Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise has been assassinated during an attack on his private residence, throwing the Caribbean country into chaos. The sad incident happened early Wednesday July 7, around 1am, according to the country’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who has declared a state of seige in the country.
A squad of gunmen stormed the president’s home and fatally shot him, according to the acting prime minister, who described the assassination as a “heinous, inhumane and barbaric act.”
Haiti’s first lady, Martine Moise, was shot in the attack and was evacuated to a hospital in Miami for treatment, Haiti’s ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond said.
Her condition is stable but critical, Edmond said in a press briefing
The attackers are believed to be “mercenaries,” Edmond also said, referring to them as “well-trained killers.”
He said video from the scene showed them speaking Spanish and said they presented themselves as Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents.
“I believe they are fake DEA agents,” he told reporters on Wednesday. Edmond asserted that the attackers were foreigners but declined to give evidence to this beyond citing footage of them speaking Spanish.
“We don’t know how they came in,” Edmond said, adding that they did not know if the attackers were still in the country. He said if they have left, it would be via a land border with the Dominican Republic because Haiti would have detected a plane leaving and the airport has been closed since the attack. He said the airport would reopen “once we have this situation under control.”
Haiti has been reeling from violence for weeks. Addressing the nation in a televised statement, the acting prime minister Joseph declared a “state of siege” in the country and called on the citizens to remain calm.
The state of siege is the middle of three levels of emergency under Haitian law, alongside the lower “state of emergency” and the highest level referred to as the “state of war.”
“Me and all the ministers have been working since the news broke and we want to assure you we will bring the killers of the president to justice,” he added. “Please stay calm and let the authorities do their work. We don’t want the country to plunge into chaos. This is a very sad day for our nation and for our people.”
Under the state of siege regime, national borders are closed and martial law temporarily is imposed, with Haiti’s military and national police empowered to enforce the law.
Moise, 53, was a former banana exporter and divisive figure in Haitian politics. He spent most of the past year waging a political war with the opposition over the terms of his presidency.
For now, it isn’t immediately clear who will replace him. Judge Jean Wilner Morin, President of the National Association of Haitian Judges, told CNN that the line of presidential succession in the country is now murky.
Haiti appeared to be heading for fresh volatility ahead of general elections later this year. Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than a year after failing to hold elections, and the opposition demanded he step down in recent months, saying he was leading it toward yet another grim period of authoritarianism.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the acting Prime Minister Joseph called for an international investigation into the assassination. Joseph said that elections scheduled for later this year should be held and pledged to work with Moïse’s allies and opponents alike.
“We need every single one to move the country forward,” Joseph said. He alluded to enemies of the president, describing him as ’’a man of courage″ who had opposed ’’some oligarchs in the country, and we believe those things are not without consequences.″