Haitian police killed four suspects and arrested another two hours later, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his private residence.
Three policemen held hostage by suspected gunmen were released Wednesday night after police surrounded a house where some of the suspects were hiding, said Léon Charles, head of the Haitian National Police.
Following Wednesday’s attack, in which Moïse’s wife was injured, Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared a state of siege in the country.
“In accordance with article 149 of the Constitution, I have just presided over an extraordinary council of ministers and we have decided to declare a state of siege throughout the country,” Joseph said during a speech posted on social media.
“They shot and killed the president and wounded his wife,” he continued, assuring that their deaths “would not go unpunished.”
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, suffers from gang violence and has had recent protests against the authoritarian regime.
Moïse had ruled by decree for more than a year after failing to hold elections, and the opposition demanded that he resign in recent months, saying it was leading him into another bleak period of authoritarianism.
The prime minister told the Associated Press that elections scheduled for this year should still take place.
“We need everyone to move the country forward,” Joseph said.
Despite his assurances that order will prevail, there was confusion over who should take control and widespread anxiety among Haitians.
The normally bustling streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, were empty on Wednesday. Sporadic gunfire was heard in the distance, public transportation was scarce and some people searched for open businesses for food and water, the AP reported.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, said the attack on Moïse, 53, “was carried out by well-orchestrated foreign mercenaries and professional assassins,” posing as agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. USA. Administration.
The DEA has an office in the Haitian capital to assist the government in counternarcotics programs, according to the US Embassy.
Moïse’s wife, Martine, was in stable but critical condition and was being transferred to Miami for treatment, Edmond said in Washington.
The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border and tightening security in the area, describing the border as “completely quiet.”
It was a testament to Haiti’s fragile political situation that Joseph, a Moïse protégé who was only supposed to be the prime minister temporarily, found himself in charge.
But Haiti seems to have few other options. The Chief Justice, who could be expected to help provide stability in a crisis, recently died of COVID-19.
Joseph is likely leading Haiti for the time being, though that could change in a nation where constitutional provisions have been observed erratically, said Alex Dupuy, a Haitian-born sociologist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
The best scenario would be for the sitting prime minister and opposition parties to meet and hold elections, Dupuy said.
“But, in Haiti, nothing can be taken for granted. It depends on how the current balance of forces develops in Haiti, ”he said, describing the situation as dangerous and volatile.
Haiti’s police force is already dealing with a recent spike in violence in Port-au-Prince that has displaced more than 14,700 people, it said.
Former President Michel Martelly, who was succeeded by Moïse, called the assassination “a severe blow to our country and to Haitian democracy, which is struggling to find its way.”
US President Joe Biden said he was “shocked and saddened to learn of the horrific murder” and condemned “this heinous act.”
“The United States offers its condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to help as we continue to work for a safe Haiti,” Biden said in a statement.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, also condemned the murder and stressed that “the perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice,” according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting on Haiti for Thursday.
Moïse was assassinated a day after he nominated Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as the new prime minister. Joseph took over as interim prime minister in April following the resignation of the previous prime minister, Joseph Jouthe, the latest in a revolving door of prime ministers.
In the AP interview, Joseph said he had spoken to Henry three times and agreed that he was in charge for now.
“He was actually appointed but never took over,” Joseph said of Henry. “I was the one who was prime minister, who was in office. This is what the law and the constitution say ”.
However, in another AP interview, Henry appeared to contradict Joseph. “It is an exceptional situation. There is a bit of confusion, ”he said. “I am the prime minister in office.”
Haiti’s economic, political and social problems have recently deepened, with increased gang violence in Port-au-Prince, spiraling inflation, and food and fuel shortages in a country where 60% of the population earn less. $ 2 a day.
These problems come as Haiti is still trying to recover from the devastating earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism