Stranger things could be true, but Haiti President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home on Wednesday by a group of men who claimed to be agents with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, according to The Miami Herald.
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The New York Post reports:
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home Wednesday by a group of unidentified gunmen who also left his wife wounded, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph announced — calling it a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act” as he imposed a “state of siege” on the nation.
“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, adding that the assailants were armed with “high-caliber weapons.”
The primary languages in the impoverished Caribbean nation of more than 11 million people some 675 miles southeast of Miami are French and Haitian Creole.
Joseph said he was now in charge of the country.
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The Miami Herald reported:
Hours after the assassination, Joseph declared martial law throughout Haiti, issuing an executive order declaring “a state of siege.”
As the head of the government “who is still in function,” Joseph said in a press conference that he and other members of the government held a special meeting of the country’s security apparatus and decided to “declare a state of siege throughout the entire country.”
The assailants apparently claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president’s home. Moïse, 53, lives in Pelerin 5, a neighborhood just above the hills in the capital.
On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard yelling in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”
Sources told the Miami Herald that the assailants were not with the DEA.
“These were mercenaries,” a high-ranking Haitian government official said.
Biden administration officials denied DEA involvement. A State Department official called the claim “absolutely false.”
Moïse was being protected by his own personal guards, who are part of a specialized unit of the Haitian National Police assigned to the presidential palace. But sources say there have always been concerns about his security being inadequate. Last August the head of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, Monferrier Dorval, was gunned down not far from the president’s private residence. No one has been charged with the killing.
During Wednesday morning’s assault, Pelerin residents reported hearing high-powered rounds fired with precision, and seeing men dressed in black running through the neighborhoods. There were also reports of a grenade going off and drones being used.
The president’s death will throw Haiti into further disarray. Since coming into office in 2017, Moïse had faced mounting protests over his governance amid a deepening political and constitutional crisis, questions about his legitimacy and accusations that he used armed gangs to remain in power. He also was accused of corruption as part of a far-reaching report into how multiple Haitian governments spent nearly $2 billion in aid from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program.
The amended constitution of Haiti says in the case where there is a presidential vacancy in the fourth year of the term, the National Assembly has to meet within 60 days to elect a new provisional president for the remainder of the term.
But there is no parliament in Haiti to form a National Assembly.
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In another report by the Herald:
There isn’t even a president of the Supreme Court: René Sylvestre, the president, died last week from COVID-19. In all, there are only 10 elected officials in the country, all senators. And one, Joseph Lambert, appears to be making a play for the job of interim president, or at least some of his supporters are.
All of this adds up to one thing: The United States, which has been content to stay mostly quiet on Haiti in both the Trump administration and the Biden administration, will have to get off the sidelines — immediately.
The lack of real engagement by the U.S. as Haiti continued to spiral down was seen by many as tacit support of Moïse, despite worrying signs for months that the president was becoming the region’s newest strongman.
We don’t yet know what the full ramifications of this assassination will be. We don’t know in what direction the country will go nor exactly what the U.S. role will need to be. But there is no doubt, as we wait to learn more, that the execution of the president of Haiti means the U.S. must speak up — clearly and strongly — to make sure that tortured nation steps back from the precipice of disaster and toward democracy.
It seems clear this was a professional hit and now we are beginning to see that this is not about imposing “democracy.” It looks to me that it’s the continuation of something really bad for Haiti, not something good.
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