In Haiti, police are fighting a group of gunmen who allegedly carried out the attack on President Jovenel Moïse that night. Four alleged perpetrators were killed. “The police are still fighting the attackers,” Police Chief Leon Charles said in a televised speech.
On Wednesday night, unknown persons entered the home of 53-year-old Moïse in a suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince and shot him. His wife Martine was injured. She was taken to the US city of Miami, about 1,000 kilometers away, for treatment, Haitian ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, told international media. According to initial findings, the attackers were foreigners posing as members of the US anti-drug agency DEA.
According to the Haitian embassy in Washington, it was a well-coordinated attack by a well-trained and heavily armed group. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a speech to the nation that the perpetrators spoke English and Spanish.
Claude Joseph condemned the attack as “hateful, inhumane and barbaric” and called on the population to calm down. The security forces have the situation under control. “All measures will be taken to ensure the survival of the state and protect the nation,” the government announced. The BBC reported that the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince remained largely empty on Wednesday morning. The US has pledged its support to the country and its people, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack. The UN Security Council will discuss developments in Haiti behind closed doors on Thursday.
Violence is driving thousands
Jovenel Moïse had been in power in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere since 2017 and was highly controversial as president. He was accused of corruption and of having links with violent gangs that terrorize the country. At the beginning of this year, violent protests against him had erupted in several cities in the Caribbean state. The protesters demanded that Jovenel Moïse resign.
According to the Haitian opposition, his five-year term in office had already expired at the end of February. Moïse, 53, had denied this, arguing that he took office a year late. His election was annulled in 2015 after allegations of electoral fraud and new presidential elections were held the following year.
The political situation in the country of 11 million inhabitants has been unstable for a long time. Fighting by armed gangs for control of parts of the capital Port-au-Prince has displaced nearly 15,000 people since early June, according to UN figures. Some 4.4 million Haitians therefore need humanitarian aid. In addition, the number of new corona infections and deaths has increased significantly recently. The entire infrastructure of the country, from health care to water supply, functions only to a limited extent. The island of Hispaniola, in the eastern part of which the Dominican Republic is located, is often hit by severe cyclones. The aftermath of the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which killed 300,000 people, was never fully addressed.
In 1986, the infamous Duvalier family had ruled dictatorially for three decades. After the overthrow of left-wing populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest, in 2004, UN missions attempted to maintain order in Haiti until the fall of 2019. At that point, parliamentary elections should have been held, but those were postponed due to disagreements. Since then, President Moïse has ruled by decree.
The successor to the head of state is as unclear as the background of the attack. The government of the Caribbean state declared martial law and state law for 15 days on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Claude Joseph signed both edicts on Wednesday as interim prime minister. Moise had only appointed Ariel Henry to succeed Joseph in the Prime Minister’s office on Monday, but Henry had not yet been sworn in.