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Haitian Economist Says 'Everybody's Stunned' After Assassination Of President Moïse

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Seventeen suspects have been arrested in the killing of Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise. President Moise was assassinated, his wife injured during an attack on their private residence Wednesday morning. The investigation is ongoing, but so far, it appears many of the assailants came from outside Haiti. Well, here to tell us more about what is known and what is not is Kesner Pharel. He's an economist and radio host based in Port-au-Prince, and he's on the line from there now. Welcome.

KESNER PHAREL: Hey, thanks for the invitation.

KELLY: OK, so update us on what we know. Haitian National Police are still looking for people who may have been involved in this assassination.

PHAREL: I think for the public opinion, we are completely in the uncertain time. We don't know exactly what's going on because it's difficult to believe that one president - in his residence, he doesn't have the basic security. And from 1 o'clock to 4 o'clock in the morning, there was no intervention from the National Police. Everybody's stunned for the last three days. People just stay home because they don't know what's going on.

KELLY: Yeah. Is it clear who is running the country at this point? With the president dead, is it clear who is in charge?

PHAREL: We have now two prime minister...

KELLY: Two prime ministers, yeah.

PHAREL: ...Fighting for the post. And now the opposition and some powerful group in the civil society that didn't accept how the current prime minister running the country right now - great confusion (ph). As an economist, it's really bad because in 2019 fiscal year, the economy contracted by almost 2%. Last year because of the COVID, we contracted by almost 4%. And we are right now in the hurricane season. We might have a situation for three years. We get contraction of the gross domestic product. More than 4 million people are having difficulty to eat. So I can tell you, what we're living right now in this country is not even what we got in the earthquake in 2010. It's worse than that because we got more than 11 million people. And in Port-au-Prince, we're talking about, like, 2 million people living in very difficult situation.

KELLY: You're describing a country that's in so many crises at once - a political crisis, an economic crisis, a public health crisis with COVID.

PHAREL: You've got it. And now we have another crisis in the crisis because the killing - the assassination of Mr. Moise doesn't solve the problems. As you asked the question, we have two prime ministers. So we don't even know on Monday who is going to run this country.

KELLY: I'll just explain for people trying to keep up. There's the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, who says he's taken command. But two days before he was killed, President Moise had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. And he says he's the rightful prime minister. I mean, how unstable do things feel? Do you feel safe?

PHAREL: No, not at all. Before, we didn't feel safe because of the gangs. And now we don't know who is running the country. And I'm telling you, every day passing by, we're going to have the opposition people putting pressure on the interim prime minister to leave the government. So it might be more difficult in the next three days, not just a few weeks, what's going to happen in this country.

KELLY: Kesner Pharel, economist and radio host based in Port-au-Prince, speaking to us from Port-au-Prince, as you heard, is reeling in the aftermath of the assassination this week of the president. Mr. Pharel, thank you and stay safe.

PHAREL: Sure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLINT MANSELL'S "SAN JUNIPERO (SATURDAY NIGHT IN THE CITY OF THE DEAD)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.