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Mourning Haitians console Martine Moïse, widow of the slain president


By Catherine Porter


Four days after surprising Haitians by returning to her home country in a sling and a bulletproof vest, the widow of Haiti’s assassinated president appeared before her fellow citizens this week at the site of a memorial to her husband.


Martine Moïse, who was wounded in the July 7 attack at her home that took the life of her husband, was medevaced to a hospital in Miami, where she underwent surgery as her country was reeling at the loss of its president, Jovenel Moïse.


Since then, other than making a few statements on social media, Martine Moïse had stayed out of the spotlight. But on Wednesday that changed.


The former first lady arrived in late afternoon at the memorial for her husband at the Museum of the Haitian National Pantheon, still wearing a splint on one arm and accompanied by her three children and three bodyguards, their assault weapons on full display. She was dressed in black and wore pearls, and Pachelbel’s Canon could be heard in the background.


As she stood with her children, Moïse received condolences from prominent Haitians, among them the newly installed prime minister, Ariel Henry; Helen La Lime, the United Nations’ top official in Haiti; and Michel Martelly, the former president of Haiti who selected the little-known Jovenel Moïse to be his successor.


The first part of the event was closed to the public and the press, but it took place on the day of final exams for high school students, and the sound of their cheers of celebration made its way over the walls of the Pantheon property from the nearby Champ de Mars, the city’s main square, mixing with the music.


After spending an hour or so inside the Pantheon, Martine Moïse emerged to attend a small service in the gardens. There, addressing the crowd, Frantz Exantus, Haiti’s secretary of state for communications, recalled past glories, when Haitians once rose up and upended a notoriously brutal slave system.


“How did Haiti get to this today?” Exantus lamented.


Amid prayer, poetry and song, Martine Moïse faced the crowd from an antique gold painted chair, holding her injured arm. When the service required her to stand, she did so with visible pain.


As evening fell, the ceremony drew to a close and she left, her face wet with tears.


She left it to others Wednesday to make public statements. But as low a profile as she has kept since the assassination, she has on occasion shared some of her feelings with her fellow Haitians. One message, both mournful and politically pointed, came while she was still in a Miami hospital.


“Twenty-five years of living together,” she said in an audio recording posted on her verified Twitter account. “In just one night, the mercenaries ripped him away from me. Tears will never dry up in my eyes. My heart will always bleed.”


As Haitian politicians back home skirmished for power, Moïse accused her husband’s killers of wanting “to assassinate the president’s dream, vision and ideas for the country.”


“I’m crying, it’s true,” she said, “but we can’t let the country go astray.”


On Tuesday, Henry, a neurosurgeon, was installed as the country’s interim prime minister, ending — temporarily at least — an open battle over who would replace Jovenel Moïse to lead the fragile country.


The funeral for Moïse is set for Friday in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien. In a post on her Twitter account, Martine Moïse said the family wished to pay for the ceremony and did not want to take funds from Haiti’s public treasury.

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