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Moïse's Assassination Created A Political Vacuum In Haiti

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And let's discuss this more with Haiti's ambassador to the United States. Bocchit Edmond is on the line from Maryland. Welcome to the program, sir.

BOCCHIT EDMOND: Good morning to you, Steven.

INSKEEP: So we just heard our correspondent Jason Beaubien list several people in Haiti who are claiming in various ways to be in charge. As an employee of the government, as the ambassador, whose authority do you recognize right now?

EDMOND: I mean, for now, I must tell you that the only prime minister that is being obeyed should - the interim one because after the president's assassination, there was a political vacuum, and the interim government has to step in to make sure that - to assure the continuity of the state. I mean, when it comes to the arrangement to make sure that - who's going to be leading or not, it remains to be seen. But the current situation now, there is only one prime minister, the one who was the interim one...

INSKEEP: This is Claude Joseph that you're referring to - that's the prime minister? Because there's two people claiming to be prime minister.

EDMOND: Indeed. Yes, Claude Joseph, indeed.

INSKEEP: Claude Joseph is the prime minister

EDMOND: Because he is the interim prime minister. He was there. You know, actually, Ariel Henry, the new prime minister, was charged to form a new government. But unfortunately, in the process of forming the new government, the president has been assassinated. Since there was an interim government, they had to step in to make sure that there was no political vacuum. But now...

INSKEEP: OK, so the man that the president tried to fire is the man who you recognize as prime minister now. And Joseph, the prime minister, called for U.S. troops. He's getting U.S. assistance with the investigation. Doesn't look like he's getting the troops. I'm curious - why did he want them?

EDMOND: I believe that most of the - most importantly, the reason he did request for that - because remember; we have a fight going on against gangs because this country has been infested with gangs, you know, financed by drug cartels, by, you know, different groups. So those key infrastructure - the ports, the airports, the storage where the fuels are, all those things - they are a lot of very key infrastructure that the national police themselves, they won't be able to make sure that they have full control because they have so many other issues, so many other situations to face. So that's one of the reasons they wanted to have some technical (ph) and international assistance to make sure that those key infrastructure are being secured.

INSKEEP: I want to ask, Ambassador, about the assassinated President Moise and the state that he left the country in because it certainly is important for Haiti's future. Yesterday on the program, we heard from Amy Wilentz. She is a journalist with long experience in Haiti. She writes about Haiti for The Nation. And she was very critical of the assassinated president, said he had been dismantling democracy. I'd like to listen to a little bit of that. Let's hear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

AMY WILENTZ: He was moving toward dictatorship. He had shut down all other - what we call checks and balances on the presidency. He had allowed the legislature to die. He had fired judges from the Supreme Court. And he had also allowed the municipal governments around the country to be decimated and then appointed new mayors.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, on a factual level, that seems to be true. We just heard Jason Beaubien say there's hardly any senators left because the Senate elections haven't happened for years.

EDMOND: Yeah, but...

INSKEEP: Is that a fair summary of the state of Haitian democracy?

EDMOND: No, listen; Amy - I mean, I always consider Amy as someone who probably wasn't on Haiti's side (ph). Anybody who's not - I think it's a one-sided story. Did she not tell you that those judges had been involved - had been trying to overthrow the president as well? Because three judges, each one is - belonged to one political party. There was no way he and the United States, a judge of the Supreme Court, would have been involved in any political party to topple the president. I believe it won't be - I mean, those are the facts Amy didn't tell you about. We're talking about...

INSKEEP: But I want to ask, is it correct that a lot of elections haven't been held and a lot of democratic positions have gone vacant?

EDMOND: No, because - not only the president - continues to hold elections because the president signed the law, the electorate (ph), the parliament. The parliament did not vote on them. The Senate - the national budget with $50 million for election, they did not vote on them until they left. So therefore, that was not only the sole responsibility of the president. He did what he had to do. But the other side is because all those were planned - were part of the plan to come to that point, to a transitional government. That's what they wanted. Those are facts Amy didn't tell you. So I believe there is not time now to send the blame to the president. I know a lot of people, including Amy - a lot of them did not like the president. We understand that. We understand they didn't like policies, his reformed government (ph) - but at the end of the day, the - now they got rid of him. So...

INSKEEP: In a few seconds, will Haiti hold elections in September, as expected?

EDMOND: Absolutely. We need to hold elections because they're very important. If we - those critics who have been telling about the president - now it's time to have those elections. We need to go to - to have those elections so we can renew our democratic institutions so democracy can prevail in Haiti.

INSKEEP: Bocchit Edmond is the ambassador from Haiti to the United States. Thanks for your time, sir.

EDMOND: Thank you so very much, Steven. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.