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How Haitian Americans Are Responding To The Haitian President's Assassination

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

We're going to start the program today with the ongoing turmoil and uncertainty in Haiti following the assassination this past week of President Jovenel Moise in his home. There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the assassination, but so far, two Haitian Americans have been detained, along with several former members of Colombia's military. Just yesterday, Haiti's interim government said it asked the U.S. to deploy troops to stabilize the country and prepare for elections. But today, a senior Biden administration official told NPR that there are no plans to provide U.S. military assistance at this time.

We wanted to understand how Haitian Americans are responding to this week's events, so we're going to head to New York City, home to one of the largest Haitian communities outside of the country. Ricot Dupuy is the news director of Radio Soleil, a Haitian radio station in Brooklyn, and he joins us now. Ricot Dupuy, welcome.

RICOT DUPUY: Thanks. Thanks, Danielle, for having me.

KURTZLEBEN: Of course. First, I'm curious, what were your thoughts when you heard the news of President Moise's assassination?

DUPUY: Disbelief. That night, I went to bed, and I closed the door to my room so that the air could stay in my room. And I didn't have my cell phone with me. I left my cell phone outside. So around 5:30 or a quarter to 6, I heard something that sounded like a phone call. I wasn't sure, so I got up. And then I realized that there were so many calls to my phone. Some of them started as early as 2 a.m. And then I turned on the radio - a radio station in Haiti, and I could not comprehend what they were talking about. They were talking about assassination. And I don't know what they was talking about. It was - when the tone was somber, I realized that something big, terrible had happened in Haiti. And eventually, I found out that it was the assassination of Jovenel Moise.

And, my goodness, I could not believe that. I am one of the fiercest critic of Jovenel. If you realize, I don't call him president. I call him Jovenel. I never called this guy my president for a number of reasons. But, my goodness, nobody foresaw that, and nobody wanted that. And it feels like the country is just so exposed, so vulnerable. So it is shock. And it is - and that is the reaction of basically everybody. No one wanted Jovenel assassinated.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, as we mentioned, Haiti's interim government asked for U.S. troops to come in and help stabilize the country. Is that something that you would want to see happen? And also, I'm wondering what your read is on what Haitian Americans would like to see happen now in the immediate term.

DUPUY: Well, remember; the United States has been the country for a number of years. And I don't even think the United States have to be in - have troops on the ground to help stabilize the country. The influence of the United States in Haiti, I mean, it's total. So whatever you hear, like to - the United States or State Department or anybody telling you, well, it's an independent country, we are limited, no. The United States has total, total influence in Haiti. There is no leader. Nobody becomes president of Haiti without the support and acceptance of the United States. That is a reality. Everybody knows that.

And so the United States doesn't have to invade or send guard. They just have to send a clear, determined signal that this is the direction things have to take. So no one expects Haiti to come out of the mess that it is without the support or a change, of course, of policy by the United States. That is the reality. We just hope that when they change course, they change it the right way, they side with the proper side. And I hate to say that has not been the case because Jovenel was supported by the United States, as you know. The United States keep insisting for election to be organized by this year. I'll tell you, this is insanity. We're talking about a country where when you leave your house, you know you leave your house, but you don't know if you're coming back.

KURTZLEBEN: And speaking to that instability in Haiti, this week, a New York state assembly member, who represents a large Haitian American population, told reporters that she's been getting a number of calls into her office from people afraid for their family members back home in Haiti and that she expects people will start to request political asylum in the United States. Are you hearing similar stories?

DUPUY: Well, in Haiti, everything is possible. Yes, there's some truth to that in the sense that people expect things to get worse before it gets better. On the other hand, they expect that the international community not sit passively and allow this descent into the abyss. So something somehow will come. And as I said before, all the United States have to do is to send a clear signal that Haiti needs a reset, there are things that will not be accepted anymore. The gangs have to understand because the gangs have - they had a leader. They had a chief. And that chief was Jovenel Moise. That's exactly what it is. So whether or not that will signify to the gangs that time is up, I'm hoping that's the case. And that probably would prevent the scenario you just mentioned to materialize, yes. There's that fear there that we could have a descent into a - into the abyss. And, of course, that would cause an outflow of Haitians looking for appropriate action, via they would go to the Caribbean, attempt to come to the United States and so on. Yes, I hear that.

KURTZLEBEN: That was Ricot Dupuy with his view of the situation in Haiti right now. He is the news director at Radio Soleil, a Haitian radio station in Brooklyn. Ricot Dupuy, thank you.

DUPUY: My pleasure. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.