Haitian authorities have arrested nearly two dozen people, including a Supreme Court judge, after an alleged plot to oust President Jovenel Moise that has exacerbated political tensions in the troubled Caribbean country.
Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe told a news conference on Sunday at his private residence a senior police official was also among the 23 people detained with money, guns and ammunition.
“These people had contacted national palace security officials, high-ranking officers of the national palace whose mission was to arrest the president … and also to facilitate the installation of a new president,” Jouthe said alongside the minister of justice and chief of police.
President Moise, speaking later at the Port-Au-Prince airport, said the plotters’ aim was to make an “attempt on my life”.
The arrests come after opposition figures this week announced plans to replace Moise and accused him of being authoritarian and presiding over economic chaos in the Western hemisphere’s poorest country.
Earlier on Sunday, anti-government demonstrators in Port-Au-Prince clashed with police, who responded with tear gas. There were also protests against Moise in other towns.
The opposition plan called for members of civil society and opposition leaders to pick a new president from one of the sitting Supreme Court judges, instead of waiting for general elections scheduled for September.
Moise, who has ruled by decree since mid-January, has stated he would hand over power to the winner of the elections but not step down until his term expires in 2022.
The US government on Friday urged talks to resolve the crisis while underlining “a new elected president should succeed Moise when his term ends on February 2nd, 2022.”
Moise has also put in place plans to hold a referendum on amending the constitution in April, with the opposition voicing concerns the vote will not be free or fair and could give Moise too much power.