The president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated and his wife, First Lady Martine Moïse, seriously wounded by assailants at their private home on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince early Wednesday morning. Martine Moïse is currently hospitalized in critical condition.
The somber announcement was made by Haiti’s acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph. “An unidentified group of individuals, some of whom were speaking in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and mortally wounded him,” Joseph said in a statement, citing the time of the attack as approximately 1 a.m.
Joseph further called the murder of Moïse, 53, a “heinous, inhumane and barbaric act” that was a “highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group.” Here are three things to know about the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse.
1. The attackers claimed to be U.S. DEA agents, but the U.S. has denied involvement.
The men who attacked the first family’s home claimed to be U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, according to the Miami Herald. In an alleged video clip from the scene, a man with an American accent can be heard yelling in English, “DEA operation! Everybody stand down! DEA operation! Everybody back up, stand down!”
Both U.S. President Joe Biden and a high-ranking Haitian government official have denied the DEA’s involvement.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti. We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery,” Biden said in a statement, adding the assassination was “very worrisome” and the U.S. stood with the country during this time. The unnamed Haitian official concurred saying, “These were mercenaries.”
2. There was opposition to Moïse serving another year in office, but the U.S. supported him staying in power
The assassination came in the wake of critics and opposition calling for the president of Haiti to step down in February 2021. However, Moïse said he was entitled to serve until 2022 because his five-year term began when he assumed office in 2017.
“The U.S. has a habit of supporting unpopular Haitian leaders,” Nicole Phillips, the legal director for the Haitian Bridge Alliance, told Foreign Policy. “The [Haitian] opposition is not just facing a rogue, quasi-dictator president. They’re facing the entire U.S. State Department, and that makes it a David and Goliath [situation], which is unfair for the Haitian people.”
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The U.S. supported Moïse’s claim for another year in office. “He was sworn into office on February 7, 2017 for a five-year term, which is therefore scheduled to end on February 7, 2022,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “In accordance with the OAS position on the need to proceed with the democratic transfer of executive power, a new elected president should succeed President Moise when his term ends on February 7, 2022.”
“We understand and we believe that what President Moïse is doing is not illegal—he’s just finishing his term in office. He was elected for five years, and we just want them to count those five years when he started, was sworn into office,” said Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S.
The murder came days after Moïse appointed Ariel Henry to replace Joseph, who resigned.
3. There were mixed reactions to the murder of the president of Haiti across the international community.
While many political leaders from various countries condemned Moïse’s assassination, some Haitian people and those who are descendants of the island nation celebrated the demise of the president of Haiti.
“The murder of Jovenel Moïse is a devastating if not shocking example of the extent to which the security situation in Haiti has unraveled,” U.S. Congressman Andy Evin of Michigan said in a statement. “For months, violent actors have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity while the international community – the United States included, I fear – has failed to heed their cries to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition. … I implore the Biden administration to pursue a new policy toward Haiti that puts the will and wellbeing of the Haitian people first.”
Columbian President Ivan Duque also expressed his condolences on Twitter, writing, “We reiterate our rejection of the vile and cowardly assassination of the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, a defender of democracy and friend of Colombia.” In an earlier tweet, Duque called the assassination “a cowardly act full of barbarity against the entire Haitian people.”
“I am shocked and saddened at the death of President Moïse. Our condolences are with his family and the people of Haiti,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted. “This is an abhorrent act and I call for calm at this time.”
Others weren’t mourning Moïse in the slightest. When news of his assassination spread, Twitter user @madanboukman wrote, “Wow. The tyrant of #Haiti is dead!!!!!!! They assassinated him!!!!” Days earlier on July 4 @madanboukman had tweeted, “The criminal US-UN imposed puppet regime in #Haiti is massacring people and assassinating activists, and the western media and Al Jazeera are protecting it by helping it promote lies of so-called revenge killings. The war against Haiti is 50-60 percent propaganda.”
“Moïse was a puppet for the US. Good riddance,” @SankofaBrown chimed in.
“… these assassins did the Haitian people a service. Jouvenel refused to leave power even after his term ended in February 2021, he had the support of western powers for going against Venezuela a long time friend of Haiti. The Haitian people were tired and took action,” @diasporaratings added in response to Tariq Nasheed saying the murder was the result of white supremacy.