The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse created a power struggle in a country already beset by political instability and other crises.
Following the assassination last week, the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, declared himself in charge and said the country would be under a temporary “state of siege.”
The U.S. and United Nations have recognized Joseph’s legitimacy to lead the government.
But another person has claimed to be the rightful leader: Ariel Henry, who was appointed prime minister by Moïse two days before his assassination but had not been sworn into office.
Meanwhile, the country’s senate called for a third man, Senate President Joseph Lambert, to be Haiti’s acting president. But the Senate has only 10 members and no legal quorum, because no new elections have been held after many lawmakers’ terms expired.
In an interview Friday with NPR, Joseph said he was “optimistic” about reaching a power-sharing agreement to head off any political uncertainty and defended his handling of the crisis.
“I was the one in charge” at the time of Moïse’s death, Joseph said.
“And I assumed this role until now. We do not have a state of chaos here. It is because we were responsible enough — I’m talking about the ministers and myself — we were responsible enough to actually call on people for calm and in working with the national police and so on and so forth.”
Joseph said he has met with Henry and Lambert and said he wanted to bring in civil society groups for discussions on Haiti’s future. “All of us need to sit together to actually find a solution. I’m not interested in staying here where I am. I’m interested in seeing that people can come together,” Joseph said.
He also talked about the ongoing investigation of the assassination and denied a report that he was involved. Here are more excerpts from the interview, edited for clarity.
On the investigation into the assassination
There is an ongoing investigation and I think that we are doing a good job. We already, as you know, captured about two dozen Colombians that actually killed the president. We got also five Haitians, [including] two Haitian-Americans, I guess. There are other people that we are searching now who may have links with those who actually killed the president. So there is also Emmanuel Sanon, one of the intellectual authors of the crime. We are very optimistic about where we’re going because we are going to give justice to President Moïse.
On whether the head of the palace guard was involved
He’s in custody … with five or four others. We cannot determine [if they were involved]. We leave it to the investigation and the justice to actually see whether or not they were involved.
If he had anything to do with the assassination
No, not at all. … I do not have any affiliation to political parties and no personal agenda. [President Moïse] was the one who actually appointed me as ambassador, chargé d’affaires, appointed me as minister of foreign affairs and as prime minister. I saw an article saying that, you know, there was a kind of meeting with me and those who [were involved in the plot] in November 2020, and they called me prime minister then. I was not prime minister in November 2020.
And so this is just ridiculous. It’s a way for them to get people’s attention away from the real fact, what really happened. But they will not reach the goal because I want justice for President Jovenel Moïse, his wife, his sons and his daughter.
On President Biden’s statement that U.S. troops won’t be sent to Haiti
I think that the Haitian national police needs some help — logistics and technical help. As long as we can have the support — and we know that the United States has been very supportive as Canada and other countries — so the national police needs this help and if we can have them, so we would be able to actually work and, you know, fight against the armed gangs in some parts of the country.
Andrew Craig, Kitty Eisele, Alejandra Marquez Janse and Christopher Intagliata produced and edited the audio interview. James Doubek produced for the web.