Haiti’s interim prime minister agrees to step aside

Haiti’s acting prime minister, who has been in charge of the country since president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated 12 days ago, has agreed to step aside under diplomatic pressure and hand over power to a rival.

Claude Joseph told The Washington Post on Monday that he would cede power to Ariel Henry, who had been appointed by Moïse as prime minister two days before the killing but was not sworn in.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I am not interested in this battle, or in any kind of power grab,” Joseph told the paper. “The president was a friend to me. I am just interested in seeing justice for him.”

Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s election minister, confirmed the news, saying Joseph would return to his previous job as foreign minister. A new government would be sworn in as early as Tuesday, he said.

Henry, a 71-year-old surgeon, had reiterated his claim to the prime minister’s job in a recording issued on Sunday. He described the assassination as a “coup d’état”, vowed to bring those responsible to justice and praised the Haitian people for their “political maturity”.

Joseph’s decision to step aside comes days after a group of foreign ambassadors and envoys, who had supported him in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, appeared to change tack and throw their weight behind Henry.

In a statement, the so-called “Core Group” — which includes representatives of the US, France, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Canada, the EU, the UN and the Organization of American States — stressed the need for a “consensual and inclusive government” put together by “designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry”. They encouraged Henry to continue “the mission entrusted to him to form such a government”.

Moïse was murdered by a hit squad that burst into his private residence on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince and fired 12 bullets into him. His wife Martine was seriously injured in the attack and flown to Florida for treatment.

She returned to the Caribbean nation at the weekend ahead of her husband’s funeral, which is due to take place on Friday.

The assassination has plunged Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, deeper into chaos as politicians, business leaders and powerful gang bosses vie for power amid spiralling violence and dire food and fuel shortages. Moïse’s widow accused her dead husband’s domestic opponents of organising the killing for political and business reasons.

Joseph had urged the UN and US to intervene by sending troops to help guard critical installations, but international powers are wary of deeper involvement in Haiti, which has struggled to find stability after decades of political turbulence and repeated natural disasters.

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