BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 7, 2021– The president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, 53, was assassinated early this morning. The attack was reportedly coordinated by a highly trained and heavily armed group who stormed the president’s home, murdering him and wounding his wife, announced Claude Joseph, the acting prime minister of Haiti.
Officials are now tasked with pacifying an already politically agitated population while trying to avoid further destabilization of the poorest country in the region.
Over recent months, the opposition in Haiti has been calling for the resignation of President Moïse, who has been ruling by decree for two years after the country failed to hold elections.
His assassination comes as the political climate in the country grows continually more unstable and the people in the country become more disgruntled. The main opposition group in Haiti, Nou Pap Dòm, condemned the assassination and called for unity and a de-escalation. They have been extremely critical of Moïse and of corruption in the country but stated they were shocked by the news of his murder.
Who will now succeed the dead president is unclear, according to the president of the National Association of Haitian Judges, Judge Jean Wilner Morin.
He told CNN that typically the Haitian President of the Supreme Court would be next in line, but that person recently died of Covid-19. The acting Haitian Supreme Court president, Claude Joseph, would need parliamentary approval to take the post, but at this time Haitian parliament is effectively defunct due to no recent elections.
Over the terms of his presidency, Moïse consistently failed to hold elections at the local and national levels in the country, leaving many of those vital offices within the government infrastructure vacant.
Before his death, many in the country openly protested President Moïse’s move to continue serving as president after February 7, 2021, but Moise claimed that his term was set to end in 2022.
This caused widespread riots and the declaration of a state of emergency in the country. At this time, officials have declared a state of siege. Temporary marshal law is in effect, and the national borders are closed.
Moïse was a wealthy former banana exporter who became president of Haiti in 2017. His election was marred with various accusations of fraud.
Recently, the political upheaval in the country has been causing an uncontrolled crime situation fueled by gangs and turf wars, with some of the gangs controlling important areas. This has resulted in a rise in kidnappings and murders and has been exacerbated by a food and fuel shortage.
With all this, the country is also battling the scourge of Covid-19, and is at this time struggling to control an outbreak and an almost overwhelmed healthcare system. The country just began receiving Covid-19 vaccines in mid-June.
World leaders have publicly denounced the assassination. US president Joe Biden called it a horrific and heinous act.
The Government of Belize released a statement saying, “Such a heinous act of political violence has no place in democratic societies or in the Caribbean Community, which is firmly committed to the rule of law and democratic principles.”
GOB further stated that it “extends its deepest condolences to the people of Haiti, who have already endured decades of immeasurable suffering and hardship. It is the Government’s hope that with regional and international solidarity and support, the Haitian people will emerge from this latest crisis to find a path to peace and stability.”
During the Senate meeting today, leader of Government Business, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Hon. Eamon Courtenay said,” Prior to his death there was a serious constitutional question as to the continuous legitimacy of President Moise and his authority to continue to govern Haiti. Indeed, he has for many months been governing by Presidential degree, having dissolved necessary organs of state. There is a question whether his actions were lawful. There is widespread violence, wanton killing, gangs are running wild in Haiti and in fact there is a complete virtual break down of law and order in that republic, a member of the CARICOM family. We believe in Belize and in CARICOM that Haiti requires urgent attention. There is an urgent need for the restoration of law and order. There is an urgent need for elections to be held in Haiti.”