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Haiti awaits new chief as official mourning starts for Moïse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s government installed a new prime minister on Tuesday, while officials mourned assassinated President Jovenel Moïse and arrested at least three police officers implicated in his killing.

Designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry was sworn in to replace interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed leadership of Haiti with the backing of police and the military after the July 7 attack at Moïse’s private home, which also badly injured his wife and stunned the nation of more than 11 million people.

“The task that awaits us is complex and difficult,” Henry said as he called for unity and promised to meet with various sectors in upcoming days to build consensus. “I’m from a school that believes in dialogue.”

He also thanked “sister nations” that he didn’t identify for their solidarity and expertise in the ongoing investigation as he demanded that all those responsible be brought to justice.

Henry, a neurosurgeon and former Cabinet minister, has promised to form a provisional consensus government to lead Haiti until elections are held. He said he has already met with various unidentified actors as well as civil society and the private sector. He pledged to re-establish order and security and confidence in the government as well as fight corruption, make COVID-19 vaccines available to all, restart the economy and create a credible and transparent elections system.

Joseph, who spoke before presenting Henry, also urged unity and and wished him much courage and determination while warning him: “You inherit a remarkable situation … a political crisis without precedence… galloping insecurity, a morose and precarious socio-economic situation.”

After the ceremony, Henry’s new Cabinet was formally presented, with the ministers of justice, economy, finance, agriculture and others keeping their positions.

Before Henry officially became prime minister, a crowd of international dignitaries and Haitian officials clad in somber suits sat under the shade of pink and white bougainvillea in the yard of the Nation Pantheon Museum in downtown Port-au-Prince to commemorate Moïse, whose assassination left a political void.

A large portrait of the slain president hung behind Joseph as he spoke to mourners. “The president is dead because of his political and social convictions,” he said.

Joseph accused oligarchs and criminals of assassinating the president’s character and then the president himself. He called on everyone to seize the moment as an opportunity to find a common purpose and durable, viable solutions.

Moïse was shot multiple times, and while officials have arrested at least 26 people in the case, it remains unclear who ultimately was behind the attack. Among the arrested are 18 former Colombian soldiers, five Haitians and three Haitian-Americans.

Police Chief Léon Charles announced four more formal arrests on Tuesday — at least three of them police officers, whose ranks he did not release.

“There was infiltration in the police,” he said. “It happened with money.”

Charles added that authorities are investigating who financed the operation, noting that the FBI and Interpol is helping track down U.S. citizens living in the United States whom he believes are responsible.

Charles also said that a total of seven high-ranking police officers have now been detained and isolated — but not formally arrested — as they tried to determine why the attackers were able to reach the president without any of his guards being injured. The officers are not formally considered suspects.

Haitian police identified the fourth suspect, who was not a police officer, as Dominick Cauvin.

An individual named Dominick Cauvin has lived in South Florida, spending time in recent years in Miami, Miami Beach and Pembroke Pines, public records show. He’s listed as an independent security consultant, according to his LinkedIn profile; his private Instagram account lists him as founder and owner of Armotech International Corp. and Armotech Group S.A., in Haiti.

Cauvin is currently listed as CEO for a company based in Pembroke Pines, Fla., called Armotech International Corp., which he registered with the state on Nov. 2, 2020, public records show. He set up a similarly named company, the Armotech Group Inc., in early January 2020, only to dissolve it in April 2021, records show.

Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press on Monday that Joseph would step down and cede the position to Henry, who was chosen for the post by Moïse shortly before he was killed but had not been sworn in.

The change in leadership comes after a group of key international diplomats called on Henry to create a “consensual and inclusive government” in a statement issued Saturday that made no reference to Joseph. The Core Group is composed of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the U.S., France and the European Union as well as representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia, said Joseph’s departure was to be expected.

“Joseph’s fate was sealed over the weekend,” he said. “Everything that happens in Haiti has a powerful foreign component.”

A main opposition coalition known as the Democratic and Popular Sector called Henry a puppet of the international community and rejected his appointment.

“This step is only a political provocation that will add fuel to the fire and push the country further into crisis,” it said.

On the same day the Core Group issued its statement, first lady Martine Moïse arrived back unannounced in Haiti to the surprise of many. She had been recovering at a hospital in Miami. On Monday, her office issued the first public statement since the killing, noting that the presidential family would pay for the funeral as it thanked Haitians for their support.

“Your moral support gives the presidential family the courage to go through this great ordeal and helps it transcend these moments of indescribable pain,” it said.

____

Associated Press writers Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince and Trenton Daniel in New York contributed.

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