Haiti opposition appoints interim president amid leadership dispute

Port-au-Prince, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- The Haitian opposition challenged the authority of President Jovenel Moïse on Monday by declaring the end of his mandate and appointing an interim president, a day after the government denounced an alleged coup plot.

The new president recognized only by the opposition is Judge Joseph Mécène Jean Louis of the country’s Supreme Court, amid a growing dispute over when Moïse’s term ends.

“I have accepted the choice by the opposition and civil society groups to serve my country as interim president,” Jean Louis said in a video message broadcast by various political parties.

Hours later, Moïse ordered the retirement of Jean Louis and two other opposition judges.

In the midst of the crisis, the military announced that they would remain loyal to Moïse.

Jean Louis’ proclamation comes a day after the government announced the arrest of around 23 people, including another Supreme Court judge, Ivickel Dabrésil, and Police Inspector General Marie Louise Gauthier, for allegedly conspiring to carry out a coup.

Dabrésil was another of the judges Moise’s decree ordered to retire.

Court president René Sylvestre issued a statement reminding the judges of their obligation to distance themselves from politics.

During most of Monday, the streets of capital Port-au-Prince remained almost empty.

In the afternoon, a small spontaneous protest was formed in the vicinity of the National Palace, which was repressed with tear gas and live ammunition by the police and military present in the area.

At least two journalists from local media were shot in the protest, their colleagues at the scene told EFE.

Based on an article of the Constitution, the opposition and other groups, including the Bar Association and the Catholic Church, consider Moïse’s mandate to have expired Sunday.

However, the president asserts that he still has a year ahead of him, since he inaugurated into the position on Feb. 7, 2017 for a period of five years.

On Sunday he decried a coup attempt against him.

“I thank my head of security at the palace. The goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life. That plan was aborted,” the leader said.

Moïse reaffirmed that he will not resign and instead urged the opposition to engage in dialog.

Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled to be held in September, according to the electoral calendar.

Moïse has the backing of the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS) for these plans. EFE-EPA


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