CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti — There are no banners of remembrance like the black and white ones hanging near the grounds of the presidential place, or arrangements of flowers like those gathering at the memorial site at the Museum of the Haitian National Pantheon in the capital.
But in Balan, where Haiti’s 58th president, Jovenel Moïse, played soccer in the streets and came of age as the son of a local heavy-equipment mechanic, they are preparing for a homecoming with indignation and mixed emotions.
Moïse, assassinated in his home during a brazen, middle-of-the-night attack on July 7, will be buried Friday on the grounds of his family’s private residence on the outskirts of Cap-Haïtien. The historic northern port city, where the republic of Haiti was born, is where Moïse’s father Étienne worked and was later laid to rest following his death in October last year.
Though during his presidency Moïse was often associated with the cities of Port-de-Paix in the northwest of the country and Trou-du-Nord in the northeast, residents here say he is like an adopted son. They recall him as a young man growing up in the farming community before his 2015 presidential run where he was an unknown and took on the moniker of “Neg Bannan nan” — the “Banana Man” in Creole.
“Once someone is killed, and he is Haitian, no one can be happy about that,” sad Roland Laguerre, 61, sitting outside of his storefront not far from the road to the SOS Children’s Village, which is next to the Moïse family residence and where the late president will be buried Friday.
Moïse, 53, was killed inside his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince. His wife, Martine Moïse, who visited a public memorial in his honor Wednesday at the Museum of the National Pantheon in the capital, was wounded and flown to Miami for medical care.
In a note to the Haitian people this week, the first lady’s office thanked them for their support and said the presidential family will bear the funeral expenses rather than have the public treasury pay for it.
Haiti National Police, who are working with investigators from the FBI and Colombia, have arrested more than 23 individuals so far but still have yet to uncover who bankrolled the multimillion-dollar conspiracy.
Just as the president’s death has triggered a multinational investigation, it has also provoked a range of mixed emotions in Haiti, where presidents are revered even when their records are mixed.
Late Wednesday, The Associated Press reported at least one death after hundreds of people in Quartier Morin, not far from where the president grew up, blocked the road with barricades and violent protests threatening to shut down the country until his killers are found. Some of the protesters were heavily armed.