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Palm Beach County Official Says Haitians Calling For Peace, Resilience After Moïse Assassination

 Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard speaks at a podium
Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his home, announced in a statement Wednesday by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, has sent shockwaves through Haiti and the diaspora in South Florida.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard says people in the diaspora are shocked and concerned for the nation. Bernard was born in Port-au-Prince and came to South Florida as a child.

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Many of his constituents, who contacted him after the assassination, are concerned about security in Haiti and whether it’s safe to travel there. He says Haitians are calling for more resilience.

“July 7 will go down as a historic day in Haiti. The act that took place was hateful. It was heinous and barbaric,” said Bernard.

“But the overriding message that I’m getting from them [Haitian constituents] is that they’re calling on the Haitian people to remain calm and to remain peaceful through these dark days.”

Haitians make up the largest immigrant group in Palm Beach County, with a heavy concentration in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, and Lake Worth Beach. They’ve opened up businesses, gained political representation, and continue to exchange goods and services with Haiti.

He says many people in the Haitian diaspora are concerned about the nerve-wracking political and financial power plays after the assassination.

Jovenel Moïse, the 53-year-old head of state, entered office in 2017 and had been ruling Haiti by decree since January 2020. The assassination occurred during a time of political and constitutional turmoil, anti-government protests and ongoing controversies, a spree of kidnappings, territorial gang violence, and a recent surge of COVID-19 infections. Moïse had been under immense pressure to resign before being assassinated.

According to the Miami Herald, Haiti has just 10 elected officials representing the country, all of whom are senators. In Palm Beach County, Bernard says Haitians are worried about the transfer of power in Haiti, and what it means for the socio-political reality here and abroad.

“What I’m concerned about [is] the transition in power that can take place and how does the international community address the insecurity that’s taking place,” said Bernard. “And also what can be done to help the fractured political parties that are on the ground.”

According to Haiti's Constitution, the Council of Ministers, led by the prime minister, decides who succeeds a president. It appears that acting prime minister Claude Joseph may have to make that decision. Ariel Henry, the new prime minister selected by Moïse, was supposed to be sworn in this week. Bernard says he expects the political environment to get more complicated, despite increasing calls for peace and unity.

“Yes, today is a dark day in Haiti and there may be darkness for a couple more days and for weeks and months,” Bernard said.

“But through light, I believe that we will be able to because we've been a resilient country and resilient people will be able to overcome this and make Haiti become a better Haiti.”