Late on Thursday evening, a group calling themselves the New Democratic Republic of Haiti (NDRH) claimed responsibility for the assassination of President Michel Martelly. The group said that they were not responsible for the assassination of the President, but the fact that President Martelly was killed as he drove to the National Palace in Haiti shows that he was a target.
As the title suggests, this blog will document the events unfolding in the country of Haiti, which has been embroiled in a political crisis following the recent assassination of Haiti’s President (Martelly). By following the blog, you will be able to get the latest headlines as they happen, and you can offer your opinion as to what this means for the future of Haiti.
Here’s what you need to know:
Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks out after Jovenel Moïse was killed in an attack on his private home on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince…Photo by Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Haitian President Jovenel Moise was killed early Wednesday morning in an attack at his home on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince, the interim prime minister said, creating a political vacuum that threatens to exacerbate the turmoil that has kept the country in turmoil for months.
While foreign governments tried to assess the situation, millions of Haitians anxiously braced themselves in front of radios and televisions and kept off the streets to see what the days ahead would bring.
Moisset’s wife, Martine Moisset, was also injured in the attack, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement. His condition was not immediately clear.
A group of unknown assailants, some of whom spoke Spanish, attacked the president’s private residence, fatally wounding the head of state, the prime minister said, but there is little reliable information on who carried out the attack.
In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Joseph said he is currently the one running the country. However, it was not clear how much control he had over the situation or how long it could last. The new prime minister was due to succeed Mr Joseph this week, and the president of the country’s highest court, who could also help restore order, died of Covid-19 in June.
Later on Wednesday, in a televised address to the nation, Joseph introduced himself as head of the government and announced that he and his fellow ministers had declared martial law.
Mr. Joseph asked for silence.
Let us strive for harmony to move forward together so that the country does not fall into chaos, he said.
He also promised that the special unit that committed the murder would be held accountable.
News of Mr. Moise’s murder shocked the Caribbean state, 675 miles southeast of Miami. But she was already desperate.
In recent months, protesters have taken to the streets to demand Mr Moses’ resignation. He clung to power and ruled by decree for more than a year, although many – including constitutional scholars and jurists – said his term had expired.
Armed gangs control many streets and have even kidnapped school children and pastors during church services. Poverty and hunger are increasing, and the government is accused of enriching itself by not providing the most basic services.
Experts warn that the political vacuum created after Moïse’s murder could lead to a spiral of violence.
More than two centuries ago, Haitians fought to shake off the yoke of colonial France and end one of the world’s most brutal slave colonies, which brought France great wealth. What began as a slave rebellion in the early 18th century… The war that began in the 18th century eventually led to the crushing defeat of Napoleon’s troops in 1803.
But the suffering of the Haitians did not end with the expulsion of the French.
More recently, the country has suffered more than two decades under the dictatorship of François Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, and then under that of his son Jean-Claude, known as Petit Doc.
In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a priest from a poor neighborhood, was elected president. But less than a year later, he was overthrown in a coup.
The country has not yet recovered from the devastating earthquake 11 years ago, and many say the situation has worsened despite billions of dollars in aid for reconstruction.
Sir, I want to thank you for your support. Joseph said Wednesday that the president was cowardly assassinated, but that the assassins could not kill his ideas. He urged the country to remain calm and said he would address the nation later in the day.
He said the security situation in the country is under the control of the police and the army. But international observers have warned that the situation could quickly spiral out of control.
Didier Le Bré, former ambassador of France to Haiti, said the situation in Haiti has become so unstable that many want to get rid of Moïse.
He said he hoped Mr Joseph could govern despite his lack of political legitimacy.
He criticized the international community for ignoring the fragile political situation in Haiti and said it must come to the country’s aid now to ensure a smooth transition.
Harold Isaac contributed to this report.
A police officer stands guard outside the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.Credit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Shortly after the Haitian president was shot by assassins who broke into his home, the country’s interim prime minister announced that he had declared martial law.
For many people around the world, anxiously following developments in Haiti, the term was unfamiliar and even confusing.
But the situation became a little clearer when the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, published details of the scheme in the official government newspaper, Le Moniteur.
Haiti is currently under a de facto state of siege. For 15 days, the police and security agents can enter homes, control traffic, take special security measures and take all general measures to arrest the assassins of President Jovenel Moïse. It also prohibits gatherings intended to incite or prepare for riots.
There’s a little problem. Or two, actually.
Only parliament has the power to declare martial law, says Georges Michel, a Haitian historian and constitutional expert. But right now Haiti no longer has a functioning parliament. The mandate of the entire House of Commons expired more than a year ago, and only 10 of the 30 seats in the Haitian Senate are currently filled.
Legally, he can’t do that, Michel said. We are in a state of necessity.
In fact, there are a few more wrinkles.
Mr Joseph’s term as interim Prime Minister is coming to an end and President Moses has already appointed his successor, the sixth since he took office.
We have a total loss, said Jacqui Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya University, a large private university in Port-au-Prince. We have two Prime Ministers. We cannot say which of the two is more legitimate than the other.
It’s worse than that.
Haiti also has two constitutions, and these two documents say differently what should happen when the president dies in office.
The 1987 version, published in the two national languages, Creole and French, provides that when the office of president becomes vacant for any reason, it shall be held by the judge with the highest rank in the country.
However, the constitution was amended in 2012 and according to the new constitution, the president is to be replaced by a council of ministers headed by a prime minister. Unless, as in the case of Mr. Moïse, the president is in his fourth year in office. In that case, Parliament will elect an interim president. That is, of course, if there is a parliament.
Unfortunately, the constitution was amended in French, but not in Creole. So there are currently two constitutions in force.
Not everything is clear, said Michel, who helped draft the 1987 constitution. This is a very serious situation.
Mr. Lumarque complained about the state of his country.
This is the first time we’ve seen the state this weak, he said. There is no parliament. A dysfunctional Senate. The chief justice of the Supreme Court has died.
Jovenel Moise was the last legitimate authority to lead the country.
Ambassador Bokshit Edmond at the Haitian embassy in Washington Wednesday. Credit…Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said Wednesday that the assassination of the country’s president was carried out by well-trained professionals, gunmen, commandos.
Ambassador Bokshit Edmon said in a briefing that the gunmen were foreigners who spoke Spanish during the attack on President Jovenel Moise. He said the killers are still at large and that his government has formally requested the United States to assist in the investigation.
These killers must be brought to justice, he said, calling the attack a regional security issue.
Kill the president today – if we let it happen, tomorrow they might feel free to go somewhere else and kill another president, Edmond said.
Edmond said it was unclear whether the attackers were still in Haitian territory. With the country’s airport closed, they likely crossed the border into the Dominican Republic or escaped by sea. He said the airport will reopen once the situation is under control.
Edmond said the attackers posed as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, but were fake D.E.A.’s and professional killers. He said he based his assessment on CCTV footage of the attack. A State Department spokesman said the D.E.A.’s statements were completely false.
Moses recently told a Spanish newspaper that about a million people want to kill him because of his policies or the reforms he is implementing, Edmond said.
But the ambassador said there was no specific warning of a night attack.
Mr Moise’s wife, Martine, survived the attack and is in stable but critical condition, Mr Edmond said. He said there were plans to take him to Miami for treatment.
Edmond, a professional diplomat who was appointed to his post in December, said he has been in contact with the White House, the State Department and the US ambassador to Haiti, Michelle G. He has asked the US for help to prevent Haiti from spiralling further into violence, he said.
Specifically, Edmond said that his government is asking the US for help in ensuring that the Haitian police have the necessary resources to control the situation.
The normally busy streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, emptied out after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Bullet holes are visible at the president’s house…. Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press
The first shots rang out after 1am.
According to some witnesses, the explosions sounded for half an hour in the streets of the mountainous, leafy area where President Jovenel Moïse and many of Haiti’s wealthiest citizens live.
At first, some residents thought it was one of two panic tactics plaguing the country: Banditry or another earthquake.
But at dawn, as people crowded around radios and listened to television reports, the news gradually came out: the president was dead.
While people waited for the government to tell them what was going to happen, this shocking news was one of the few certainties.
In the early morning, videos circulating on WhatsApp paint a threatening picture of a group of SUVs entering the road, from which emerge armed men in military formation. One of them announced over the loudspeaker in Creole and English: This is Operation DEA. The legality of the video footage could not be verified.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday during the daily briefing that reports of the D.E.A.’s allegations were completely false.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph gave few details, other than a rather cryptic comment that some of the attackers spoke Spanish.
The businessman, who lives in the same neighborhood as the president, said he was awakened around 1 a.m. by the sound of explosions. Other residents said they heard gunshots between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. and that it lasted about an hour.
The usually busy streets of the capital were eerily empty Wednesday.
Banks and shops were closed, university halls were empty and the ti machann – the market women who usually sell their goods at the roadside – were conspicuous by their absence.
Queues formed at some warehouses as people stocked up on water – usually bought in containers in poor areas – in case they needed to stay a long time. Others sat at home and called each other to make sure they were safe and to hear the latest news. In some middle class neighborhoods, people gathered on the sidewalk and shared their fears for the future of the country.
I don’t know what will happen next – anything is possible, said one man to his neighbors.
Jenny Joseph, a university student from the suburb of Carrefour, said the country should be on its guard. It’s hard and ugly right now, she said. It’s gonna be a madhouse in Haiti in the next few days.
The main two-lane road to Peelerin, the suburb where the president lives, was blocked by green camouflage vehicles.
The president was given a high degree of protection. He traveled regularly in a large motorcade with more than a dozen armored cars and police protection. Many wondered how it was possible for murderers to break into his home.
Mr. Moise’s advisers told The New York Times that the country closed the airport and many other access points early Wednesday to track down the group of attackers who killed the president.
Harold Isaac and Jacques Richard Miguel reported from Port-au-Prince and Dieu-Nalio Cherie from New York.
Demonstration in Port-au-Prince in March. Credit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Jovenel Moïse is struggling to appease growing public anger over his attempt to stay in power, while the opposition insists his term is over.
Mr. Moise has been ruling by decree for over a year. Many, including prominent lawyers, claim his term expired in February. Haiti has been rocked by anti-regime protests and an increase in gang activity.
The opposition has said Mr Moses’ five-year term expires on 7. February should have ended when his predecessor Michel Martelly left office five years ago. When Mr. Moïse refused to resign from office, thousands of Haitians took to the streets, burning garbage and car tires and demanding his resignation.
The government then announced the arrest of 23 people, including a judge and a senior police officer, who the president said were trying to kill him and overthrow the government.
The aim of these men was to take my life, President Moise said at the time. This plan has been cancelled.
Mr Moise maintained that he had to serve another year because his tenure only began a year after the elections that brought him to the top amid allegations of electoral fraud.
Leonie Hermantine, a leader of the Haitian community in Miami, said that regardless of their feelings about Mr. Moise, people in the diaspora were united in their shock and despair.
We don’t want to go back to the methods of the past, when presidents were deposed by force, she said, adding: Nobody’s celebrating.
This year’s protests were part of a wider unrest in which heavily armed gangs clashed in the streets and attacked police stations.
Although exact figures are not yet clear, preliminary estimates indicate that thousands of people have fled their homes and sought refuge with host families or taken up informal shelters, according to a situation report released last month by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Biden responds to assassination of Haitian president
President Biden said he was concerned about Haiti after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in an attack on his home in Port-au-Prince.
Reporter: Sir, I want to thank you for your support. President. Reporter: What is your reaction to the assassination of the president of Haiti, Mr. President? Reporter: Mr. Presidential Reporter: What is your reaction, Mr. President, to the assassination of the president of Haiti? We need a lot more information, but it’s very disturbing for the state of Haiti. Reporter: Does the United States have a role to play in… [journalists speak indistinctly]
President Biden expressed concern for Haiti after President Jovenel Moïse was killed in an attack on his home in Port-au-Prince.CreditCredit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
President Biden said Wednesday that he was shocked and saddened by the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and the shooting of his wife, Martine Moïse. The sentiment of the U.S. leader, whose administration has promised to pay more attention to Haiti, resonated even as he faced tough questions about the goals and actions of U.S. policy.
We condemn this horrific act, Biden said in a statement. I wish First Lady Moise the best of luck with her recovery.
Delegate Andy Levin, co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the killing a devastating, even shocking example of the extent of the deteriorating security situation in Haiti.
For months, said Levin, a Democrat, the perpetrators have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity, while the international community – including, I fear, the United States – has ignored their calls to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition.
The committee’s top Republican, Texas Representative Michael McCaul, also condemned the murder and said in a statement that there should be a full investigation and proper accountability for the killing.
The United States and other countries have long provided much-needed aid and financial support to Haiti, including to help the country recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, but Western powers also have an overwhelming influence on the country’s political fate.
The United States occupied the country from 1915 to 1934, and a series of coups in the 20th and 21st centuries left the country in a state of chaos. The wars of the 19th century were supported by the Western powers.
France in particular has long had a difficult relationship with Haiti, a former slave colony it acquired in the 18th century. It dominated the eighteenth century and made it an extremely lucrative area. Anti-French sentiment is widespread in Haiti, where the first visit by a French president took place in 2010.
The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said he was shocked by Mr Moses’ murder. This crime, taking place in a very deteriorated political and security environment, must be solved, Le Drian said. He called on all political actors in Haiti to maintain calm and restraint.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said through his spokesman that those responsible for the crime should be brought to justice.
He called on Haitians to uphold constitutional order, act in unison against this heinous act and reject all violence, and pledged that the UN will continue to support the Haitian government and people.
- Port-au-Prince, 2010. Linsey Addario for The New York Times
- Port-au-Prince, 2010.Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
- Jabouin, 2016. Meredith Kohut for The New York Times
- Port-au-Prince, 2017. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
- Port-au-Prince, 2017. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
- Port-au-Prince, 2019. Meredith Kohut for The New York Times
- Les Cayes, 2019. Meredith Kohut for The New York Times
- Port-au-Prince, 2020.Damon Winter/The New York Times
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Haiti has experienced a series of devastating events in recent years, including a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, a powerful hurricane in 2016, and most recently a coronavirus pandemic. The political unrest of recent months has seen thousands of people take to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, who was assassinated early Wednesday morning.
Haitians took to the streets of Port-au-Prince in March to protest Jovenel Moïse’s proposed new constitution. Credit…Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA, via Shutterstock
Despite popular unrest and weak political support, President Jovenel Moïse pursued an aggressive policy in the months leading up to his assassination, including rewriting the country’s constitution.
One of the provisions he pushed through was one that would grant the Haitian leader immunity for any act committed during his tenure, prompting his critics to accuse him of threatening democracy and paving the way for authoritarian rule.
We need a system that works, Mr. Moise said in a telephone interview with The New York Times in March. The system is not working now. The president cannot be results-oriented.
The United States, whose support for Haiti is crucial, has called on the country to hold presidential and legislative elections as soon as technically possible. It has also resisted attempts to draft a new constitution, as proposed by Mr Moise.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken outlined the Biden administration’s tougher stance at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in June.
While many criticized Mr. Moïse’s approach to government reform, many Haitians believe a new constitution is needed.
The current regime has created two competing centers of power in the country, the president and the prime minister, which often leads to friction and divisions within the government.
The draft constitution provides for the abolition of the Senate, to be replaced by a single legislative body elected every five years, and for the replacement of the post of Prime Minister by a Vice-President under the authority of the President, with a view to streamlining the government.
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