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Regional Interests

Haiti Requests U.S. Assistance To Restore Order After President Moise's Assassination

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Haiti's government is asking the U.S. for help in securing key infrastructure in the country in the chaos following the assassination of its president in the early hours of Wednesday. Of course, there is still much to unravel about the plot to kill President Moise. He was assassinated by a hit squad in his home on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince. It's become a tale of international intrigue involving Colombian mercenaries and at least two Haitian Americans.

NPR's Jackie Northam is following this story and joins us. Jackie, thank you for being with us.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Haiti is asking the U.S. for help to quell violence and secure key infrastructure, which seems to be telling of how worried they are to actually invite foreign military intervention participation. How's the Biden administration responded, at least right now?

NORTHAM: Haiti has requested U.S. troops to help protect the airport, the ports, other infrastructure in the country. So far, there's no sign that the Biden administration is going to agree to sending in American troops. It is kind of surprising that Haiti would request the administration to provide military support. You know, there's a century-long history of U.S. intervention in Haiti with mixed results, and there's considerable resentment still over those interventions. Also, Scott, it's hard to see that the Biden administration - you know, it's trying to disengage from Afghanistan - why it would want to become embroiled in another country right now, even if it is just a small number of troops.

SIMON: What kinds of other assistance can the U.S. provide right now?

NORTHAM: Well, Haiti also asked the U.S. for help in the investigation into President Moise's killing. And there are two U.S. citizens of Haitian origin that have been implicated in the assassination. You know, it could include Colombian investigators because there were a number of ex-military Colombians involved in the assassination as well.

Now, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security will go to Haiti as soon as possible to assess how to help. And I'm using air quotations around that. You know, that's echoing other administration officials. And they're very careful with their words. They use - they say that they're discussing with Haiti how the U.S. can assist. But you'll note that they use the word discuss. And no decisions have been made, you know, when anybody's going to go or how many or anything else.

SIMON: Can you help us parse that language, the reluctance in the language?

NORTHAM: Well, probably one of the reasons is - the administration has been a bit cagey is, you know, there's just - so much is unknown about what happened. You know, this was no fly-by night attack. It appeared to be well orchestrated, months in planning, involving almost two dozen attackers from Colombia. It - we still don't know who's behind it, who bankrolled it. You know, President Moise's heavily armed bodyguards were not harmed. This could very well end up being part of an internal power struggle in Haiti. And, you know, there may be no upside to the U.S. stepping into that.

And already it's tricky for the administration. You know, it's backing the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, who quickly came out after the assassination and said he was in charge and essentially declared martial law, while Prime Minister Joseph was actually supposed to leave office this week. He had been replaced. And there's a lot of opposition in Haiti to him remaining in power. So the White House backs him, as does the U.N. But administration officials are urging that Haiti holds elections soon.

SIMON: NPR's Jackie Northam, thanks so much for being with us.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.