MIAMI – There was a moment of silence Wednesday at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. It was in memory of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Officials said a squad of gunmen pretending to be U.S. agents assassinated him about 1 a.m. at his home in Haiti.
At the church along Northeast 62nd Avenue, Rev. Reginald Jean Mary delivered his sermon in Haitian Creole and English. He asked his parishioners to pray for First Lady Martine Moïse, who was injured when Moïse, 53, was killed near Port-au-Prince.
Jean Mary’s public prayer: “Until when do we have to suffer? Until when will we continue to kill one another? Until when can we be one, Jesus?”
Haitian authorities announced Wednesday evening that police officers had arrested the “presumed assassins.”
Haitians in South Florida said they are worried about their relatives back in the Caribbean nation. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, Moïse’s protege, released a statement saying the Armed Forces of Haiti and the National Police were in control.
There was grief at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church. Moïse and Jean Mary were friends. They were both born in Jean-Rabel, a commune in the Nord-Ouest department of Haiti. It’s west of Port-de-Paix and east of Môle-Saint-Nicolas Arrondissement. They both moved to Port-au-Prince. Moïse was an entrepreneur. Jean Mary was an accountant.
Jean Mary joined the priesthood in 1989 and after studying in France he joined the Archdiocese of Miami in 1991. He became the pastor of Notre Dame D’Haiti in 2004. His parish serves some of the Haitians who live and work in South Florida under a Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.
Many moved to Miami-Dade County after the 2010 earthquake. President Joe Biden’s administration extended the protection when the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated poverty, gang violence, and human rights abuses in the Caribbean country.
Moïse won the November 2016 presidential election and he was sworn in February 2017. In recent months, there were Haitians in South Florida who feared for his life. There were fiery protests. Moïse had been ruling by decree.
Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., told The Associated Press the killers were well-trained foreign mercenaries who pretended to be U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agents.
“The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” Biden said in a statement.
Marleine Bastien, a social worker and Miami-Dade commission candidate, said Wednesday the security conditions in Haiti had steadily declined this year, and she is now concerned that the country will descend into chaos.
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