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NPR Exclusive: Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph on Haiti's Future

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The assassination last week of Haitian President Jovenel Moise has left the Caribbean nation without a clear leader. Several people are now negotiating for control of the government, including the country's interim prime minister Claude Joseph. He joined NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro for an exclusive interview earlier today.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: I want to start by asking you just for an update on the situation in Haiti. How are you seeing things after these tumultuous days?

CLAUDE JOSEPH: So what I can say is that there is an ongoing investigation, and I think we are doing a good job. We already have, you know, captured about two dozens of Colombians that actually killed the president, also five Haitians, two Haitian Americans, I guess. There are other people that we are searching now who may have links with those who actually killed the president.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you believe the head of the palace guard was involved? I mean, there's a lot of attention on the fact that the president's security did nothing when he was killed.

JOSEPH: Yes. He's currently in custody with five or four others.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you think that they were involved?

JOSEPH: We cannot determine that. We leave it to the investigation and the justice to actually say whether or not they were involved.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you met with U.S. investigators, including the FBI? Have they given you enough support? I mean, they don't seem to have a forensics team with them, for example.

JOSEPH: You know, I was the main person that actually invited them to come to support the investigation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you feel like the team is enough?

JOSEPH: The Haitian National Police is doing a great job, but we think that the support of the FBI and some Colombian guys in the intelligence service also is of utmost importance.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Prime minister, I just want to give you the opportunity to answer this directly because there have been some unsupported and unsubstantiated reports in the media. Did you have anything to do with what happened to Jovenel Moise?

JOSEPH: No, no, not at all. I do not have any affiliation to political parties and no personal agenda. He was the one who actually appoint me as ambassador (unintelligible) affairs, appoint me as minister of foreign affairs as prime minister. I saw an article saying that, you know, there was a kind of meeting with me, and this is just ridiculous. It's a way for them to get people's attention away from the real fact, what really happened. But they will not reach their goal because I want justice for Prime Minister Moise, his wife, his sons and his daughter.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: May I ask you, sir - there's obviously a lot of confusion also about who exactly should be in power right now. I mean, who is in charge in Haiti, in your estimation?

JOSEPH: No. The thing is it's pretty clear. When the president died, we were supposed to have someone to take charge right after. And I was the one in charge, and I assumed this role. And until now, we didn't have a state of chaos here easily because we were responsible enough. I'm talking about the ministers and myself who were responsible enough to call on people for come in and in working with the national police and so on and so forth.

But what really matters today is not a dynamic of power struggle. And I'm talking here about Dr. Ariel Henry, who is the designated prime minister. People in this civil society - I'm talking about the president of the Senate - all of us need to sit together to actually find a solution. I'm not interested in staying here where I am. I'm interested in seeing that people can come together. Let's think about the country. Let's put Haiti first, and let's move on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, speaking of that, I mean, have you spoken to Joseph Lambert, the head of the Senate...

JOSEPH: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Or Ariel Henry?

JOSEPH: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And...

JOSEPH: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are you any closer to getting some sort of unity government?

JOSEPH: I think so. We had different meetings, Ariel and I. We had different meetings. I sat with also Joseph Lambert. And I'm calling on other people to come to sit together to seek a solution to the crisis.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How close do you think an agreement is?

JOSEPH: I'm very optimistic exclusively about a solution of this problem. Dr. Ariel Henry and I, president of the Senate Joseph Lambert - by himself, he cannot do anything. So all leaders need to come together to find a consensus. There's a crisis, but there's also, as everyone knows, poverty. There is the situation of the Haitian people on a daily basis. You know, we need to find something. Since there is no legitimate prime minister, no legitimate leaders to lead the government, we need everyone on board. And it's urgent.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Biden has said he won't be sending troops to help stabilize Haiti. What's your reaction to that?

JOSEPH: The Haitian national police needs some help, logistics and technical help. As long as we can have the support, we will be able to actually fight against the armed gangs in some parts of the country. So we need the international community, our friends, to understand that this situation is not what it should be. So some help they can deem necessary with the Haitian counterparts - I think that would be very important.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But, I mean, is it peacekeeping troops? I mean, what do you imagine when you say help? What does that look like to you?

JOSEPH: I want them to support the investigation. We need to know who killed the president. This is a huge, huge plot that leads to the assassination of the president. We need to know who is behind this assassination. So let's work together. And what I can tell them also - I'm very optimistic that all leaders will come together to actually find a solution amid the crisis.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Claude Joseph, interim prime minister of Haiti. Thank you very much.

JOSEPH: Thank you so much.

CHANG: And you can hear more of Lulu Garcia-Navarro's conversation with Haiti's interim prime minister on Weekend Edition this Sunday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.