Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his private residence overnight, according to Haitian government officials.
Haitian interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph called the attack on Moïse a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act” in a statement, according to Fox News. First Lady Martine Moïse was shot during the attack and is being treated at a nearby hospital.
Joseph said that he will take over as interim president while the government rebounds from Moïse’s death. Joseph also said that the group that targeted Moïse is still at large and has yet to be identified. He said that some members of the group spoke Spanish.
“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph statement said, according to CNBC. “Democracy and the republic will win.”
Haiti has been increasingly unstable under economic and societal pressures. Opposition leaders in Haiti have used the dismal state of affairs to slam Moïse, and many critics of the president have demanded he step down amid claims that he has overstayed his legal term in the office. As CNBC reported:
Haiti’s economic, political and social woes have deepened recently, with gang violence spiking heavily in Port-au-Prince, inflation spiraling and food and fuel becoming scarcer at times in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $2 a day. These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.
Opposition leaders accused Moïse, who was 53, of seeking to increase his power, including by approving a decree that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.
In recent months, opposition leaders demanded he step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February 2021. Moïse and supporters maintained that his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a year-long gap.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described the attack on Moïse as “horrific” and “tragic” in an interview on MSNBC. Psaki added that President Joe Biden would be briefed on the situation later on Wednesday.
In a prerecorded interview on CNN, Psaki gave a message to the Haitian people.
“The message to the people of Haiti is this is a tragic tragedy,” she said, according to ABC News. “It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss that they are all suffering and going through as many of them are waking up this morning and hearing this news. And we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”
According to Fox News, frustration against Moïse has grown partly because his government has refused to hold elections, instead ruling the country by decree.
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