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Ariel Henry Will Replace Claude Joseph As Haiti's Prime Minister


Ever since Haiti's president was assassinated nearly two weeks ago, two men have been vying for power over the Caribbean nation. It appears that power struggle is over. Murdered President Jovenel Moise had chosen a prime minister before his death, but the assassination took place hours before the official swearing in, so the interim prime minister held on to power. Over the weekend, the two rivals came to an agreement and appeared to have the backing of the international community. Joining us now to explain what happened is NPR Mexico City correspondent Carrie Kahn.

Hey, Carrie.


CHANG: Hi. So tell us about the man who will now be in power in Haiti.

KAHN: He is Ariel Henry. He's 71. He's a neurosurgeon. He was educated in France and Boston. He's held positions in the government before, so he's no stranger. He - like you said, he was all set to become prime minister, but the president was assassinated. And so he wasn't sworn in. And the acting prime minister kept on acting, and the two men alternately said they were in charge. So it appears over the weekend, the two hashed things out. And also, a group of key diplomats, part of the so-called core group, backed Moise's pick, Ariel Henry. And the core group includes representatives from the U.S., the U.N., the Organization of American States. And I do believe that backing seemed to seal the deal in favor of Henry.

CHANG: So interesting. OK, so what is the current prime minister saying right now? Like, when will he be stepping down?

KAHN: Claude Joseph said, you know, he never really wanted to hold on to power. He said all along he planned to step down. He just wanted to stay on for now and make sure his friend, President Jovenel Moise, got justice. I spoke this morning with election minister Mathias Pierre, and he told me that the men - the two men and the other ministers in the government came up with this agreement. That's what President Jovenel Moise had wanted all along, said Pierre.

MATHIAS PIERRE: It was the wishes of the president. We in the government knew that was the path to take. This is a step forward to find consensus for the country to move forward.

KAHN: Pierre also told me that no president will be appointed and to expect a formal swearing in ceremony tomorrow. He says elections will go forward, and that's what the international community has been pushing for - hopefully in September.

CHANG: OK. So these two men, these two rivals and the international community are saying that there is an agreement. But what do people in Haiti think about all this? Like, do you have a sense of whether they will accept this agreement?

KAHN: It's tough. You know, Haiti is not a politically stable place. And the last years of the Moise administration were very turbulent - lots of violence and constant protests in the streets. I spoke with a human rights advocate and criminal defense lawyer, Samuel Madistin. I called him up. I was just curious what he had to say. He was underwhelmed. He actually said he was indifferent - that's the word he used - by this agreement over who will finally be the prime minister. He's just worried about everything being so rushed, especially elections.

SAMUEL MADISTIN: If you do the election now, it would be violent election and bad money elections. That can't give democracy.

KAHN: He's saying it's just a waste of money in a place like Haiti to spend it on elections when you have criminals running free and impunity is rampant. He says elections in such a violent atmosphere won't bring about democracy.

CHANG: And real quick as to the assassination investigation, any more clarity on who killed Moise and their motive?

KAHN: Dozens have been arrested. I would just say questions still outnumber answers as to who murdered the president and who would benefit from such an assassination.

CHANG: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn.

Thank you, Carrie.

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

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
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