Jovenel Moïse with Justin Trudeau in Lima, Peru. Photo credit: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores from Perú on Flickr

Security forces lock down Haiti in the search for those involved in President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination

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The streets of Port-au-Prince are empty and silent as military search for more people and answers in who was behind the killing of President Jovenel Moïse.

A two-week state of emergency is in place to locate the remaining masked gunmen in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, multiple armed men entered into President Moïse’s private residence. The attackers shoot both the head-of-state and his wife, Martine Moïse. While the shooting left Haiti’s president dead, his wife was serious injured. She was transported to medical facilities in Florida.

Caribbean leaders, who worked with President Moise in Caricom have spoken out about the incident. Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, said:

The assassination of President Moise of Haiti is an atrocious act which Barbados vehemently condemns. Violence can never be a solution, and must be rejected in all circumstances.

Barbados urges all to pause and work at all costs for peace. The Haitian people deserve this. It is the necessary foundation for their stability and for democracy to emerge to protect them against the many vagaries they face, man-made and otherwise.

We pray for the swift recovery of his wife.

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris said that the killing was a “heinous and cowardly act and hope[s] that those responsible will soon be apprehended and brought to justice.”

The government of Belize issued a statement saying “no place in democratic societies or in the Caribbean Community.”

Reuters reports that Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told them that the men disguised themselves as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, which ultimately allowed them access to President Moïse’s home located in the hilly suburbs above, the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. In a press conference, the interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said that the gunmen spoke both Spanish and English with an American accent, but not Haitian Kreyol or French.

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Leading up to president’s killing, the country was embroiled in another wave of internal turmoil. While the numbers of COVID-related deaths were the lowest in the region, President Moïse was accused of poor leadership, multiple corruption offenses, including his refusal to leave office, even after his five-year tenure ended this past February. While he claimed he had one more year, his opponents said his five-year presidency started after he took office following the resignation of his predecessor, President Michel Martelly, in 2015.

Haitians took to the streets with ongoing protests. At the same time, the country has been dealing with an uptick of gang violence, including a surge in kidnapping in a post-pandemic nation that has been dealing with extreme issues of poverty before COVID-19.

Behind the violence is the “G9,” which is a federation of nine gangs who became a collective in 2020. Headed by a former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier, who goes by the moniker, “Barbecue,” the G9 pledged to take out corrupt politicians and the the bourgeoisie, which includes businesses and the country’s elite.

Behind the protests against President Moïse, including the uptick of insecurity, are the G9. Reports say that the gangs would steal food and medical supplies, and burn and loot businesses. The disruption caused the already steep food prices to inflate, while many shops closed its doors amid the violence and chaos. With the blurred lines of revolutionary struggle and street conflicts, Haiti’s economy was already in a state of duress before the President Moïse’s assassination.

Since President Moïse’s assassination, the possible assassins, now identified as “mercenaries,” were held off from escaping by Haitian security forces, according to Police General Director Leon Charles on a local news broadcast. Four suspects have been killed and two have been arrested, but there is still a countrywide search of anyone who is connected to the killing. Haiti is on lockdown and the Dominican Republic has closed the borders it shares with Haiti.

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