Haiti’s acting prime minister will step down amid power struggle

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Interim Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who took over leadership of the country after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, will reportedly step down and hand the reins to his challenger.

Joseph and Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon whom Moïse had appointed prime minister two days before he was gunned down on July 7, had both vied for domestic and international support after the power vacuum created by the assassination.

He had claimed that Henry, 71, had not yet been sworn into the job and had no right to act as interim leader.

Joseph, who was Moïse’s foreign minister, has claimed he was Haiti’s rightful interim leader following the assassination because he had been serving as acting prime minister before the late president named Henry, the Washington Post reported.

But on Monday, Joseph told the paper that he and Henry had met privately in the past week in an attempt to resolve the leadership dispute, and that he agreed Sunday to step down “for the good of the nation.”

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

Henry released a recorded address Sunday night in which he repeated his claim to the prime minister’s job.

“I give the reinsurance that light will be shed and those who carried out [the assassination] and its intellectual authors will be brought to justice,” he said. “I compliment the Haitian people on their political maturity in the face of what we can call a coup d’etat.”

On Saturday, an informal group of foreign ambassadors and envoys known as the “Core Group” that includes the US emphasized the need for a “consensual and inclusive government” put together by “designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry.”

By backing Henry, the group appeared to be withdrawing its support for Joseph amid the power struggle — but Joseph’s decision to step down is unlikely to settle the leadership question for good, according to the report.

Haitian civil society groups have assailed the international community in recent days for backing Henry — and have insisted on a new interim government.

Many had called for Moïse to step down before his death, claiming he was in cahoots with violent gangs that have terrorized the impoverished Caribbean nation.  

“We are indifferent to this news. Ariel Henry was designated prime minister by Jovenel Moïse,” Samuel Madistin, chairman of the board of directors of Fondation Je Klere, a human rights group based in Port-au-Prince, told the paper.

“We don’t have the sense or the conviction that this will change something the failed policies of Jovenel Moïse that brought the country to the failure that we all are witnessing,” he added.

Joseph would not say if he had been pressured to step down — and said it remained unclear if he would remain in Henry’s government.

“I am willing to do the transfer of power as quickly as possible,” he said.

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