The Haitian President Has Been Assassinated: Haitian President Jovenel Moise was gunned down in his private apartment by masked gunmen wielding heavy-caliber weapons overnight on Wednesday, igniting international outrage and raising worries of a plunge into turmoil in the poor Caribbean nation.
It was the culmination of a surge of gang violence in Port-au-Prince in recent months, which was driven by a rising humanitarian crisis and political upheaval. The assassination attracted condemnation from the United States as well as neighboring Latin American countries. Many sections of the capital have been turned into no-go areas as a result of the chaos.
Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, announced in televised remarks after chairing a cabinet meeting that the government had proclaimed a state of emergency for two weeks and that it had initiated a manhunt for the assailants. It appears that the gunmen, who spoke English and Spanish, were comprised primarily of foreigners, according to authorities in the country, where the majority speak French or Haitian Creole.
“Remain calm, my fellow citizens, since the crisis has been brought under control,” Joseph stated in his address, which was accompanied by a row of solemn-looking officials. Despite the fact that “this blow has injured this country, this nation,” it will not be allowed to go unpunished.
When the attack began at around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) at the president’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince, his wife was among those shot, according to the president’s office. It has been reported that she is in critical condition and that efforts are on to get her to Miami for medical treatment. Haiti’s ambassador to the United States has confirmed this.
When the gunmen entered Moise’s heavily secured home under cover of nightfall, the attackers yelled that they were from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), according to videos circulating on social media that Reuters was unable to independently verify.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, revealed that the gunmen had pretended to be DEA agents in order to gain entry into the country. In an interview with Reuters, he stated that Haitian authorities would welcome security help from the United States in the wake of the assassination.
A source in the United States government disputed that the Drug Enforcement Administration was involved in the assassination.
Moise was widely despised by the Haitian people, who wanted him out of office. Since taking power in 2017, he has faced calls for his resignation as well as major protests – initially in response to corruption charges and his handling of the economy, and subsequently in response to his expanding hold on power.
Even though Haiti’s security services are usually seen as being understaffed and underequipped when compared to the country’s formidable gangs, Joseph said that the situation was poorly controlled with the help of the army and police. Several police officers have been killed in recent weeks while attempting to retake territory from heavily armed bandits, according to reports.
Following the attack and intermittent gunfire that occurred overnight, the streets of the normally bustling city were desolate on Wednesday morning, with all businesses shuttered for the day.
According to reports in the local media, the international airport in Port-au-Prince was also closed. The airport director could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
With Haiti politically fragmented and suffering from increased hunger, fears of a breakdown in order are spreading throughout the country.
The Dominican Republic closed its shared border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, with the exception of returning citizens, and increased security measures.
According to President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic, “this act represents an attack on the democratic order in Haiti and the surrounding area.”
Leaders from all across the world condemned the assassination and called for calm.
In a statement, U.S. President Joe Biden called the killings “heinous” and described the situation as “worrisome,” adding that the United States “stands ready to assist as we continue to fight for a safe and secure Haiti.”
After learning of Moise’s murder, the United Nations Security Council expressed deep sadness and sympathy, ahead of a closed-door meeting on Thursday to assess the situation, which was requested by the United States and Mexico.
Moise’s death occurs in the midst of a power vacuum. Because of the country’s failure to have legislative elections for more than a year, he has ruled by decree, and just this week he nominated Joseph, who has not yet been sworn in as prime minister. During COVID-19, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Justice died unexpectedly and has not been replaced.
An unusual issue of the official gazette published on Wednesday stated that Haiti’s constitution would be followed and that the prime minister and his cabinet would assume executive duties until a new president could be elected.
AN EXTREMELY TURBULENT HISTORY
Haiti, a country of over 11 million people and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, has struggled to maintain peace since the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 and has been the target of a number of coups and foreign military interventions in recent years.
After a rebellion deposed then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, a United Nations peacekeeping operation was established to restore order. The mission was terminated in 2019 with the country remaining in turmoil. Haiti has been battered by a succession of natural disasters in recent years, and the country is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that struck the country in 2010.
After entering office as president in 2017, Moise, a former banana exporter who became a politician, was met with a barrage of protests over claims of corruption and his handling of the economy.
This year, opposition leaders accused him of attempting to establish a dictatorship by exceeding the terms of his mandate and becoming more autocratic in his administration. He categorically disputed the allegations.
Moise attempted to push through a contentious constitutional revision that he claimed would finally fix the problems that have contributed to Haiti’s instability, but detractors said would only serve to benefit him in consolidating his hold on the country.
Moise had previously spoken of dark forces at work who were dissatisfied with his efforts to clean up government contracts with private enterprises and to alter the country’s constitutional order.
The United States Embassy announced that it would be closed on Wednesday due to an “ongoing security situation.”
The United States is conducting an investigation into the “tragic attack,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in Washington.
“We are ready and willing to support them in whatever way that they may require,” she stated emphatically.
Earlier this month, the United States, which is Haiti’s main aid provider and has historically wielded disproportionate power in the country’s politics, criticized what it called a “systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms” as well as “attacks on freedom of expression” in the country. The Biden administration urged the Haitian government to take steps to combat the spread of gangs and violent crime in the country.
Haiti is one of only a handful of nations globally that has not yet administered a single dose of coronavirus vaccination, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expressed alarm on Wednesday that the unrest could cause a setback in efforts to combat COVID-19.