The Biden administration has declined the request of Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph for U.S. troops as the impoverished nation struggles in the social and political aftermath of the assassination of President Jouvenal Moïse.
The U.S. will only send security officials to assess the situation, senior officials said Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that the interim leader has imposed a two-week state of emergency and had requested the U.S. to deploy troops to protect infrastructure ahead of elections that had been scheduled for September.
Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security were to arrive in Haiti on Sunday.
“We need U.S. troops to help us provide security to the population, to efficiently confront the COVID-19 pandemic and to assist in the investigation of Mr. Moïse’s assassination,” a spokesman for Joseph was quoted as saying.
The interim leadership of Joseph, who was an ally of the president, is being challenged by some Haitian politicians. He took charge after the killing of Moïse on Wednesday, which occurred the day after the president appointed a new prime minister, neurosurgeon Ariel Henry. President Moïse was also accused of corruption, having ties to criminal gangs, and overstaying his tenure.
The slain president’s wife, Martine Moïse, was also critically wounded in Wednesday’s attack by an armed commando of 28 men, 26 of whom were Colombians and two were Haitian-Americans. She addressed the nation on social media on Saturday.
“I am alive, thanks to God,” she said in an audio message posted on Twitter, France 24 reported. “I am alive but I have lost my husband Jovenel. … In the blink of an eye, the mercenaries entered my home and riddled my husband with bullets ... without even giving him a chance to say a word. I am crying, it is true, but we cannot let the country lose its way. We cannot let his blood ... have been spilled in vain.”
Meanwhile, the AP reports that James Solages, an American arrested in relation to the killing of Moïse, worked alongside Hollywood actor Sean Penn to rebuild the country after the 2010 earthquake that killed at least 300,000 people.
Until 2011, Solages worked as a driver and in a security capacity for Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization, according to three anonymous sources who are familiar with the actor’s relief work in Haiti.
Solages, 35, studied in Florida and started a charity in 2019 to help residents of his hometown of Jacmel, along Haiti’s southern coast.
Haiti has seen an increase in crime since last year.
The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti stated in a February report that there were 234 kidnappings in the previous 12 months, an increase of 200% from the previous year.
Authorities in Haiti reported 1,380 killings in 2020.
According to the watchdog group Fondasyon Je Klere, over 150 gangs operate in Haiti.