Arrests reported in wake of assassination of Haitian president

Wednesday - 07/07/2021 22:02
Overnight attack that killed Jovenel Moïse occurred amid rising wave of politically linked violence in country

A squad of gunmen assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and wounded his wife in an overnight raid on their home Wednesday, inflicting more chaos on the Caribbean country that was already enduring gang violence, soaring inflation and protests of his increasingly authoritarian rule.

By nightfall, authorities said they had arrested the "presumed assassins" but did not say how many.

Communications Secretary Frantz Exantus said the suspects were detained in Pelerin, a district within the upscale neighbourhood of Petionville.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who confirmed the killing, said the police and military were in control of security in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, where a history of dictatorship and political upheaval have long stymied the consolidation of democratic rule.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Joseph called for an international investigation into the assassination, said that elections scheduled for later this year should be held and pledged to work with Moïse's allies and opponents alike.

"We need every single one to move the country forward," Joseph said. He alluded to enemies of the president, describing him as "a man of courage" who had opposed "some oligarchs in the country, and we believe those things are not without consequences."

'State of siege' 

Despite Joseph's assurances that order would prevail, there was confusion about who should take control and widespread anxiety among Haitians. Authorities declared a "state of siege" in the country and closed the international airport.

The normally bustling streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, were empty Wednesday. Sporadic gunshots were heard in the distance, public transportation was scarce and some people searched for businesses that were open for food and water.
 

Presidential guards patrol the entrance to Moïse's Port-au-Prince residence Wednesday after the early-morning attack. (Joseph Odelyn/The Associated Press)
Presidential guards patrol the entrance to Moïse's Port-au-Prince residence Wednesday after the early-morning attack. (Joseph Odelyn/The Associated Press)


Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, said the attack on the 53-year-old Moïse "was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers — well-orchestrated," and that they were masquerading as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has an office in the Haitian capital to assist the government in counternarcotics programs, according to the U.S. Embassy.

Joseph said the heavily armed gunmen spoke Spanish or English, but gave no further details.

Slain president's wife in critical condition

Moïse's wife, Martine, was in stable but critical condition and was being moved to Miami for treatment, Edmond said.

Haiti has asked the U.S. government for assistance with the investigation, he said.

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 Keywords: Haiti

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