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Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on Wednesday by gunmen who assaulted his residence in the early morning hours in the Pelerin neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, said interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph.
The assault resulted in gunshot wounds to the first lady, Martine Moïse, who is receiving medical care, according to a statement read by Joseph on the radio.
“Just this morning, at one o’clock in the morning, July 7, a group of unidentified persons, speaking in Spanish and English, assassinated the president of the Republic,” said interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph. “The president has died of his wounds.”
Joseph called for calm among the population and assured that the “security situation of the country is under control” and condemned the assassination, which he described as “an act of barbarism.”
The assassination takes place two months before the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for September 26, elections in which Moïse could not be a candidate.
Moïse had called for the same date a referendum to approve a new Constitution, a project which did not have the support of the opposition or the international community.
Haiti has been going through a strong political crisis since mid-2018 and experienced its most serious moment last February 7, the date on which Moïse denounced that the opposition, with the support of judges, were plotting a coup d’état.
At the same time, Haiti is going through a deep security crisis, which has worsened especially since the beginning of June due to territorial fights between armed gangs fighting for control of the poorest neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince.
Who was Jovenel Moïse?
Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s president since 2017, called for international support in June to end the country’s severe security crisis.
He was born in Trou du Nord, Northeast department of Haiti, on June 26, 1968. The son of a mechanic and farmer and a seamstress, in 1974 he moved with his family to the country’s capital, where he attended high school at the Lycée Toussaint and the cultural center of the Canado Haïtien College, run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
In 1996, he moved to Port-de-Paix, capital of the North-West department, where he created the Jomar Auto Parts company and, shortly thereafter, operated a 10-hectare banana farm.
In 2001, together with the Culligan company, Moïse undertook projects to bring piped water to the Northeast and Northwestern areas of the country.
He later became secretary-general of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Haiti (CCIH). In 2008, he was a partner in the solar and wind power company Compagnie Haïtienne d’Energie (Comphener SA).
In 2012, Moïse launched, through his company Agritrans, in which he held the position of president-managing director, the agricultural project Nourribio in his native town, a banana plantation covering an area of 10 hectares.
He left the positions of responsibility at Agritrans and on September 15, 2015 launched his candidacy for the presidential election of that year for the ruling Haitian Tet Kale Party (PHTK).
In the first round of the October 2015 presidential election, Moïse was the most voted candidate, with 32.76 % of the vote, and went on to the December runoff alongside Jude Celestin, of the Alternative League for Progress and Haitian Emancipation (LAPEH), who obtained 25.29 %. However, there were allegations of massive fraud in his favor which forced the postponement of the election to review the results.
Celestin refused to participate in the second round on January 24, 2016, considering that there was partiality of this electoral body by consenting to the alleged fraud.
The country remained without a president when Michel Martelly’s mandate expired on February 7, 2016, so days later he was relieved on an interim basis by Jocelerme Privert, president of the Senate.
On June 6 of that year, the new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) invalidated the results of October 2015 and called for new presidential elections for October 9, to which Moïse ran for the PHTK. The passage of Hurricane “Matthew” days before the holding of the elections, with almost six hundred dead, forced its postponement.
He won the presidential election in the first round in November 2016, with 55.60% of the vote.
Two weeks before his inauguration, on February 7, 2017, he testified before a judge on suspicions of money laundering, for an investigation initiated in 2013, accusations that he rejected.
Moïse relieved the interim Jocelerme Privert at the head of the country. On February 23 he appointed Jack Guy Lafontant, a doctor with no political experience, as prime minister.
The resignation of Prime Minister Lafontant and his government in July 2018 over violent protests sparked by the announcement of a fuel price hike led the following month to head the executive to politician and notary Jean Henry Ceant.
The demonstrations, in which they demanded to know the destination of Petrocaribe funds in the face of suspicions of corruption, did not abate, and Moise supported an investigation. Protests escalated since February 7, 2019, coinciding with his second anniversary in power.
The following month the legislature dismissed Prime Minister Ceant in a motion of no confidence and Moïse appointed Jean-Michel Lapin to succeed him.
On May 31, 2019, the Superior Court of Accounts sent to Parliament its report on the destination of Petrocaribe funds and noted that the companies of Moise and his predecessor Martelly had benefited from millionaire projects that have not been executed. Since then, demonstrations continued with deaths.
Since September 16, there have been demonstrations demanding the resignation of the president, at a time of crisis due to corruption, fuel shortages, hunger, and insecurity. This led to the suspension of the elections scheduled for October, so that in January 2020 the Congress and Senate were closed due to the end of the mandate.
Despite this vacuum, in March 2020, Joute Joseph, who had been leading the country on an interim basis for a year, was appointed Prime Minister in March 2020.
The postponed legislative elections are scheduled for 2021, as well as the convocation of presidential elections for September and November, in which Moïse could not be a candidate.
With great opposition from different sectors who wanted him to leave power on February 7, 2021, in view of a different interpretation of his presidential mandate, which he considers ends in 2022, the Superior Council of the Judiciary issued that day a resolution terminating his mandate at the head of the country, which he branded as a coup attempt, and even the opposition appointed as interim president the magistrate Joseph Mécène Jean Louis.
President Moïse called, in June 2021, for international support and the collaboration of all sectors of society to put an end to the violence of armed gangs which has escalated.
On July 5, 2021 he appointed Ariel Henry as the new Prime Minister with the task of forming a consensus government integrating different sectors of the country’s political life. Henry was the fifth PM appointed by Moïse should address the serious security crisis facing the country and support the organization of the presidential and legislative elections.
However, everything changed today, when he was assassinated by armed men who perpetrated an assault on his residence, in the Pelerin neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. The first lady, Martine Moïse, was shot and wounded in the assault.
Moïse had been married since 1996 to Marie Martine Etienne Joseph, a former classmate.