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Moïse reports an attempt on his life; 20 arrested

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP) – Haitian President Jovenel Moïse announced Sunday that police have arrested more than 20 people whom he accused of attempting to assassinate him and overthrow his government, including a Supreme Court judge backed by opposition leaders who they demand the resignation of the agent.

Moïse made his remarks at the Port-au-Prince airport with the country’s prime minister and police chief before leaving for the southern coastal town of Jacmel for the opening ceremony of its annual carnival, which takes place at out in the middle of the pandemic.

“There was an attempt on my life,” he denounced.

Moïse said the alleged conspiracy began on November 20, but did not offer any further details or evidence, except that among those arrested are a judge and a police inspector general. The president then indicated that other senior officials would give more information, but they all walked away without speaking further to the press.

Hours after the arrests, lawyer André Michel, one of Haiti’s main opposition leaders, held a press conference in which he called for civil disobedience and demanded that Moïse be arrested. Michel asserted that it is illegal to have arrested Supreme Court Judge Yvickel Dabrézil because he has automatic immunity.

Dabrézil is one of three judges favored by the opposition as a possible transitional president.

Reynold Georges, a lawyer who once worked as an adviser to the Moïse government but later joined the opposition, denounced the arrests during an interview with radio station Zenith FM.

“We ask for his immediate release,” he said in reference to Dabrézil, adding that the judicial system must suspend his work until he is free.

Georges exhorted the population to rise up against Moïse.

Police Inspector General Antoinette Gauthier was also arrested, according to a statement from the Young Lawyers Association of Port-au-Prince, which accused the Moïse government of sowing terror and noted that actions such as those on Sunday should not be tolerated.

The arrests were carried out the day opposition leaders called for Moïse’s resignation, saying his term ends on Sunday. The president has repeatedly stated that his five-year term ends in February 2022. That of former president Michel Martelly ended in 2016, but a chaotic election forced him to appoint a provisional president for a year until Moïse was sworn in in 2017.

Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert said he would speak about Moïse’s presidential term on Sunday. For his part, the president was scheduled to give a public speech.

The opposition has organized recent protests demanding Moïse’s resignation. The streets of the Haitian capital and other cities, usually crowded, remained empty on Sunday except for about 100 protesters who gathered in Port-au-Prince and clashed with the police. Historians noted that exactly 35 years ago, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and his wife fled Haiti with the help of the US government during a popular uprising. Duvalier died in 2014.

Meanwhile, Moïse appears to have the support of the administration of US President Joe Biden. Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, said on Friday that Washington has urged Haiti to organize free and fair elections so that Parliament can reconvene, adding that a new president-elect must succeed Moïse when his term ends in February 2022.

Moïse is currently ruling by decree after dissolving a majority of Parliament in January 2020 after no legislative elections were held. He plans to hold a constitutional referendum in April that critics say could give him more power. There are general elections scheduled for later this year.


The Associated Press journalist Dánica Coto contributed to this report from San Juan.

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