Haitian President Assassinated, Government in Disarray
Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated in middle-of-the-night attack at his home
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND JOHNNY FILS-AIMÉ
JULY 07, 2021
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was “mortally wounded” and his wife shot during an armed attack in the early hours of Wednesday at their private residence above the hills of Port-au-Prince, the country’s acting prime minister, Claude Joseph, said. Several sources told the Miami Herald that Moïse was killed during the attack, and that his wife, Martine Moïse, was shot. In a statement from the prime minister’s office, Joseph said the attack occurred around 1 a.m. Wednesday, and some of the unidentified assailants spoke Spanish. The head of state, the statement said, was “fatally injured.” First Lady Martine Moïse was wounded and is being treated, the statement said. The assailants claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president’s home. Moïse, 53, lives in Pelerin 5, a neighborhood just above the hills in the capital.
On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard saying in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.” “These were mercenaries,” a high-ranking Haitian government official said. Residents reported hearing high-powered rounds fired with precision, and seeing men dressed in black running through the neighborhoods. There are also reports of a grenade going off and drones being used. The president’s death will throw Haiti into further disarray. Moïse had faced mounting protests over his governance amid a deepening political and constitutional crisis, questions about his legitimacy and accusations that he used armed gangs to remain in power. “There is no constitutional answer to this situation,” said Bernard Gousse, a former justice minister and legal expert.
The death of Moïse leaves Haiti in political disarray. There are only 10 elected officials in the country, all senators. Joseph, the current interim primer minister, has not been ratified by the country’s parliament and has resigned. The new prime minister Moïse appointed this week, Ariel Henry, has yet to be sworn in. There isn’t even a president of the Supreme Court: René Sylvestre, the president, died last week from COVID-19.
Haitians awoke to the news Wednesday morning in shock. Streets in the capital, normally teeming with vehicles and public buses, were empty and void of traffic. A photo of Moïse lying on the ground dead and covered in blood was circulating on social media. The road leading to the entrance of the neighborhood of Pelerin, where the president’s residence is located, was blocked off. In his statement, Joseph condemned what he described as an “odious, inhuman and barbaric act,” and has called a special security meeting. He called on the population to remain calm. “The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces,” the statement said.
The attack happened a day after Moïse named a new prime minister, Henry, to take charge as head of the government and prepare the country for elections in the next two months for president, a new parliament and local government officials. Moïse entered office in 2017 and had been ruling by decree since January 2020. This is a developing story and will be updated when more information becomes available.
Jacqueline Charles has reported on Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for over a decade. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she was awarded a 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize — the most prestigious award for coverage of the Americas.