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The Latest From Haiti Following President Jovenel Moise's Assassination

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Haiti, there are still many questions surrounding the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise. Government officials in Port-au-Prince have asked the Biden administration for help, both military and investigative. More than a dozen Colombians have been detained in connection with the murder and have been described as being part of the hit squad that killed the president, though we have not yet been presented with proof. And infighting over who will actually lead the country is deepening while gang violence continues. To bring us up to date on all this, reporter John Otis joins us via Skype from Bogota, the Colombian capital. Good morning.

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The leadership in Haiti has requested the U.S. military send forces to help restore order and protect vital infrastructure, such as the international airport. Is there any chance that will happen?

OTIS: You know, the Pentagon says there are no plans to send American troops to Haiti. There seems to be little enthusiasm to deploy U.S. soldiers to yet another overseas troublespot at a time when the administration is trying to wind down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. But at the same time, the U.S. would like to see a stable Haiti. A prolonged chaos there could provoke another mass exodus of Haitian refugees bound for the U.S., and that happened back in the 1990s following a series of military coups. Also, remember, the U.S. has a century-long record of military intervention in Haiti. The results have been mixed at best, so a lot of Haitians don't really believe U.S. troops are the answer to their problems.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, tell us what we know about the situation right now in Haiti that prompted this call.

OTIS: Well, still, it's quite chaotic. There are reports of armed gangs patrolling the streets and just lots of bickering between rival politicians over who should be leading the country. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph remains de facto head of state. But just before he was killed, President Moise appointed a new prime minister. He had yet to take the oath of office but is claiming that he should be leading the country. Meanwhile, the president of the Haitian Senate is insisting he should be sworn in as the new president. All this might get sorted out in elections. They're supposed to be held in September. But, you know, given the current state of unrest in the country and the postponement of previous elections, it remains unclear whether that balloting is actually going to happen.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's turn to the investigation of the assassination. I mean, what is the latest there?

OTIS: Yesterday, the president's widow, Martine Moise, spoke for the first time since the assassination. She was wounded in that attack and was medevaced to a Florida hospital. And while in the hospital, she released a recording on Twitter, so let's take a listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTINE MOISE: (Speaking non-English language).

OTIS: Now, she's starting out by saying, "you know who the president was fighting against." She doesn't specifically name anyone, but she seems to be suggesting there that opposition politicians were responsible for killing her husband and that perhaps one of their aims was to derail upcoming elections. And as for the investigation itself, information has been really slow to come out of Haiti about this. And for now, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says that officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security will be going to Haiti to assess how the U.S. can help move things along.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, those arrested include two Haitian Americans and more than a dozen Colombians. I mean, any more clarity about that Colombian connection?

OTIS: Colombian officials did confirm that at least 13 of the detainees are former Colombian army soldiers. The Miami Herald is reporting that they worked for a company called CTU Security that's located in the Miami area. Apparently, they were contracted to work as bodyguards for VIPs in Haiti. But some officials are now - now believe that the Colombians may have been duped into taking part in the operation and are being used as scapegoats. And, you know, they didn't really act like professional killers while they were over there. For example, they - instead of maintaining, you know, security and secrecy, they were posting photos on Facebook about their tourism exploits. And on the night of the killing, none of them really tried to flee or get out of there. And photos have shown up of them wearing their security guard uniforms and baseball caps. And also, you know, remember none of the president's security guards were killed or injured in the attack, and that's a little suspicious. And some of them have been called in for questioning. So whatever the Colombians were up to, Haitian officials are saying that they definitely were not the masterminds of this assassination.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Many questions remain. That was John Otis reporting from Bogota. Thank you very much.

OTIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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