By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Gunmen assassinated Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse and wounded his wife in an overnight raid on their home Wednesday, when the impoverished Caribbean country already endured gang violence, including kidnappings of church leaders and others.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who confirmed the killing of the 53-year-old leader, said security forces maintained security in Haiti amid reports that suspects were detained.
“My compatriots – remain calm because the situation is under control,” Joseph urged his nation in a televised address. Watched by a row of somber-faced officials, he added: “This blow has wounded this country, this nation, but it will not go unpunished.”
Haiti’s communications secretary later said police had arrested the “presumed assassins” of President Moïse. Frantz Exantus did not provide further details about Wednesday’s slaying of Moïse and the wounding of his wife, or say how many suspects had been detained.
U.S. President Joe Biden was among the leaders condemning the killing of Haitian President Moïse. “The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” Biden said. “We need a lot more information, but it’s very worrisome about the state of Haiti.”
It came while the long-troubled Caribbean nation of 11 million people — located a little over 700 miles (1,120 kilometers) from Florida — says it is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic as it failed to vaccinate a single citizen. Raging gang violence and kidnappings, in which Christian leaders were also targeted, combined with a faltering economy, have added to concerns.
Wednesday’s assassination followed a bitter constitutional power struggle that prompted months of widespread street protests and bloody clashes with police.
Haiti’s opposition accused Moïse of using force to stay in power. The 2015-2016 presidential election was so chaotic that Moïse, the eventual winner, wasn’t sworn into office until February 7, 2017 — 15 months after the initial first-round vote. As a result, Moïse said his five-year term would run until February 7, 2022.
A coalition of opposition groups disagreed, saying his term began when his predecessor, Michel Martelly, stepped down on February 7, 2016. They wanted him to step down on February 7 this year. The government announced in February it had detained nearly two dozen people for plotting a coup.
But authorities failed to notice the gunmen reportedly masquerading as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents as they entered Moïse’s guarded residence under cover of darkness. That move would likely have helped them gain entry.
As the investigation continued Wednesday, the president’s injured wife, Martine Moise, was fighting for her life following the attack, which occurred at around 1 a.m. local time at the couple’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince, the capital.
She was in critical condition and arrived in Florida late on Wednesday for treatment, several U.S. sources said.
Haitian authorities said they would welcome U.S. security assistance in following the assassination.
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