Haiti’s murdered president laid to rest as tensions flare

Police carry the coffin of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise at the start of the funeral at his family home in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, early July 23, 2021. Moise was assassinated at his home in Port-au-Prince on July 7. (MATIAS DELACROIX/AP)

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti – Pallbearers in military attire carried late Haitian President Jovenel Moise's body in a closed wooden coffin as his funeral got underway on Friday, two weeks after he was shot dead at home in an assassination still shrouded in mystery.

The bearers placed the polished casket on a dais garlanded with flowers. A Roman Catholic priest blessed the coffin and a Haitian flag was unfurled.

Foreign dignitaries including US President Joe Biden's top advisor for the Western Hemisphere flew to Cap-Haitien to pay their respects to Moise, joining mourners who have taken part in a series of commemorations in Haiti this week.

Moise was gunned down in his home in Port-au-Prince before dawn on July 7, setting off a political crisis in the Caribbean country already struggling with poverty and lawlessness

Moise was gunned down in his home in Port-au-Prince before dawn on July 7, setting off a political crisis in the Caribbean country already struggling with poverty and lawlessness.

Protests by angry supporters of Moise convulsed the slain leader's hometown, the northern city of Cap-Haitien, for a second successive day on Thursday as workers labored in preparation for the funeral.

The protesters set tires on fire to block roads on Thursday afternoon, while workers paved a brick road to Moise's mausoleum on a dusty plot of several acres enclosed by high walls.

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Set on land held by Moise's family and where he lived as a boy, the partly built tomb stood in the shade of fruit trees, just a few steps from a mausoleum for Moise's father, who died last year. Police controlled access to the compound through a single gate.

Screens inside an auditorium broadcast images of the late statesman and his meetings with world leaders including Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Haiti, was among the guests.

A former banana exporter, Moise failed to quell gang violence that surged under his watch and he faced waves of street protests over corruption allegations and his management of the economy.

However, the demonstrators in Cap-Haitien were venting anger over the many questions that remain unanswered over the assassination, which the government said was carried out by a team of largely Colombian mercenaries.

Banners celebrating Moise festooned buildings along the narrow streets of Cap-Haitien's old town, with proclamations in Creole including, "they killed the body, but the dream will never die," and "Jovenel Moise – defender of the poor."

READ MORE: Haitian president assassinated at home, sparking fears of turmoil