Haitian authorities said on Sunday that they had made an attempt to assassinate President Jovenel Moise and overthrow the government when a dispute rages when his term ends.
The act was an “attempted coup”, according to Haitian Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent, with authorities saying at least 23 people have been arrested, including a top judge and a national police official.
“I thank my security chief at the palace. The goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life,” Moise said. “That plan was aborted.”
Moise has ruled without any control over his power for the past year, saying he will remain president until February 7, 2022 – in an interpretation of the constitution rejected by the opposition, which has led to protests claiming his term ends on Sunday.
The United States on Friday accepted the president’s claim to power, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying Washington had called for “free and fair legislative choices so that Parliament can regain its legitimate role.”
The controversy over when the presidential term ends stems from Moise’s original election: he was elected to office in a vote that was later suspended due to fraud and then re-elected a year later, in 2016.
After the later disputed election, the demonstrations that demanded his resignation intensified in the summer of 2018.
Voting for elected deputies, senators, mayors and local officials should have been held in 2018, but the votes have been delayed, triggering the vacuum where Moise says he has the right to stay another year.
In recent years, angry Haitians have demonstrated against what they call unpleasant government corruption and uncontrolled gang crime.
In a letter Friday to the UN mission in Haiti, a dozen human rights and women’s advocacy groups failed to provide technical and logistical support for the president’s plans to hold a referendum on constitutional reform in April, followed by presidential and legislative elections.
“Under no circumstances should the United Nations support President Jovenel Moise in his anti-democratic plans,” the letter said.