Haitian police killed four of the members of the commando that allegedly assassinated the country’s president, Jovenel Moise, on Wednesday, and also arrested two other alleged participants in the assassination.
The arrests were announced early this morning by the police and were carried out in an operation near Moise’s residence, which also led to the release of three police officers who had been kidnapped.
The Haitian president was assassinated on Wednesday during the raid of the aforementioned commando at his private residence in Port-au-Prince, an assassination that has destabilized the already fragile political situation in the Caribbean country.
The interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, who assumed power after the death of Moise, declared a state of siege for 15 days and guaranteed that the situation in the country is “under control”, for which he ordered the deployment of the Police and the Armed Forces, who managed to intercept several of the assailants.
The assassination took place a little more than two months before the scheduled date of the presidential and legislative elections, on September 26, at a time when the Parliament has been closed for a year and a half and the top of the Judiciary is not fully operative either.
A movie-like assassination
The assault took place in the early hours of the morning, in Pelerin, an exclusive area of mansions located on a hill in the highest part of Port-au-Prince and which is always heavily guarded by the security forces of the Presidency.
An undetermined group of men armed with rifles, speaking in English and Spanish, according to the version of the authorities, entered the official residence, shot Moise to death and seriously wounded his wife, Martine, who was flown by ambulance to Miami, United States.
The numerous shell casings scattered on the asphalt in front of the residence and the bullet impacts on the walls and on the vehicles parked in the place are visible signs of the violence of the assault, of which hardly any information is known.
The authorities have not reported the number of fatalities in the assault nor have they provided any further information on the killers, whose identities and whereabouts are unknown.
Moise’s two children, a boy and a girl, were taken to safety, according to the Haitian ambassador in Santo Domingo, Smith Augustin.
State of siege
The Haitian government immediately closed the Port-au-Prince airport and declared a national mourning and state of siege, both for a period of 15 days.
Under the umbrella of the state of siege, all Police and Army troops have been mobilized and it has been announced that any gathering that could “encourage disorder” in the country will be banned, according to the first decree signed by the interim Prime Minister.
Joseph went in less than 48 hours from being on the verge of being relieved from office to concentrating in his hands all the power in Haiti, since last Monday, in an attempt to get closer to sectors of the opposition, Moise appointed Dr. Ariel Henry as the new Prime Minister, who has not been sworn in.
In his first statement, the head of government called on the entire opposition to condemn the assassination and to join in the work of “giving continuity to the state.”
The political crisis
The great majority of the opposition responded to that call with a vehement condemnation of the assassination, including sectors of the left that have fueled the persistent protests that shook the Moise government on several occasions in the last three years.
Among them was also the Democratic and Popular Sector, a leftist platform which went so far as to name an interim president on February 7, the day on which they consider that Moise’s mandate ended and from which, in their opinion, he usurped power.
The present Haitian crisis was triggered in mid-2018 by allegations of corruption against Moise, a banana producer who became president on the back of the popularity of his predecessor, the former president and singer Michel Martelly.
Since then, the situation worsened, with virulent episodes such as the denunciation made by Moise last February 7, claiming that the opposition was plotting a plan to assassinate him, similar to the one that took place this July 7.
Moise’s plans to approve a new Constitution, through a referendum twice postponed and now called for the same day of the elections, September 26, continued to tense the situation in recent months.
Gang violence, rampant since the beginning of June, was the last chapter before leading to the assassination of the head of state.
International condemnation of the assassination has been unanimous, while the Organization of American States (OAS) called for a “rapid international investigation” to bring those responsible to justice.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), based in San José, expressed its condolences to the State of Haiti.
The UN Security Council will meet Thursday behind closed doors to address the situation in Haiti, after Secretary General António Guterres called on all Haitians to preserve the constitutional order and to unite against violence.
The Dominican Republic, a country that shares an island with Haiti, also condemned the murder and reacted by closing its land border and banning all flights, except those destined to evacuate national or foreign diplomatic personnel, as well as Dominican citizens in the neighboring country.