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Haitian Authorities Are Arresting Suspects In Presidential Assassination

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Last night, a gunfight broke out on the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, as security forces traded fire with people suspected in the assassination of the country's president. Authorities killed four suspects and arrested others. The AP is reporting that a Haitian official says two people in custody are U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, the killing of President Jovenel Moise on Tuesday night has deepened Haiti's political crisis and left questions about who exactly is leading the country. Earlier today, I spoke with Widlore Merancourt, the editor in chief of the Haitian news outlet Ayibopost. Thank you for joining us.

WIDLORE MERANCOURT: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: You are in Port-au-Prince. What more can you tell us about the security force's ongoing search for suspects.

MERANCOURT: OK. So it seems yesterday in the morning, 1 a.m., when the president was assassinated, the Haitian National Police started a manhunt to find out who precisely killed the president. According to the authorities, the latest information that he provided, four of the assailants, four of the persons who participated in this assassination are dead right now. And six of them are with the authorities, and they will be questioned. We are still trying to confirm precisely what they know about the alleged assassin.

SHAPIRO: The timing of the assassination has made Haiti's political situation extremely complicated. The acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph was slated to step down this week, but he has not done so. And his would-be successor, Ariel Henry, is now also claiming to be prime minister. So do Haitians know who is leading the country right now?

MERANCOURT: Well, that's a good question because you don't have anything in the books that you go to - how do you handle this situation, where every democratic institution in the country is not working properly? And just a quick reminder - you don't have a parliament that is working properly. The Chamber of Deputies doesn't exist since 2020. The Senate has 10 elected officials, and these 10 elected officials are the only elected officials literally in all the country. You should have hundreds of elected officials because we did not conduct elections on time. So you have a clash right now between these two individuals for power.

SHAPIRO: Is it clear whether the presidential election that is scheduled to take place in September will go forward?

MERANCOURT: We don't know. Before the assassination of the president, we already had questions with regard to whether we can objectively have elections in Haiti. Sixteen thousand people flee their homes because of being abandoned. In first of June, you have 20 people were killed one week before the president was assassinated. On top of this, you have this political crisis with different actors saying that the government was not legitimate then, and now they don't recognize what is being done in the name of the government now. So yeah, there is a lot of questions, and a lot of actors are involved. And we don't have clear answer.

SHAPIRO: How are Haitians reacting to the news? I mean, what are you seeing in Port-au-Prince?

MERANCOURT: Well, it's a very complicated situation. You know, the country is not functioning properly. You don't see a lot of people in the street. You don't see a lot of businesses open. And in fact, the main businesses are closed in Port-au-Prince. You don't see a lot of cars in the city like you would see in a normal day. People are speculating on social media in the live regarding what happened. People are trying to understand. And there is a lot of confusion, and there is a lot of questions that are unanswered.

SHAPIRO: Widlore Merancourt is the editor in chief of the Haitian news outlet Ayibopost. Thank you very much.

MERANCOURT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.