Why was the President of Haiti assassinated?

International Jul 21, 2021

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On July 7th, 2021, the people of  Haiti faced another setback as a country when their President Jovenel Moïse was killed in an attack at his residence. According to Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, the First lady Martine Moïse was also shot and is hospitalized.

Haiti, a Caribbean country, sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic on the east has Port-au-Prince as its capital. It is known for its rich history and landmarks from the 19th century which even survived the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Sadly, Haiti’s history is full of tribulations. Jovenel Moïse, a businessman and political neophyte, was sworn in as President of Haiti on Feb. 7, 2017. By then, Haiti had gone a year without an elected leader while the country struggled with political instability, dire poverty, and crime since the end of the brutal dictatorships of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Criminal gangs, protesters demanding Moïse's ouster in 2019, and the coronavirus have shut down much of the economy and the vaccination drive for the 11 million citizens is yet to begin.

Political strife deepened after February 7, when opposition leaders claimed Moïse’s legal term had expired — five years after his initial appointment. Moïse defended that it would end in February 2022 as he wasn’t sworn in until 2017. There hadn't been a formal Prime Minister since April when Joseph Jouthe resigned amid a spike in killings and kidnappings.

The government had scheduled new elections for September and a possible runoff in November. However, with Moïse ruling by decree, it was alleged that the government had pushed a referendum on a new constitution that might allow the president to extend his power.

The attackers, well-trained professional commandos and foreign mercenaries masquerading as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, claimed the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, asking the U.S. government for assistance in the investigation. It has been declared that the group consisted of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, four of which have been shot and 17 detained.

The international airport has been closed and authorities have declared a state of siege. Unfortunately, the President of the Supreme Court who would temporarily take over according to the Haitian Constitution recently died of  COVID-19. A new leader should be selected by the National Assembly. However, that is not possible because there is effectively no current legislature as the terms of the lower house members have all expired as well as two-thirds of those in the Senate. The closest Haiti would have to a leader would be the acting Prime Minister, Joseph, along with his fellow government ministers, according to Haitian attorney Salim Succar.

It should be noted that Moïse died a day after he nominated Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as Haiti’s new Prime Minister who is yet to be confirmed. This uncertainty would create more volatility ahead of general elections later this year.

The bustling capital of  Port-au-Prince now seems eerily silent as residents refuse to get out of their homes except for essential needs. One of the citizens puts out the situation quite clearly, asking that if the leader of the country is not safe, then how can the ordinary citizens be?  

This article has been written by Ruchi Thakur for The Paradigm

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