Group described as ‘foreigners’, some of whom spoke English and Spanish, broke into Moise’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince at around 1am on Wednesday,
Prime Minister, Claude Joseph announced the assassination
Assailants shot dead the 53-year-old President was shot dead and the First Lady Martine Moise, 47, was left fighting for her life after what PM Claude Joseph called a ‘hateful, inhumane and barbaric act’
The Fir country for treatment
Unathorized footage purportedly recorded by a witness, someone with an American accent shouts into a megaphone: ‘DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down’
Moise had been accused of turning Haiti into a dictatorship, after he refused to relinquish the presidency after his term ended
He’s accused of using armed gangsters to spread fear among the populace and of trying to change the constitution to consolidate power – including installing an intelligence agency that answered directly to him
The President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise was assassinated reportedly, by gunmen ‘claiming to be US Drugs Enforcement [DEA] agents’ in a night-time raid on his home that also left his wife seriously injured.
Local media reports from the capital Port-Au-Prince stated that a group of ‘foreigners’, some of whom spoke English and Spanish, broke into the president’s villa in the hills above Port-au-Prince at around 1am on Wednesday, according to a statement by the country’s prime minister.
53-year-old Jovenel Moise was shot dead in what Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, called the assassination a ‘hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.’ The First Lady Martine Moise, 47, was injured left critically injured in the attack. She has since been medevacked to Miami for treatment.
In footage purportedly recorded by a witness, someone with an American accent shouts into a megaphone: ‘DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.’
Gunfire then erupts in the video which was uploaded to Instagram by someone who says they were in the Pelerin 5 neighborhood, where the president’s house is located.
The assailants it was reported, were pretending to be from the US Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) and were ‘mercenaries,’ a government source told The Miami Herald.
Moise had been accused of turning Haiti into a dictatorship, refusing to relinquish the presidency after his term ended earlier this year, using armed thugs to spread fear and trying to change the constitution to consolidate power – including installing an intelligence agency that answered directly to him.
The late president was killed a day after he nominated Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as the new prime minister. Henry, the eighth PM in the last four years, was due to take over later this week from Claude Joseph, who had been named as interim PM in April.
Residents last night reported hearing high-powered rounds and saw men dressed in black sprinting through the neighborhood. There were also claims of a grenade going off and drones being deployed.
Further videos purportedly taken by a neighbor show men with rifles arriving outside the president’s house. It is not clear whether they are from the country’s security forces or if they are the assassins.
PM Joseph, who earlier said he had taken charge of the country, declared a ‘state of siege’ on Wednesday which grants him additional powers.
‘I have just chaired an extraordinary council of ministers meeting and we have decided to declare a state of siege throughout the country,’ the prime minister said.
He said that the police and armed forces were taking ‘all measures to guarantee the continuity of the State and protect the Nation.’
US president, Joe Biden said he was ‘shocked’ by the assassination and that ‘a lot’ more information is needed.
‘We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on First Lady Martine Moise,’ the US President said in a statement.
Through the day, world leaders condemned Moise’s assassination and warned more unrest could follow.
US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he was ‘shocked’ by the assassination of Haiti’s president and that ‘a lot’ more information is needed.
‘We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on First Lady Martine Moise,’ Biden said in a statement.
‘We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moise’s recovery,’ he added.
Speaking to reporters as he left for a trip to Chicago, Biden called the incident ‘very worrisome’ and said ‘we need a lot more information.’
The death raises questions of succession. Some section in the country have suggested that the next in line of succession should be the head of the Supreme court. However, the judge died recently of Covid-19.
For acting PM Joseph to formally replace President Moise he would need the approval of Haiti’s parliament but due to the lack of recent elections the legislature effectively, is defunct.
‘There is no constitutional answer to this situation,’ Bernard Gousse, a former justice minister and legal expert, told the Herald.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Wednesday warned that the shooting risked the start of ‘instability and a spiral of violence.’ Borrell added: ‘The perpetrators of this assassination must be found and brought to justice.’
The usually busy streets of Port-au-Prince were largely empty on Wednesday morning as Haitians awoke in shock at the news.
The country’s main airport, Toussaint Louverture International Airport, was closed Wednesday, except for diplomatic and humanitarian flights.
Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic ordered the ‘immediate closure’ of its land border with Haiti. The countries share a 240-mile frontier on the island of Hispaniola. Dominican President Luis Abinader condemned the killing, saying on Twitter the crime ‘undermines the democratic order in Haiti and the region.’
Thousands of citizens took the streets of the capital earlier this year to demand that Moise step down and hold elections amid his efforts to make sweeping changes to the constitution so that he could cling to power.
Opponents argue that the president, who took power in 2017, should have left office on February 7 after failing to hold elections the previous year as his term was ending.
Mr Moise claimed his five-year term was due to end in 2022 – the United States and the United Nations had called for a free and transparent election to be held by the end of 2021. The U.S. also disagreed with his efforts to change the country’s constitution.
In an interview last year, Mr Moise defended himself against allegations of corruption and denied that he was turning the country in a dictatorship.
‘We’re trying to find a solution to this crisis. I’m not the first president to rule by decree. And I’m confident that the answer is around the corner; then the legislature will be put in place to play its role,’ he told The Telegraph.
r Moise had also faced accusations of financial impropriety and power-grabbing by limiting powers for auditing government contracts and creating an intelligence agency that only answers to the president.
He wanted to abolish the Senate, leaving a single legislative body, and replace the post of prime minister with a vice president who answered only to him, in a bid to streamline government.
Swathes of the population deemed his rule illegitimate, and he churned through a series of seven prime ministers in four years. Most recently, Mr Joseph was supposed to be replaced this week by Mr Henry after only three months in the post.
Mr Henry, 71, has been part of Haiti’s coronavirus response and previously held posts in the government as interior minister, and social affairs and labor minister.
He is close to the opposition, but his appointment was not welcomed by the majority of opposition parties, who had continued to demand the president step down. President of Haiti ‘is assassinated by gunmen in raid on his home’
Since inception as a modern nation of in 1804 after a long and bloody revolution by slaves and free people of color against the French Haiti has suffered a turbulent history ever since. The island nation born in blood has been ruled by a succession of cruel dictatorships, the apex being evil genius of Dr. Francois ‘ Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Baby Doc.
Its first century of independence largely saw political instability with a succession of brutal dictatorships interrupted only by brief stints of democracy and foreign occupation. The US occupied the country – which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic – from 1915 to 1934.
Its most notorious leaders were the father and son dictators Pap Doc and Baby Doc, who ruled for three decades that saw an estimated 90,000 people die.
Francois Duvalier, better as Papa Doc for his previous career as a medical doctor, came to power as president in 1957 on a populist and black nationalist platform.
He survived a military coup the following year and his regime became one of the most repressive in the Western hemisphere, relying on its death squad, the Tonton Macoute, to kill opponents.
Duvalier solidified his rule by incorporating elements of Voodoo into a personality cult and in 1964 he declared himself as president for life.
Papa Doc promoted ‘Noirisme’, a movement that sought to highlight Haiti’s African roots over its European ones while uniting the black majority against a mulatto elite in a country divided by class and color.
It is estimated 60,000 people were killed before Duvalier died in 1971, passing on the presidency to his son Jean-Claude.
Baby Doc was a 19-year-old chubby playboy when he ‘inherited’ the country – one of the world’s poorest – from his despotic father after he died suddenly of an illness.
His son continued the oppressive regime and hundreds of political opponents were either executed or simply disappeared.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that up to 30,000 Haitians were killed, many by execution, under the regime of the two Duvaliers, which lasted nearly three decades.
But there were some improvements for the people of Haiti under the younger Duvalier. Echoes of press freedom and personal criticism, never tolerated under his father, emerged – sporadically – because of international pressure.
Still, human rights groups documented abuses and political persecution. A trio of prisons known as the ‘Triangle of Death’, which included the much-feared Fort Dimanche for long-term inmates, symbolized the brutality of his regime.
As president, he married the daughter of a wealthy coffee merchant, Michele Bennett, in 1980.
The wedding was a lavish affair, complete with imported champagne, flowers and fireworks. The ceremony, reported to have cost $5 million, was carried live on television to the impoverished nation.
Duvalier and his wife Michele had two children, son Francois Nicolas ‘Nico’ Duvalier and a daughter, Anya.
Under Duvalier’s rule, Haiti saw widespread demographic changes. Peasants moved to the capital in search of work as factories popped up to meet the growing demand for cheap labor. Thousands of professionals fled a climate of repression for cities such as New York, Miami and Montreal.
And aid began to flow from the United States and agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The tourists followed, some in search of a form of tropical hedonism that included booze, prostitution and Voodoo ceremonies for which the country became legendary.
Tourism collapsed in the early 1980s after Florida doctors noted that an unusual number of AIDS cases were coming from Haitian emigres, even though the disease was believed to have been brought from the U.S.
But it was corruption and human rights abuses that defined Duvalier rule.
Facing accusations of corruption, torture and other human rights abuses, Duvalier fled to Paris in 1986 following mass protests, the desertion of the Tonton Macoute and pressure from the U.S.
In the wake of the younger Duvalier’s ousting, the country turned on his security forces, slaughtering them by the thousands.
His departure ushered in a period of halting democracy that has continued with tumultuous elections.
Former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in the country’s first free elections in 1990. But he was overthrown in a coup, reinstated, ousted a second time and finally sent into exile under pressure from the United States, France and Canada.
Rene Preval came to power in elections in 2006, followed by former carnival singer Michel Martelly in 2011.
Moise then won a disputed election and took power in 2017 but was soon hit by protests triggered by fuel shortages that turned violent.
He was further undermined when in 2019 court auditors investigating where $2 billion in aid from a Venezuelan oil fund had gone found that companies run by him before he became president were “at the heart of an embezzling scheme.”
Moise insisted he could stay on as head of state until February 7, 2022 – an interpretation of the constitution rejected by the opposition.
The businessman had governed by decree without any parliamentary checks since 2020.
In addition to presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti was due to have a constitutional referendum in September after it was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Supported by Mr Moise, the text of the constitutional reform, aimed at strengthening the executive branch, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the opposition and many civil society organizations.
Under the terms of the current constitution, written after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1987, ‘any popular consultation aimed at modifying the Constitution by referendum is formally prohibited.’
Haiti has struggled to maintain a semblance of democratic order despite the overthrow of 28 years of bloody dynastic rule at the hands of the notorious François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.
In recent years critics of the regime said it was impossible to organize a poll due to the general insecurity in the country and gang violence, which some claimed was deliberately controlled by Mr Moise.
Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs and a general lawlessness.
The Caribbean island has suffered poverty and political instability for decades and has struggled to rebuild in the wake of a devastating earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Haiti gained independence from colonial France after an uprising by slaves in 1804.
However, democracy has never truly taken root in the republic which only held its first free and fair elections in 1990.
President Jovenel Moise battled violent protests as he oversaw massive inflation, food and fuel shortages in Haiti since taking power in 2017. The poorest country in the Americas has failed to establish a working democracy since overthrowing the Duvalier dictatorship in the late 1980s.
Moise, a former auto parts salesman, took office with just 600,000 votes in the country of 11 million and faced an uphill task in holding onto his mandate.
In 2019, he faced fury over fuel and food shortages amid steep currency devaluation and corruption allegations. At least 17 people were killed and hundreds were injured in the riots.
The anger rumbled on into the following year as Moise refused to hold elections, claiming that his five-year presidential term wasn’t due to run out until 2022.
Haiti has struggled to achieve political stability since a popular uprising in 1986 ended 28 years of dynastic dictatorship by Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.
The last few decades have been marked by coups, unrest and foreign interventions.
Only two presidents have managed to serve their entire term.
Successive governments have failed to spark real development in the island nation that has to regularly contend with deadly natural disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes.
The country had received much aid in the wake of the 2010 quake that killed around 300,000, but that has tapered off of late.
Opposition politicians say that fact undermines the legitimacy of the presidency of Moise, a former businessman with little prior political experience. But they have themselves failed to get voters out to polling booths, instead resorting to disrupting parliament and calling for street protests, making Haiti hard to govern. Moise took few public steps to address peoples’ grievances, leading to massive unrest in recent years, including riots in February.
Moise, however, failed to cut expenses, meaning the budget deficit deepened to record levels. The local currency depreciated against the dollar and inflation was rampant.
More than half of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than 2.4 U.S. dollars a day, according to the World Bank.
Allegations in a report by the Superior Court of Auditors of the embezzlement of billions of dollars by public officials and those close to them, including Moise before he became president, have also sparked ire.
The PetroCaribe program included a fund for infrastructure and social projects in member countries. Opposition politicians say no serious projects were ever completed.
Moise, whom some opposition members accuse of buying votes in parliament for his prime minister nominees, has denied any wrongdoing, but his government has failed to investigate further.
Haiti ranked 161 from 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 global survey of corruption.
As a result, many Haitians have lost faith in politics. Only 21 percent of the electorate turned out for the last presidential election in 2016.