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Haiti says farewell to its slain president

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FILE PHOTO: Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise speaks during an interview with Reuters at the National Palace of Port-au-Prince, Haiti January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Valerie Baeriswyl/File Photo<br />

Mourners gathered Friday to say farewell to Haiti’s slain president under tight security, just over two weeks after his assassination rattled a country mired in poverty, corruption and political instability.

Moise, who was 53 when he was shot dead in his home in the early hours of July 7, is being interred in Cap-Haitien, the main city in his native northern region.

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As police patrolled relatively calm streets, relatives of Moise, government officials, supporters of the slain president and diplomats gathered at the site of the open-air funeral, which was expected to last several hours.

Moise’s coffin was draped in the red, white and blue Haitian flag and the presidential sash, and surrounded by flowers. Military guards kept watch. Large screens were set up for mourners to watch the event.

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But the case remains murky, with many unanswered questions, such as how no members of the presidential security detail suffered injuries in the brazen assault.

Haitians have expressed shock that those tasked with protecting the president and his home failed him so abjectly.

The impoverished Caribbean nation is riddled with crime and powerful gangs — problems that were exacerbated during Moise’s presidency

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– City on edge -Earlier this week, clashes broke out in Cap-Haitien when police chief Leon Charles visited ahead of the ceremony. He was booed and heckled while inspecting security arrangements for the funeral.

Local residents blame the police chief for not protecting Moise, whose death has rekindled long-standing tensions between the north of Haiti and the west.

Those issues stem in part from historic racial divisions dating back to French colonialism between northern blacks who are descendants of slaves and lighter-skinned Haitians of mixed race living in the south and west.

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Some residents have even set up barricades on roads leading to Cap-Haitien to keep people from the capital Port-au-Prince from attending the funeral.

“We are going to do everything we can to honor him the way he deserves, in line with his importance for our city,” said Cap-Haitien Mayor Yvrose Pierre.

– Praying for justice -A Catholic mass was held for Moise Thursday at the city’s cathedral, followed by a procession in his honor.

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“His assassination saddened me very much. I prayed for his soul. I prayed that justice will be rendered,” said a woman standing near the cathedral, who only gave her first name Carine.

Memorial ceremonies in honor of Moise have been held this week in Port-au-Prince as well.

Attending one of them was new Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was sworn in Tuesday and vowed to restore order and organize long-delayed elections as sought both by Haitians and the international community.

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Foote, the new US envoy, has been tasked with helping to usher along the organization of elections.

Haiti currently has no working parliament and only a handful of elected senators. The interim government installed this week has no president.

Washington has said elections should be held later this year.

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Moise had ruled Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed in following multiple disputes.

As well as presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti had been due to have a constitutional referendum in September after it was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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