Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his Port-au-Prince home by a squad of armed men during the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 7th. Moïse’s wife was wounded during the attack and is currently in stable but critical condition, and efforts are underway to bring her to Miami for treatment. Little information has been released regarding the identity of the attackers, but interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has declared a two-week state of emergency in an effort to locate the killers and keep peace in the region. Joseph said that the gunmen spoke “Spanish or English,” suggesting that he believes there may have been foreigners within the group.
In videos circulating on social media, the gunmen appeared to present themselves as members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), since they have previously partnered with the Haitian government to assist in national counternarcotics efforts. Despite this, Haitian officials said there was “no way they were DEA agents.” The killing comes after years of political unrest in the country, and Interim Leader Joseph will hope to avoid further chaos in the region.
Joseph addressed the nation in televised remarks shortly after the attack, emphasizing the need to “remain calm because the situation is under control.” Various neighbouring Latin American countries, the United States, the U.N., and local opposition parties all condemned the killing. U.S. President Joe Biden stated that the USA “stands ready to assist” in the Haitian government’s efforts moving forward. The Haitian ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, responded to this in an interview with Reuters, saying that his government “would welcome U.S. security assistance in the wake of the assassination.”
Joseph has emphasized the need to continue with the previously planned general election later this year, despite the current situation. Alex Dupuy, a Haiti-born sociologist who teaches at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, voiced his support for this decision, stating that “the best scenario would be for the acting prime minister and opposition parties to come together and hold elections.”
President Moïse had been ruling Haiti by decree for over a year after failing to hold elections and was facing heavy pressure from opposition parties to step down. Moïse was killed one day after he nominated Ariel Henry, a local neurosurgeon, to become the new prime minister, replacing interim PM Joseph. There have been some contradictions between Joseph and Henry, as both have stated that they are the true prime minister in office. Despite this, Joseph is more widely seen as the legitimate PM, since Henry had not taken office at the time of Moïse’s death.
Haiti has been struggling under Moïse’s rule, as the nation has dealt with increasing gang violence, inflation, and resource scarcities in recent years. These issues have come at a time when the country is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and 2016 Hurricane Matthew. The assassination of Moïse will only serve to heighten tensions in the region, and the interim government will hope to keep the peace in the coming weeks as they search for the President’s attackers.
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