Protests break out at Haiti president’s funeral, guests run for cover
24 July, 2021, 12:15 pm
The funeral of assassinated Haitian president Jovenel Moise on Friday was disrupted by shots fired nearby and riot gas used on protesters, prompting a high-level U.S. delegation to abruptly leave and other dignitaries to duck into vehicles for safety.
The state funeral in the northern city of Cap-Haitien was intended to foster national unity, but the disturbances reflected deep division over the June 7 atrocity, in which foreign gunmen walked apparently unchallenged into the presidential residence and shot Moise multiple times, also injuring his wife.
Few answers have emerged about who planned the killing, or why.
There were no immediate reports of injuries among protesters or authorities on Friday, and no indications any guests at the funeral were in danger. Reuters witnesses smelled the gas and heard detonations they believed to be shots outside the site of the service.
Smoke billowed into the compound. Dozens of police and security officials formed protective cordons around Haitian officials in the stands.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, was in attendance, leading the U.S. delegation. The delegation had heard the gunshots and was returning home slightly earlier than expected, according to a source familiar with the situation.
“The presidential delegation is safe and accounted for in light of the reported shootings outside of the funeral,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
“We are deeply concerned about unrest in Haiti.”
Earlier, in remarks made as the delegation arrived in Cap-Haitien, Thomas-Greenfield called on Haiti’s new Prime Minister Ariel Henry to create conditions for legislative and presidential elections “as soon as feasible.”
“The Haitian people deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity, and we stand with them in this time of crisis,” said Thomas-Greenfield on Twitter. “We urge everyone to express themselves peacefully and refrain from violence.”
PROTESTS IN HOMETOWN
The trouble flared minutes after a brass band and church choir opened Moise’s ceremony.
The service went ahead, with speeches by family members, but it was punctuated by angry shouts by supporters accusing authorities of responsibility for Moise’s death. Their words were sometimes drowned out by loud swells of taped somber church music.
The coffin was put in a concrete tomb about ten feet (three meters) deep, and covered by iron bars, then sealed with planks of wood, cement and large rocks. The tomb stood near a mausoleum to Moise’s father, who died last year just a couple of years shy of 100.