Arrests after presidential assassination in Haiti | free press


Port-au-Prince (AP) – Despite the initial arrests, the situation in Haiti remains tense after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The streets of the capital Port-au-Prince were unusually empty.

It was unclear who was behind the attack. The Caribbean country has been in a serious crisis for years. The assassination of the president has made the situation even worse.

According to police, four alleged perpetrators were killed and two arrested. The suspects were intercepted after the attack on the outskirts of the capital, police chief Léon Charles said on television on Wednesday evening (local time). “You will be killed or captured.” He did not give details about their identities. 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.

Moïse (53) was shot dead in his home on Wednesday night around 1 a.m. (local time). His wife Martine was seriously injured. She was taken for treatment to Miami, USA, more than 1,000 kilometers away. The newspaper “Le Nouvelliste” reported that Moïse’s body had twelve bullet holes, some of which were large-caliber weapons. His office and bedroom were searched. His daughter hid in her brother’s room. Two employees were tied up.

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. Foreign Minister Claude Joseph has held the title since April, although he was never constitutionally confirmed in office 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.

In an interview with «Le Nouvelliste», Henry was reluctant. “I don’t want to throw oil on the fire,” he emphasized. But he also said of Joseph, “In my opinion, he is no longer prime minister.” Henry called martial law unnecessary. This allows the government, among other things, to deploy the army for policing tasks and restricting civil rights.

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.

The UN Security Council wants to meet behind closed doors to deal with the situation in Haiti. Calls are made for an international peacekeeping force to be sent to Haiti to ensure security. Some Haitian Twitter users were outraged. “Foreign interventions, especially military ones, should never be an option,” wrote filmmaker Etant Dupain.

As early as 2004 – after a coup d’état against Haiti’s first democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide – the UN stabilization mission Minustah was sent to the Caribbean country. The security situation improved, but the blue helmets under the Brazilian leadership made themselves extremely unpopular until they withdrew in 2017, bringing cholera into the country and allegedly committing numerous sex crimes.