The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was already experiencing one of its darkest stages after having fallen into a spiral of violence
Even before the government confirmed Wednesday night the brutal assassination of President Jovenel Mooïse in his own home, rumors of his death had already left the streets of Port-au-Prince deserted. Since the shots broke the early morning silence, telephones began to ring in every house. During the day some videos recorded by the residents of the wealthy neighborhood of, on the hills of Petionville, went viral and distributed the worst omens from phone to phone.
“DEA operative!” Someone with an American accent is heard shouting in one of the videos. There is no other indication that the US drug agency was involved in the murder of the president. His name would only have been used by the black-clad gunmen as an excuse to shoot into the presidential mansion between 1 and 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Garrie Pierre-Pierre, editor of the Miami Hatian Times newspaper, has no doubts that it was “a job done from within,” he declared yesterday, because no deceased bodyguards or advisers to the president are known, although one of the videos shows a body in the middle of the street in the dead of night. The only wound that is mentioned is the president’s wife, who, after having also received a bullet shot, was fighting for her life yesterday in a hospital, presumably in Miami.
However, it seems that from within the mansion they gave the battle. Ralph Chevry, a member of the Center for Socio-Economic Policy in Haiti, told the Washington Post that the attackers had used heavy machine guns that could be heard for more than 1 km around, with intense bursts that were spaced every ten to fifteen minutes for approximately one hour. In fact, the authorities assure that it was the work of “professionals”, attributed to mercenaries who spoke English and Spanish, in a French and Creole-speaking country according to the videos spread by social networks. Mooïse, 52, was traveling with a strong security entourage and in February began a clean-up within his own government, convinced that he had dismantled a plan to assassinate him and carry out a coup, he announced.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was already experiencing one of its darkest stages, having fallen into a spiral of violence punctuated by crimes and rapes that included priests kidnapped during mass and girls in school classrooms. By dissolving Parliament in January last year and refusing to step down, Mooïse seemed like the last Latin American tyrant to hold on to power, but he didn’t really control anything. The country was in the hands of the armed gangs that imposed their reign of terror.
The most paradoxical thing is that finally, after five months of pressure from the US, the president had agreed to call elections. Just Monday he had appointed a new prime minister, the prestigious neurosurgeon Ariel Henry, who led the country’s fight against cholera. As he had not yet been sworn in, he is not expected to fill it.
Who made the announcement of the “hateful, inhuman and barbaric” assassination of the president after a day of uncertainty was Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who said he was in charge of the country. According to the constitution that Mooïse wanted to change through a referendum called for September in order to perpetuate himself in office and seize power, the next in line of succession should be the President of the Supreme Court René Sylvestre, but he just died last week of Covid-19 . Not even a vaccine has arrived in Haiti and the pandemic that has also taken the mother of the former president of Beltrand Aristide adds to the many ills that the country has suffered since the apocalyptic earthquake of 2010. For the prime minister to be declared interim president it would have to be approved by Parliament, which has not existed for a year and a half.
Joseph confirmed the news late at night, announcing in a statement two weeks of national mourning and curfew, with a call for calm to Haitians. He asked “all the forces of the nation” to accompany him in the battle to give continuity to the state, “because democracy and the republic must win” and promised to address the people later. The assassinated president ruled by decree, had been appointed by his predecessor, lacked political experience, and his legitimacy was marred by accusations of fraud and corruption.
The crowded streets of Port-au-Prince woke up deserted yesterday and even the United States embassy had closed its doors. “We are ready to attend and continue working for a safer Haiti,” the White House said in a statement, wishing the first lady a speedy recovery. President Joe Biden called the attack “very worrying” but said he needed “a lot more information” before he could comment on it.