CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti (Reuters) – A U.S. delegation and other dignitaries were hurried to vehicles as reports emerged of shots fired and crowd control gas used on protesters outside the funeral of late Haitian president Jovenel Moise on Friday.
Reuters witnesses smelled the gas and heard detonations they believed to be shots. There were no immediate reports of injuries among protesters or authorities, and no indications any guests at the funeral were in danger.
A brass band and church choir opened Moise’s ceremony minutes earlier as his wife looked on, two weeks after a still-unexplained assassination at their home by foreign mercenaries.
The service was punctuated by angry shouts of protest by supporters accusing authorities of responsibility for Moise’s death, their words sometimes drowned out by loud swells of taped somber church music.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations led the U.S. delegation at Cap-Haitien to pay respects to Moise, joining mourners who have taken part in a series of commemorations in Haiti this week.
Haitian officials arriving at the event met with protesters’ verbal anger, with one man calling police chief Leon Charles “a criminal.”
“Why do you have all this security, where were the police on the day of the president’s assassination?” one protester said.
Inside the auditorium where the Roman Catholic funeral was held, four pallbearers in military attire solemnly stood by the closed wooden casket. It was draped with a Haitian flag and set on a dais garlanded with white flowers.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Giles Elgood and Rosalba O’Brien