: The new prime minister is Ariel Henry, and he insists he's going to bring the country together in unity, bring the opposing groups together, include Haitian non-governmental actors and bring them into account when making decisions. But look, his appointment has already been met with skepticism. He's being imposed on by foreign forces. He was endorsed by a group of key foreign diplomats, and that holds heavy sway in Haiti. So Henry is starting off his administration with this cloud over him.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Carrie Kahn. Carrie, thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.