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U.S. officials travel to Haiti in wake of president's assassination

President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise (C), and senior government officials commemorate the tenth anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake. File Photo by Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA-EFE
President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise (C), and senior government officials commemorate the tenth anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake. File Photo by Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA-EFE

July 10 (UPI) -- Senior U.S. FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials will travel to Haiti in wake of the assassination of the country's president earlier this week.

"The United States remains engaged and in close consultations with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination of the president," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday. "We will be sending senior FBI and DHS officials to Port-au-Prince as soon as possible to assess the situation and how we may be able to assist."

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Psaki added that strengthening Haiti's law enforcement capacity was a key priority before the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, 53, and continues to be.

The Haitian government has also requested around 500 troops to help protect infrastructure, ports, airports and energy systems against "potential mercenaries," Haitian Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told CNN.

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Moise was assassinated at his home Wednesday and his wife was injured, leaving the nation under control of the National Police and Armed Force, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said.

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Amid growing poverty and hunger since a a severe earthquake in 2010, which Haiti has yet to fully recover from, Moise's government had been accused of corruption and denying basic services to Haitians. The country is also one of a handful of nations that have not yet begun COVID-19 vaccination programs.

Moise had ruled the country by decree since early last year, refusing to hold parliamentary elections slated for January 2020 and summarily dismissing all of the country's elected mayors in July 2020, prompting protests.

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Haitian authorities have said more than two dozen people were involved in the president's assassination including at least two American citizens.

Psaki noted in the press briefing the United States earlier this year committed $75.5 million to Haiti for democratic governance, health, education, agricultural development, and strengthening pre-election activities.

Another $5 million in U.S funding is earmarked for strengthening the ability of the Haitian National Police to work with communities and resist gangs.

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Furthermore, Psaki said that Haiti is one of the countries that will be receiving vaccines from the United States, "hopefully as early as next week."

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