The Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was shot dead in the early morning of July 7, in the bedroom of his residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince. The New Yorker reports that according to the Haitian officials, the president was assassinated by a band of foreign mercenaries. The authorities also claim that this assassination was planned by a Florida-based Haitian pastor, who hopes to replace Moïse as the next president of Haiti. There was no casualty among the palace guard, however, Moïse’s wife was wounded during the attack.
President Moïse began this year by warning that his country was “a land of coups, conspiracy, and murder,” according to Reuters. In his final days, Moïse was left unprotected like many others of Haiti’s vulnerable citizens. Even in the position of the highest power, Moïse was certain that the enemy was targeting him, and that his life was in danger.
“He told me a lot of people were spending a lot of money to murder him,” said a former Haitian senator and close friend of the late president, relating a conversation with Moïse the evening of his death. His supporters described Moïse’s downfall as an inevitable outcome when someone who tries to help the poor is surrounded by the corrupt ruling elite. “He was putting things in order. Here, when you put things in order, you die,” said Guy Francois, an ally who served as Moïse’s Minister of Citizenship. On the other hand, there are those people who believed that Moïse was incapable of ruling the country well. “He was a poor choice from the get-go,” said Salim Succar, a lawyer and one-time aide to Moise’s predecessor and former backer, ex-President Michel Martelly. “He never stood a chance.”
This event depicts Haiti’s fragile government that exacerbates repeated political and social crises. Even worse, the country recently went through a major earthquake, which has only thrown people into chaos. Many saw his killing as a result of the “institutional rot in Haiti,” where the government is easily swayed by corruption, factional disputes, and foreign influence.
Although this is a devastating event that brings even more confusion and worries to the country, the assassination is not surprising. For more than two centuries, Haiti has faced countless coups, murders, and conspiracies— more than 30 presidents have already been overthrown or assassinated. In a country where laws and judiciary have little authority, many civilians (including the rulers) are vulnerable to lawless attacks and unfair treatment.
Moïse came into power after a depressing election in 2015 and 2016. In a country of eleven million people, Moïse only received around six hundred thousand votes. His presidency was marked by heavy protests surrounding the embezzled funds from Venezuela’s oil-purchasing program, Petrocaribe. Moïse’s term length was also heavily contested since he did not hold any legislative election in 2019. Many of his critics already saw his downfall coming when Moïse pushed to improve power supply and strengthen the power of the presidency at the expense of others’ private interests.
After the assassination, Claude Joseph, formerly Haiti’s interim prime minister, serves as the head of Haiti’s government. The clear implication of the event is that everyone else is fighting for the presidential position. Even though Joseph vows to find justice for the former president, Haitians know that nothing will come out of it. According to The New Yorker, one Haitian said: “The population is emotionless, indifferent… We’re so used to people dying.”
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