U.S. delegation cuts Haiti journey brief after gunshots reported at president’s funeral

A man attends the funeral of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise, at Moise’s family home in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, Friday, July 23, 2021.

Matias Delacroix | AP

A U.S. delegation that attended the funeral of late Haitian president Jovenel Moise on Friday is safe and returning to the U.S. following reports of gunshots and crowd control gas as protests took place outside the ceremony, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

The delegation, led by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, was forced to end the trip early due to the unrest, a senior administration official told NBC News. However, Thomas-Greenfield was able to meet with Haitian leaders at the funeral, including newly sworn in Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his predecessor Claude Joseph before leaving.

There were no immediate reports of injuries among protesters, authorities or guests at the funeral. 

The U.S. delegation included House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.; Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; and NSC Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzales. It also included Daniel Foote, who was newly appointed as the U.S. special envoy to Haiti by the Biden administration, and U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison.

Greenfield, in remarks delivered upon the delegation’s arrival in Haiti, expressed solidarity with the Haitian people and condolences to First Lady Martine Moise.

“Our delegation is here to bring a message to the Haitian people: You deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity, and we stand with you in this time of crisis,” Greenfield said

The funeral service was opened by a brass band and church choir, but was disrupted by angry shouts of protesters accusing authorities of being responsible for Moise’s death, according to Reuters.

Haitian officials arriving at the event were met with verbal anger from protesters, with one man calling Haitian police chief Leon Charles a criminal, Reuters reported.

Protests erupted in the northern city of Cap-Haitien leading up to the funeral for Moise, with supporters of the slain president angry over unanswered questions about his assassination, according to Reuters.

“We are deeply concerned about unrest in Haiti,” Psaki said at a Friday briefing. “In this critical moment, Haiti’s leaders must come together to chart a united path that reflects the will of the Haitian people. We remain committed to supporting the people of Haiti in this challenging time.”

This comes over two weeks after Moise was shot dead at his private Port-au-Prince residence, a shocking assassination that plunged the Caribbean nation into political upheaval.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement Friday the U.S. will continue to provide requested assistance, including equipment and training, to the Haitian National Police and government of Haiti. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security will also continue to aid Haitian authorities in their investigation into the killing at the request of the Haitian government.

Sullivan added that the departments will continue working closely with international partners to support the Haitian government’s efforts to hold the perpetrators of the assassination accountable.

The Haitian government has also requested that the U.S. deploy American troops to protect critical infrastructure in Haiti.

Biden announced last week that the U.S. will only send American marines to secure the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and has no plans to send military assistance. 

“The idea of sending American forces into Haiti is not on the agenda at this moment,” Biden said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. sent a delegation of U.S. officials to Haiti to assess the political and security situation in the nation, assist with the investigation of Moise’s murder, and encourage free and fair elections. 

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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