U.S. delegation cuts Haiti journey brief after gunshots reported at president’s funeral
A man attends the funeral of the assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise at the Moise family home in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, on Friday, July 23, 2021.
Matias Delacroix | AP
A U.S. delegation that attended the funeral of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise on Friday is safe and is returning to the U.S. after reports of gunfire and gas to crowd control during protests outside the ceremony, White House press secretary Jen said Psaki, on Friday.
The delegation, led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, had to end the trip prematurely due to the unrest, a senior administrator told NBC News. However, Thomas-Greenfield was able to meet Haitian leaders at the funeral, including newly sworn Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his predecessor Claude Joseph prior to his departure.
There were no immediate reports of injuries among protesters, authorities or guests at the funeral.
The US delegation included the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks, DN.Y .; Representative Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb .; and NSC Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzales. This included Daniel Foote, newly appointed US special envoy for Haiti by the Biden administration, and the US ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison.
In his remarks when the delegation arrived in Haiti, Greenfield expressed his solidarity with the Haitian people and expressed condolences to First Lady Martine Moise.
“Our delegation is here to deliver a message to the Haitian people: you deserve democracy, stability, security and prosperity, and we stand by you during this time of crisis,” said Greenfield
The funeral was opened by a brass band and church choir, but was interrupted by angry shouts from protesters accusing authorities of being responsible for Moise’s death, according to Reuters.
Haitian officials who arrived at the event were met with verbal anger from protesters, with a man calling Haitian police chief Leon Charles a criminal, Reuters reported.
Protests erupted in the northern town of Cap-Haitien in the run-up to Moise’s funeral, with supporters of the slain president furious over unanswered questions about his murder, according to Reuters.
“We are deeply concerned about the unrest in Haiti,” Psaki said at a briefing on Friday. “At this critical moment, Haiti’s leaders must come together to find a common path that reflects the will of the Haitian people. We remain determined to support the Haitian people at this challenging time.”
This came over two weeks after Moise was shot dead in his private residence in Port-au-Prince, a shocking assassination attempt that plunged the Caribbean nation into political upheaval.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement Friday that the US will continue to provide requested assistance, including equipment and training, to the Haitian National Police and the Haiti government. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security will continue to assist the Haitian authorities in their investigations into the killings at the request of the Haitian government.
Sullivan added that the departments will continue to work closely with international partners to support the Haitian government’s efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable.
The Haitian government has also asked the US to deploy American troops to protect critical infrastructure in Haiti.
Biden announced last week that the US will only send American marines to secure the US embassy in Haiti and has no plans to send military aid.
“The idea of sending American troops to Haiti is currently not on the agenda,” said Biden at a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.
Earlier this month, the US sent a delegation of US officials to Haiti to assess the political and security situation in the country, assist in the investigation into the Moise murder, and promote free and fair elections.
– Reuters contributed to this report.