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Haitian migrants: Ariel Henry says he understands US deportations and says elections will be postponed

In an exclusive interview with CNN from the Prime Minister’s residence in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, Henry – who took office as leader two weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July – also said that Elections originally scheduled for September would be postponed until next year, after a review of the country’s constitution.
About 4,000 migrants apprehended by US Customs and Border Protection in Del Rio, Texas in recent weeks have been deported, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
An investigation was launched by the Department of Homeland Security after video of border patrol officers on horseback patrolling aggressively confronting mainly Haitian migrants surfaced last week. Several senior administration officials as well as Congressional Democrats have expressed outrage at the footage, taken by Al Jazeera and Reuters, which appears to show law enforcement officers on horseback using aggressive tactics, including an officer swinging long reins near migrants crossing the border near Del Rio.

“We saw some of the mistreatment these Haitians went through and it hit us a lot,” Henry told CNN. “What we are saying is that as long as there are countries better off than others, there will always be an appeal to the wealthier.”

Henry said: “We are not responsible for their deportation” and Haiti “cannot interfere in the internal affairs of the United States” – however “all Haitians who return to their native land are entitled to a welcome. “.

Haiti’s elections postponed to 2022

Henry’s two-month tenure has been marred by lingering questions about the Moise assassination, a deadly spiral of gang-violence in the capital, a catastrophic August earthquake in the south of the country and now a crisis of migrants who drove thousands of people to the US border.
Meanwhile, confusion mounts when the late elections in Haiti – postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic – take place.
Moise had planned to hold an election in September, but that date passed under Henry’s leadership. And on Monday, the Haitian government issued a decree dismissing its entire Electoral Council, the group responsible for conducting the elections.

“The train derailed for a while in Haiti,” Henry said. “We want to move as quickly as possible towards the restoration of democracy through elections.”

Henry said the members of the Electoral Council were fired because they “could not hold an election,” and the process to replace them was underway.

“We have taken the decision today to stop this electoral council and to form another, which will be more consensual and which will be accepted by the whole of society,” he added.

Henry said the elections would take place after a revision of the country’s constitution: “We will be reviewing the constitution in the first months of the coming year and the elections will take place immediately after.”

Investigation into the Murder of Moses

Henry faces additional pressure on the official investigation into the murder of Moses – who was killed in an attack on his private residence on July 7 – and has been accused of obstructing the investigation.

The ongoing investigation has uncovered dozens of suspects, including US and Colombian citizens, but government officials continue to search for brain and motive.

Former Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude had called on Henry to testify on the case, citing evidence that a key murder suspect spoke to him by phone within hours. followed the murder. Henry then fired Claude and Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent, raising questions about whether the executive was interfering in the justice system.

Speaking to CNN, Henry denied obstructing the investigation, saying the couple were fired “for breaking the law.”

Haitian migrants: Ariel Henry says he understands US deportations and says elections will be postponed

“It is important for us that President Jovenel Moise has justice, it is fundamental for us and we will give all the means to justice so that justice is done”, he declared. “We do not want to interfere in this trial (…) I do not even ask to know what is going on in the case. What I am saying is that the president must have justice and that this justice must be accompanied by independent judges. “

Claude was fired as he sought to indict Henry following phone calls made in the hours following the assassination with one of the main suspects, former Haitian Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio .

Henry said he had “no recollection” of the phone call “or if it took place.”

“It means for me it wasn’t an important call, if I don’t remember it,” he said. “I have no interest in being associated with these people and I never have been and I will not be.”

Henry also said he would follow up with the Justice Department on allegations that dozens of US and Colombian citizens remain in detention in Haiti in connection with the assassination, without any charges against them and access. limited to lawyers – in violation of Haitian law. The situation has left human rights groups concerned about the lack of due process for detainees.

“I will ask the Ministry of Justice to follow up and if there are innocent people they should be released. We don’t want to keep people in jail just because they are Colombians or because they are caught. for assassins … and who are not assassins, “said Henry.

Security concerns

The prime minister admitted he was concerned for his own safety, saying Moise died in his bed “because he was president of Haiti”.

“One of the reasons I think we need to know what happened that night is because I feel like I’m in danger as well,” he said, adding that Moise has “the right to exemplary justice and I will ensure that this justice is exemplary and honest.”

Henry acknowledged that he also needed foreign aid to tackle gang violence in the country and that he was determined to stamp out criminal activity.

“We asked friendly countries for specific support to support the police, the ability to fight these bandits and get out of public life, so that the economy can resume, so that our children can go about their business on a regular basis,” ” he said.

“Everyone who is involved in gangs, whether they are politicians, businessmen or other citizens, are themselves bandits and must suffer the same fate as the bandits.”

CNN’s Melissa Bell, Pierre Bairin and Mark Esplin reported in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Caitlin Hu, Etant Dupain, Sharif Paget and Jennifer Deaton contributed.


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