Haiti President Jovenel Moïse Assassinated At His Port-au-Prince Home

Jul 7, 2021
Originally published on July 8, 2021 11:47 am
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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Haitian President Jovenel Moise has been assassinated. He was killed at his home in Port au Prince. The news was confirmed by the country's acting prime minister, Claude Joseph, who said gunmen breached the president's residence and killed Moise. He condemned the killing, calling it an odious, inhuman and barbaric act. NPR's Carrie Kahn, who covers Haiti for us, joins us now from Mexico City. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So, Carrie, I know information is still trickling out right now, but what do we know so far?

KAHN: Right. Officially, we just have a statement from the prime minister's office. He was also - the prime minister, Claude Joseph, was also on Radio Caraibe in Haiti early this morning. He said the same things. And what you were just reading from was the statement, was that at 1 in the morning, a group of non-identified individuals - some of whom spoke Spanish, is what he said - attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and mortally wounded the head of state. It also said that the first lady was wounded by a bullet and is getting care.

And like you said, he condemned the act. He called it inhumane, odious, a barbaric act. He called on the population to remain calm. And he said the security situation is under control, and the national police of Haiti and the armed forces of Haiti will take care of things. There are videos circulating around the neighborhood where the private - the president's residency - residence is and including shots of a drone over the residence and reports that the assailants were speaking English as well as Spanish.

FADEL: Now, you've met and interviewed Moise. What was he like? And why would anybody want to assassinate him?

KAHN: Sure. I first met him back in 2005 when he was campaigning for the presidency. And he was not a politician. He was a man in agriculture - actually, bananas. And that's what everybody called him - he was known as the banana man. He's very tall and a lanky man, and at first, he just seemed like such an awkward pick for president. And he was personally tapped by the previous president for the job. It took him a while to acclimate. Many underestimated him. He liked to profess that he was not a politician; he was a champion of the poor. He would say that a lot. But he didn't have a clear path for Haiti. You know, Haiti has always had such a traumatic and difficult time toward democracy.

FADEL: Right.

KAHN: And he - you know, he was not the typical strongman or the wily politician that Haiti is used to. And ever since he took office, from the get-go, it was difficult. The elections were flawed. It was marred by controversy. It took more than a year for him to take office. So that complicated how long his rule was actually going to be. And just an indication of his political difficulties he had - he fired, he appointed, prime ministers resigned. He had seven prime ministers since taking power.

FADEL: Oh, wow. Now, the country has a long history of instability, and recently things have been going from bad to worse, right?

KAHN: Yes. This is a - it's a difficult situation in Haiti. Look; it's the poorest country in the hemisphere. The U.N. had been the major police security force in the country for years, but they had pulled out several years ago. That left the underfunded and weak national police in charge. On top of that, you have the political problems of the president. The Parliament had been dissolved, and he - because they couldn't hold elections in Haiti. And for more than two years, the president has been ruling by decree. So Haiti was still dealing with the aftereffects of that devastating 2010 earthquake, a cholera outbreak. And Moise could never pull the country together. He just couldn't do it. And gangs are now ruling many, many important regions of the country, especially in the capital.

FADEL: In the few seconds we have left, are you concerned about fallout, fallout...

KAHN: Of course. As always, this is going to be a very difficult situation for Haiti to remain stable. We'll have to see what happens.

FADEL: NPR's Carrie Kahn. Thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.