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Haiti police fired tear gas as shots rang out Friday moments after the start of the funeral ceremony for slain President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated two weeks ago.
The U.S. delegation to the funeral, headed by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, cut its visit short after the shooting began around 10 a.m. Moments later the United Nations special representative to Haiti, Helen La Lime, left hurriedly with her entourage as well.
Moments before the funeral service began, the crowd began shouting “Assassin” as Haiti National Police Chief Leon Charles arrived. They were joined by others yelling, “Where is Jovenel?”
The funeral continued after police quickly surrounded the area near the tent housing Moïse’s coffin for the ceremony and fired tear gas, as billows of smoke from burning tires could be seen in the distance.
The emotionally charged and tense funeral began shortly after the arrival of First Lady Martine Moïse. Flanked by bodyguards, the press and crowds shouting “Justice, justice,” Martine Moïse walked toward the stage, stopped at a portrait of her late husband and then made her way around the stage covered in white roses, birds of paradise and carnations.
She stepped up and then stood over the closed coffin of her husband of 25 years, his closed coffin covered in the bicolor of the Haitian flag, a medal of honor, distinction and merit in the middle on top of his presidential sash.
The crowd began to shout “Mare yo,” “Boule yo” and “Yo touye Jovenel, Nap vote Martine” — “Tie them up,” “Burn them,” and “They killed Jovenel, we are voting Martine.”
Despite the eruption of violence, the messages at the funeral called for non-violence, while demanding justice for the president.
Both Martine Moïse and the president’s oldest son painted him as a progressive leader who was killed because of the battle he waged on behalf of the poor and to end the exclusion of Haitians from the countryside, versus those from the city.
He was working to provide electrical service for all Haitians around the clock and to build new roads, his widow said, when he was “killed in a cowardly manner” in the middle of the night on July 7.
She offered no details of what happened that night, but instead placed blamed on “oligarchs.”
“The oligarchs killed my husband. They are right here with us, the traitors and the oligarchs. We will not be afraid, we are telling them enough is enough.” she said. “We’ve lost a battle but we have not lost the war.”
Jovenel Moïse was “a good father, a good husband, a good president, a good soldier. “
“He died because of his vision,” she said in French and Creole. “The war has not finished. We have to find justice for you.”
In French she said: “ The oligarchs killed my husband! They are right here with us, the traitors and the oligarchs. We will not be afraid, we are telling them enough is enough!”
After most of the attendees, including members of the government, left, Martine Moïse — wearing a facemask with an image of the president on the left side — her children and the slain president’s sisters and other relatives took the short walk down a paved walkway amid coconut trees to the freshly constructed mausoleum that was still in construction Thursday night.
As his coffin was lowered shortly after 1 p.m., the waiting crowd continue their calls for justice.
Moïse was buried in a mausoleum and lowered into a 10 foot concrete tomb supported by Iron bars and sealed with with wooden planks covered with a mixture of cement, rocks and water. As the workers moved buckets of cement, Martine Moïse and her two children watched in silence. Nearby was the tomb of Etienne Moïse, the father of the slain president who died in October of last year at age 97.
Tensions have been running high since Wednesday, the first of three days of mourning, as supporters and non-supporters alike said his death as a plot by the country’s Port-au-Prince-based elite against the poor black majority.
On Thursday, roads into the city from the capital were blocked, and fiery barricades were erected. A bridge was burned and shots were fired as protesters fanned out across the city, demanding justice for the dead president. Protesters shot at a restaurant as journalists tried to take video, attacked a foreign videographer in front of a hotel along the oceanfront and threw rocks at a diplomatic car, forcing security guards to fire their weapons and flee with a foreign diplomat.
Thursday afternoon, as Haitians attended a memorial service for Moïse inside Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral, some people in the congregation shouted, “Justice before funeral,” while others said the slain president “was not a dog. He cannot be buried before he gets justice.”
Besides the U.N. ambassador, the U.S. delegation to the funeral included the ambassador to Haiti, Michele Sison; U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; U.S. Rep. John Fortenberry; Daniel Foote, special envoy to Haiti, and Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere on the National Security Council.