Jovenel Moïse has been assassinated

Haiti’s acting president, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated this morning. Press reports are largely leaning on a brief statement by interim prime minister Claude Joseph for details. The statement reads (translation, CNN),

“At around one (1) o’clock in the morning, on the night of Tuesday, July 6 to Wednesday, July 7, 2021, a group of unidentified individuals, some of whom were speaking in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and fatally wounded the Head of State. The First Lady was shot and is receiving the necessary treatment.

“Condemning this heinous, inhumane and barbaric act, the Prime Minister a.i., Dr. Claude Joseph, and the CSPN are calling for calm. The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces.

“All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and to protect the Nation.

“Democracy and the Republic will win.”

The Miami Herald is reporting that videos show that the attackers claimed to be with the DEA:

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 yelling in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”

Sources said the assailants, one of whom spoke in English with an American accent, were not with the DEA.

“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.

Moïse’s assassination comes amidst an escalation of violence in the capital. Over the last month, armed groups have been fighting over control of parts of Port-au-Prince, leading to the displacement of thousands of people in Martissant, Grand Ravine, and Delmas. The southern part of the country has largely been cut off from the capital as a result. During one night last week, June 30, fifteen people were murdered including reporter Diego Charles and opposition activist Antoinette Duclair. 

Adding to the confusion is the question of succession. According to the 1987 constitution, the president of the Court of Cassation (Haiti’s Supreme Court) is supposed to take over as an interim authority, but the head of the court, René Sylvestre, recently died with COVID-19. Moïse had just announced the appointment of Ariel Henry on Monday as the new prime minister, but he has not been approved by the Council of Ministers yet; there is no acting parliament which would normally have to approve a new Prime Minister. Claude Joseph is standing as interim prime minister and will have to work with the Council of Ministers to craft a way forward.  

The United States Press Secretary said, “It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss…we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”

Andy Levin, who chairs the House of Representative’s Haiti Caucus, said, “The murder of Jovenel Moïse is a devastating if not shocking example of the extent to which the security situation in Haiti has unraveled. For months, violent actors have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity while the international community—the United States included, I fear—has failed to heed their cries to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition.”

Meanwhile, citing a fear of further instability, the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, ordered the Haiti/Dominican border closed.

As this is a developing story, consider checking for regular updates on the Haiti Watch Twitter account. 

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