PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — President Joe Biden dispatched a delegation of U.S. officials to Haiti on Sunday after its interim government requested U.S. security and investigative assistance, including American troops, in the wake of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.
A “technical team” of U.S. officials will arrive on Sunday, a senior administration official said, and will brief Biden on its findings as the White House debates its response.
The senior U.S. team visit comes at a pivotal juncture in a power struggle in Port-au-Prince between three men claiming to be the leader of the country.
Which Haitian officials will meet the U.S. team will be closely watched.
“We are engaged with the Haitian government to learn more about their needs — and we are sending a technical team today to that end,” the official said. “The president will receive a briefing from that team when they return and then make decisions about the way forward.”
Officials from the White House National Security Council, the State Department, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security are on the trip.
The White House previously said it was sending FBI and DHS officials to help investigate what happened at a suburban home outside Haiti’s capital in the early hours of Wednesday, when gunmen stormed Moïse’s residence, killing him and wounding his wife.
Two letters sent by the Haitian government in the immediate aftermath of Moïse’s assassination requested troops from the United States and United Nations to help secure the Caribbean country’s sea, air and oil ports.
“We will also be consulting with regional partners and with the U.N.,” the senior U.S. official said.
The Biden administration is working with Claude Joseph, the acting prime minister, who has requested the assistance. But Moïse’s assassination opened a power struggle in Port-au-Prince.
Ariel Henry, who was appointed prime minister by Moïse shortly before his death, claims that he is the head of government. A third Haitian politician, Joseph Lambert, is also now asserting himself into the power struggle.
Moïse had tapped Henry, a neurosurgeon and former government minister involved in the 2004 transition, to take Haiti to elections. Lambert, the current head of the Senate, was voted provisional president by his fellow senators days ago.
Once 30 members, the Senate has been reduced to 10 lawmakers but remains the only constitutional body in the country where the entire lower chamber doesn’t exist due to elections not happening on time. All of the mayors and local offices are headed by non-elected individuals appointed by Moïse because of the overdue elections.
On Saturday an announced swearing in of Lambert as interim president was aborted.
Adding to the complicated political situation is Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mécène Jean-Louis, who as the oldest member of the court was appointed transition president in February by a group in the opposition who said they no longer recognized Moïse because his term constitutionally expired on Feb. 7.
(Wilner reported from Washington.)