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Haitian President Moïse's Security Is Under Scrutiny In Murder Investigation

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Haitian officials have replaced the most senior members of the presidential security detail for Jovenel Moise as questions persist about their actions the night of his assassination. In the meantime, plans for the president's funeral are underway. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince and joins us now. Jason, let's just start with the situation in the city itself. I understand that the streets are mostly deserted after the assassination, but that was a week ago. What's happening now?

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Yeah. Yeah, so things are starting to come back to life, but it's still not the normal bustle that you would get of Port-Au-Prince. Some shops are reopening. You know, some of the side markets along the sides of the streets where women are selling vegetables or clothes or whatnot - those have come back. You know, but the border with the Dominican Republic remains closed. Flights are not coming in from there. Gas stations - there are long lines at gas stations because they were shut. So people were unable to get gas, and some of them haven't been able to get fuel in. So things are still sort of in a bit of a tense mode here, but things are starting to come back to life.

CORNISH: I'm not sure if I should call him the interim prime minister. Claude Joseph says the government's top priority is this investigation - right? - finding out who's responsible for the assassination.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah.

CORNISH: How has the security detail figured into that probe?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. So one of the big questions is how the killers, whoever they were, were able to penetrate the presidential residence, kill the president and somehow none of his guards were killed. No one was injured in the entire affair. So there are a lot of questions about whether or not the security detail was somehow involved, whether they completely failed and fled when these attackers showed up. There's - that is the main reason that you're getting the top officials at the presidential security unit. There's another elite force at the national police called the CAT Team and the overall security team for the presidential palace. They have now all been removed.

CORNISH: Even with an investigation ongoing, there's been no funeral. Why would that be?

BEAUBIEN: Well, so the autopsy actually just wrapped up. And so that was part of why they were waiting on that. And the autopsy actually was fairly brutal in terms of what they found - more than a dozen gunshot wounds and other wounds that appeared that he had been beaten. And so that sort of goes against the narrative of him being killed by professional mercenaries, which is what the police have been arguing. But now that that's done and it's out of the way, you know, the interim prime minister Claude Joseph has set up a committee, and they met today. And they're going to plan a funeral.

And, you know, Moise was a very controversial figure. He did have a lot of enemies. But it sounds like this funeral is going to be a large national affair. The prime minister is saying he wants a national funeral that has the respect, solemnity and dignity that should be attached to a head of state. That said, they still have not set a date for exactly when that's going to be.

CORNISH: In the meantime, what about the leadership of the nation? As we said, the prime minister is interim. Is it becoming any more clear who's going to take over?

BEAUBIEN: It really is not. That's right. So Claude Joseph is the interim prime minister. He was actually supposed to be replaced when Moise was assassinated. Ariel Henry was supposed to be taking over. He's now saying that he's the legitimate prime minister and should be leading the country. There's some other people that have said that the leader of the Senate should actually take power. The head of the Supreme Court, under some people's arguments, should have been, but he actually died of COVID at the end of June. So there really is this huge power vacuum at the moment, and it's not even clear who is going to lead this country into the next round of elections that could determine who's going to be the next president of Haiti.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Jason Beaubien in Port-Au-Prince. Thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.