Haitian police on Tuesday, March 22, rejected claims by ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s lawyers and associates that the twice-elected, twice-ousted former leader was the target of an assassination attempt.
Shots were fired at the former president’s motorcade Monday as it passed through an intersection in downtown Port-au-Prince. Aristide ally Yvon Feuille and lawyers have described the incident as an “assassination attempt” and allege the shooters were police.
But, in an interview with The Associated Press, Deputy Commissioner Jean Alix Pierre-Louis said that the chaos was caused by partisans of two political factions who hurled rocks and fired guns when Aristide’s motorcade passed by following his testimony at a court hearing.
A cell phone video made public by Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political movement doesn’t capture the full incident but shows rocks raining down on police officers, who take cover behind cars. At least two officers are clearly seen firing their weapons toward the opposite side of the intersection.
Police Inspector Prenel Duval said that officers with the Motorized Intervention Brigade fired live rounds, but he asserted the intention was to disperse people. He said there was considerable panic among the crowd and “a lot of shooting from different directions.” He acknowledged that the officers with the unit do not have training to deal with crowds.
The officers appeared to be taken by surprise by the confrontation between roughly 20 partisans of President Jovenel Moise’s Tet Kale party and a much larger crowd of Lavalas faithful surrounding Aristide’s motorcade.
Two people standing in front of Aristide’s car were wounded during the violence, including a security guard who was shot in the wrist. Investigators say it is not clear who shot them.
“I can assure you the guys traveling in that motorcade had guns. They had more guns than we did,” Duval said.
The incident is under investigation, Pierre-Louis said at his office a few blocks from the intersection where the violence took place. But, he flatly rejected the assertion that Aristide was the target of an “assassination attempt.”
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