The Latest News on the Killing of Haiti’s President

Jovenel Moise died in an attack on his private residence on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince. His wife was also shot. The prime minister said a group of attackers was involved.


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After the killing of Haiti’s president, the threat of further political violence escalates.

President Jovenel Moise of Haiti, center, with his wife, Martine Moise, in Port-au-Prince in 2019.Credit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

July 7, 2021, 6:38 a.m. ET

President Jovenel Moise of Haiti was assassinated in an attack in the early hours of Wednesday at his home on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, the interim prime minister said, creating a political void that threatens to deepen the turmoil that has gripped the country for months.

As foreign governments struggled to assess the situation, millions of Haitians anxiously huddled around radios and televisions, staying off the streets as they tried to understand what the coming days might bring.

Mr. Moise’s wife, Martine Moise, was also shot in the attack, the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, said in a statement. Her condition was not immediately clear.

“A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” the prime minister said, but there was little solid information about who might have carried out the assassination.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Joseph said that he was the one running the country at the moment. Still, it was unclear how much control he had, or how long it might last. A new prime minister had been scheduled to replace Mr. Joseph this week, and the head of the nation’s highest court, who could also help establish order, died of Covid-19 in June.

The news of Mr. Moise’s assassination rocked the Caribbean island nation 675 miles southeast of Miami. In recent months, protesters had taken to the streets to demand Mr. Moise’s removal. He had clung to power, ruling by decree for more than a year, with many — including constitutional scholars and legal experts — contending that his term had expired.

Armed gangs control many streets and have taken to kidnapping even schoolchildren and church pastors in the middle of their services. Poverty and hunger are on the rise, and the government has been accused of enriching itself while not providing even the most basic services. Now, the political vacuum left by Mr. Moise’s killing could fuel a cycle of violence, experts warned.

More than two centuries ago, the country fought to emerge from one of the world’s most brutal slave colonies, one that brought France great wealth and that the colonial rulers fought to keep.

What started as a slave uprising at the turn of the 18th century eventually led to the stunning defeat of Napoleon’s forces in 1803. More recently, the country suffered under more than two decades of dictatorship by Francois Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, and then his son, Jean-Claude, known as Baby Doc.

A priest from a poor area, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became the first democratically elected president in 1990. But in less than a year, he was deposed in a coup.

Since a devastating earthquake 11 years ago, the country has not rebuilt, and many say it is worse off, despite billions of dollars of reconstruction aid.

On Wednesday, Mr. Joseph said that the president had been “cowardly assassinated,” but that the murderers “cannot assassinate his ideas.” He called on the country to “stay calm” and said he would address the nation later in the day.

He said the country’s security situation was under the control of the police and the army. But international observers warned that the situation could quickly spiral out of control.

Didier Le Bret, a former French ambassador to Haiti, said he hoped Mr. Joseph would be able to run the country, despite his lack of political legitimacy.

He criticized the international community for ignoring the volatile political situation in Haiti and said it should now come help the country “to ensure a smooth transition.”

Mr. Le Bret said the situation in Haiti had become so volatile that “many people had an interest in getting rid of Moise.”

Harold Isaac, Elian Peltier and Constant Meheut contributed reporting.

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