The Latest News on the Killing of Jovenel Moise

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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Haiti’s prime minister calls for ‘harmony’ after the president is killed.

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Prime Minister Claude Joseph of Haiti spoke after the assassination of Jovenel Moise, who died in an attack on his private residence on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.CreditCredit…Photo by 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 had 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 might also have helped establish order, died of Covid-19 in June.

Later Wednesday, in a televised broadcast to the nation, Mr. Joseph presented himself as head of the government and announced that he and his fellow ministers had declared a “state of siege.”

Mr. Joseph called for calm.

“Let’s search for harmony to advance together, so the country doesn’t fall into chaos,” he said.

He also vowed that the commando unit that had carried out the assassination would be brought to justice.

The news of Mr. Moise’s assassination rocked the Caribbean nation 675 miles southeast of Miami. But it had already been in turmoil.

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, even as many — including constitutional scholars and legal experts — argued 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, Haitians fought to throw off the yoke of colonial France and bring an end to to one of the world’s most brutal slave colonies, which had brought France great wealth. 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.

But the suffering of the Haitians did not end with the ouster of the French.

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.

In 1990, a priest from a poor area, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became the first democratically elected president. 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 the situation in Haiti had become so volatile that “many people had an interest in getting rid of Moise.”

He said he hoped Mr. Joseph would be able to run the country, despite his lack of political legitimacy.

Mr. Le Bret 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.”

Harold Isaac contributed reporting.

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