Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, on the eve of slain President Jovenel Moise's national funeral to be held there Friday.
The day began with a special mass in honor of Moise, attended by members of the president's PHTK political party. Immediately afterward, protesters wearing white in a sign of mourning marched through the streets chanting, "Justice!"
"We are saying there must be justice for President Moise," a protester wearing a Haitian flag bandana on his head told VOA Creole. An investigation into Moise’s death has already resulted in more than 20 arrests.
Other protesters yelled slogans against opposition politicians and wealthy Haitians, whom they blame for the assassination.
A band played traditional rara music while marching alongside protesters. The demonstration ended at the Vertières historical site, located to the south of Cape Haitian, where one of the most decisive battles of the Haitian Revolution was fought in 1803.
In some parts of the Caribbean nation's second-largest city, tires were seen burning in the streets. VOA Creole's reporter in Port-au-Prince, who traveled Thursday to Cap-Haitien, said she saw a group of people trying to set fire to a bridge. Police rushed to the scene to stop them, she said. The main highway to the north was jammed with cars, the reporter said.
Extra security measures are in place as the city prepares to host an A-list of Haitian government officials, foreign officials, diplomats and ordinary citizens for Moise’s funeral on Friday.
Moise was assassinated inside his private residence in a wealthy suburb of the Haitian capital in the pre-dawn hours of July 7. His wife, Martine Moise, was injured during the attack and was transferred to a Miami, Florida, hospital for treatment. The first lady returned to Haiti last weekend to help plan and attend her husband's funeral.
New US Haiti envoy
Meanwhile in Washington, the U.S. State Department announced the appointment of a new envoy to Haiti. Ambassador Daniel Foote is a career Foreign Service officer whose experience as a diplomat includes serving as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince twice. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Zambia under the Trump administration.
A State Department statement emailed to VOA says Foote will work with the U.S. ambassador to "lead U.S. diplomatic efforts and coordinate the effort of U.S. federal agencies in Haiti from Washington, advise the secretary and acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and coordinate closely with the National Security Council staff on the administration’s efforts to support the Haitian people and Haiti’s democratic institutions in the aftermath of the tragic assassination of Jovenel Moise."
U.S. Representative Albio Sires applauded the appointment in a message posted on Twitter.
“I welcome the Biden admin’s naming of Daniel Foote as special envoy for #Haiti. It’s a positive step toward supporting the Haitian people in restoring their democracy,” Sires said.
It is unclear when Foote will arrive in Haiti, but earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the U.S. would send a delegation to attend Moise's funeral. She did not specify who would be part of the delegation.
Washington diaspora honor Moise
At the Haitian Embassy in Washington, Haitian Americans and foreign dignitaries gathered for a somber ceremony honoring Moise. Among the diplomats present was former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten. He declined to comment to VOA on the event.
During the well-choreographed program featuring a slideshow of Moise, poetry, prayers and music, Haitian Ambassador Bocchit Edmond recounted highlights of Moise's political career in French and English. He also criticized The New York Times for reporting that Moise was seeking a third term. Haiti’s constitution bars heads of state from seeking successive terms.
"They killed the president but not his dream," Edmond said.
Members of the Haitian diaspora who spoke to VOA after the program expressed sadness and regret about not being in Haiti for the funeral.
"No matter where we are living in the world, we can come together in support of an event like this," Jean Junior Morisett told VOA. "I would personally love to travel to Haiti to attend the funeral, but unfortunately, I'm unable to. So, I'm participating in this event in honor of the president."
Marie Rachelle Volcy, a member of a musical group that sang during the memorial service, said the people of Haiti should know they are in the thoughts and prayers of the diaspora.
"You're not alone. We don't know where we are heading, we know how this started. Although we are not physically by your side, we do share the burden of having lost a fellow Haitian who was a child of Haiti," Volcy said. "We will continue to pray and work together toward peace."