Port-au-Prince / New York (dpa) – In Haiti, the search for the killers of President Jovenel Moïse kept people on edge. According to the police, four alleged perpetrators have been killed and six suspects have been arrested.
Interim police chief Léon Charles said on television that the operation was still underway. The UN special envoy to the Caribbean state, Helen La Lime, reported that emergency services had circled two houses in the capital Port-au-Prince where other suspects were staying.
The background to the murder was still unclear even after many hours. According to a government spokesperson, the four alleged perpetrators all came from abroad. The US newspaper Washington Post reported, citing Haitian minister Mathias Pierre, that one of those arrested was an American of Haitian descent.
Moïse, 53, was shot dead in his home by a murder squad on Wednesday evening. His wife Martine was seriously injured. She was taken to Miami, USA for treatment. The newspaper “Le Nouvelliste” reported that Moïse’s body had twelve bullet holes, some of which were large-caliber weapons. Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, described the killers as well-trained and heavily armed foreign mercenaries. They pretended to be agents of the US drug agency DEA.
La Lime also reported that Haiti had requested additional security assistance from the UN Security Council. What it should be exactly was not clear at first. Haiti’s UN ambassador has also asked for international support to investigate the background of the crime. La Lime stressed that the United Nations stands ready to help. The US is also ready, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. The condition is that there is a formal request.
Videos were circulated on social media showing groups of people arresting alleged perpetrators on the streets of Port-au-Prince. A video from the “Journal La Diaspora” portal showed a large crowd gathered in front of a police station to kill those arrested.
It was also reported on Twitter that Cuban doctors were attacked in Haiti. Interim Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Claude Joseph said the attackers spoke Spanish and English. Haitian Creole and French are the official languages in Haiti.
The murder leaves a power vacuum. Since parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2019 were canceled due to violent protests against Moïse, among others, there has been no functioning parliament there since January 2020. Moise has ruled by decree ever since.
Shortly before his assassination, Moïse appointed neurosurgeon Ariel Henry as interim prime minister on Monday. Joseph has held the title since April, although it has never been constitutionally confirmed due to the lack of a parliament. Since Henry was not yet sworn in, Joseph took the reins: He convened a council of ministers, stood in front of the cameras, and signed edicts for 15 days of martial law and state mourning.
Moïse, who has ruled since 2017, was extremely unpopular. He was accused of corruption, ties to brutal gangs and autocratic tendencies. Over the past three years, protests have paralyzed Haiti time and again. Recently, bloody fighting between gangs for control of parts of the capital has displaced thousands of people. Presidential and parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum are scheduled for September 26. Joseph has announced that he will stick to the date.