Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by gunmen who also wounded his wife in their home early Wednesday, July 7, 2021, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph confirmed in an announcement Wednesday. Moise was 53 and had three adult children.
The assassination ignited more chaos in the island country plagued by gang violence and protests opposing the president, according to the Associated Press. Moise rose to power two years ago, and his rule was marked by protests throughout his presidency with his opponents calling on him to step down.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph released few details about the killing, and did not say who carried out the assassination. He called the assassination “a hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
According to Reuters, the team of mercenary assassins falsely identified themselves as being with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s envoy to the U.S., told Reuters, “No way they were DEA agents.” According to the Miami Herald, videos posted online show someone with an American accent yelling in English, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.” But a Haitian official told the newspaper, “These were mercenaries.” American officials also said the DEA was not involved.
Here’s what you need to know:
Joseph Said the Assassination Was Carried Out by Heavily Armed Men Speaking Spanish
Joseph released few details about the assassination in his announcement in the hours after the killing. He said the gunmen were heavily armed and spoke Spanish.
Joseph said police and the military were in charge of security in the country. The AP described Haiti as “the poorest country in the Americas where a history of dictatorship and political upheaval have long stymied the consolidation of democratic rule.”
Africa Insider reported the assassination came following two years of protests and cries for Moise to step down from his position of power. The news outlet reported Haiti was “already in a precarious political situation before the assassination, having grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under President Moise.”
“Haiti’s economic, political and social woes have deepened recently with gun violence spiking heavily in the capital city,” Africa Insider reported, adding residents have faced food scarcity and more than half the population makes less than $2 per day.
‘I Thought There Was an Earthquake, There Was So Much Shooting,’ Said a Woman Who Lives Nearby
A woman who lived near the president’s home described the attack to the Associated Press, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she fears for her life.
“I thought there was an earthquake, there was so much shooting,” the woman told the AP. “The president had problems with many people, but this is not how we expected him to die. This is something I wouldn’t wish on any Haitian.”
Jonathan Katz, who previously covered Haiti for The Associated Press and wrote a book about the 2010 earthquake, analyzed the situation in an interview with the AP.
“At this hour, we don’t know who did this, what their end game is, what else they have planned,” he said to the AP. “There were a lot of people who wanted him gone. And there were a lot of people whom he wanted gone.”
Katz told the AP that the majority of Haitian presidents have been forced out of office, but it has been more than 100 years since a sitting Haitian president was killed.
“It seems to be a pretty well-financed operation,” he told the AP, and added officials could spend days piecing together the incident. “That’s the question: Who’s behind it and what do they want?”