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Haiti Prepares State Funeral For President As Speculation Around Killing Swirls


A week after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, life is coming back to some semblance of normal in the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Businesses are reopening. Banks have lifted their metal shutters. But NPR's Jason Beaubien reports on the continued challenges for daily life, starting at the gas pump.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: At a gas station in the Delmas 52 neighborhood, James Adrace has been waiting for hours for fuel. He's holding a yellow 20-liter plastic jug that once contained vegetable oil.

JAMES ADRACE: (Through interpreter) It's not easy to find gas.

BEAUBIEN: His car is around the corner. The tank is dry.

ADRACE: (Speaking Haitian Creole).

BEAUBIEN: He says the problems with getting fuel in Haiti started well before the assassination of President Moise last week, but he says the assassination has made it even more difficult. Moise was shot a dozen times in his fortified home. Police have arrested 18 Colombian mercenaries, three Florida residents and a growing number of Haitians. As the investigation into Moise's death and the political fight to succeed him continues, residents here are trying to restart their lives.

It's not that Haiti doesn't have gasoline. It's that criminal gangs that flourished under President Moise have taken control of large parts of Port-au-Prince, especially near the port and along the waterfront. Tanker trucks have trouble getting across these gang areas to distribute the fuel in the rest of the city.

RICHARD WIDMAIER: Everybody that has tankers that can take them fear for their tankers as well because with guns shooting everywhere, anything can happen any time.

BEAUBIEN: Richard Widmaier is the head of Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince.

WIDMAIER: What we see now is the consequence of gangsters occupying the southern part of the city and not letting the gas come through. And so when there is not enough gas for everybody, they fight for it in the streets. And that's why you see all those long lines of cars, guys with buckets in their hands, motorcycles fighting over whenever they can get some gas.

BEAUBIEN: Widmaier and many others here say the biggest problem facing the country right now is insecurity. The medical charity Doctors Without Borders had to suspend its work in parts of Port-au-Prince earlier this year because of the gang violence. Anderson Laforet, a businessman who has his office in Port-au-Prince, says the gangs put his life at risk whenever he goes to visit his family in the neighboring city of Carrefour.

ANDERSON LAFORET: Every day they kill people. Every day they block the road to fight themselves.

BEAUBIEN: He says just days before Moise's assassination, he took a bus back from Carrefour to the center of Port-au-Prince, and the bus behind him got riddled with bullets. Ten people were shot.

LAFORET: So what did the police say? Nothing. So they don't even know, I think.

BEAUBIEN: In addition to the shootings, the gangs are hijacking vehicles, kidnapping people and extorting local businesses. Laforet says reining in these criminal organizations and giving Haitians back a sense of security is going to be the most important task for whoever succeeds the assassinated President Moise. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLAIRO SONG, "ALEWIFE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.