Funeral services were held Friday, July 23 for Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, 53, on the grounds of his family’s home in the city in which he was born, Cap-Haitien.
Meanwhile, investigations go on to determine who was behind the president’s assassination as more suspects continue to be tracked down and detained.
Two U.S. citizens are among at least 17 suspects arrested for their alleged participation in the ruthless murder of President Moïse on Tuesday night, July 6 at his private residence. His wife, Martine, who was seriously injured in the attack, was able to attend her husband’s funeral where she said while speaking about their life together, “he stole my heart.”
Just days after the assassination, Haiti’s Elections Minister Mathias Pierre identified the two arrested Americans as James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Haiti.
Also, on Thursday in a separate announcement, Charles said 15 of those detained were Colombian nationals. Allegedly, several of the Colombian nationals currently detained include retired members of the country’s military.
Information from Haitian officials remains sketchy but the U.S. State Department has confirmed that they’re aware of the arrest of the two Americans. Following a request from Haitian officials, the U.S. has since sent a team of investigators to assist Haiti in identifying the forces behind the murder and those who killed the former president.
The arrests of the foreign nationals corroborate initial reports that the gunmen had been heard speaking Spanish and American English, not French or Haitian Creole, the official languages of Haiti.
Meanwhile, scores of Haitians continue to look for answers behind the motivation of the attack and what the future holds for them and their country. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who initially declared a two-week state of emergency and closed the airport in the Caribbean nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, promised to bring order to his country.
But for now, violence and political unrest prevail with gangs causing havoc in the capital city, burning homes and businesses to the ground, kidnapping both children and adults and squaring off in deadly shootouts with rival gang members on the streets, often killing innocents caught in the crossfire.
The local Haitian newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, citing a local justice of the peace, reported that President Moise’s body had been riddled with bullets. However, autopsy photographs recently distributed by social media indicate that and that two of his children had been home during the attack.
In an address to the nation July 8, one day after the president’s death, Joseph presented himself as head of the government and said he and his fellow ministers had declared a “state of siege.” However, whether he actually now holds the reins of power in his hands and if so, how long that will last, remain unknown.
Just months ago, the now-deceased president appointed a new prime minister to replace Joseph – a change in power originally scheduled to occur this week. In June, a potential void in power was further exacerbated when Haiti’s president of the Supreme Court, who normally would have been next in line in the death of the president, died of COVID-19.
In recent months, protesters demanded the removal of Moïse. But the former businessman refused to relinquish power, ruling by decree for more than a year, even as many argued that his term had expired.
The U.S., among other leading nations, has long-supported the president’s claim to power, backing his assertion that his term did not end until 2022.
Nephtalie Hyacinthe, 43, born and raised in Haiti, left the country 27 years ago. The divorcee now lives in Miramar, Fla., with her 12-year-old daughter, where she runs her own business as a public relations strategist.
She continues to search for the words to help her daughter understand the magnitude of the challenges that remain for the people of Haiti and members of their family who still live there.
“My family was among those involved in the revolution to secure Haiti’s freedom from France,” she said. “I am proud of that heritage. But I fear that while we fought for our freedom, we never understood what we were truly fighting for. You cannot take someone who’s been enslaved and then suddenly put them in charge and expect them to understand or follow the basic tenets of democracy. So, we never really achieved freedom or democratic rule. Real democracy only exists as a hope for the future.”
“We are not a poor people in Haiti. We’re a hard-working people. But Haitians live in constant fear and do not feel safe in their own homes. Those like me who have left the country, want to return home. We want to help our families. But it isn’t safe for us to go back to Haiti.”
“Imagine how people now feel when even the president and his wife could not escape violence. Americans don’t understand what life is like back home in Haiti. For my daughter, it’s a hard reality – one which she remains too young, for now, to comprehend.”
“Haitians must continue to tell our story, our history and be proud of our country. The time has passed for us to blame America or other countries for our problems. We must look at ourselves and ask what we can do – what we must do – to change things and make Haiti the proud nation that I remember from my childhood and from the stories my father, a preacher, once told me,” Hyacinthe said.