(AP) — President
Jovenel Mose's assassination
appeared to have thrown an already volatile nation into chaos on Wednesday, with a muddled line of succession.
WHICH PRESIDENT WAS KILLED?
Jovenel Mose, a 48-year-old businessman and political newcomer, was sworn in as Haiti's president on February 7, 2017. He inherited a country in turmoil — one that had gone a year without an elected leader — and he leaves it in chaos.
When he took office, he promised to strengthen institutions, combat corruption
, and bring more investment and jobs
to the hemisphere's poorest country. "We can change Haiti if we work
together," Mose said on the grounds of what used to be the national palace, one of many buildings destroyed by a January 2010 earthquake that killed thousands of Haitians.
But unity never arrived, and his administration was plagued by massive protests
from the start. His initial election in 2015 was annulled, forcing a re-do, which he also won. Critics accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian, claiming that he had been ruling by decree for more than a year after dissolving a majority of Parliament in January 2020 amid a delay in legislative elections
Mose told the United Nations Security
Council in February that powerful oligarchs had made seven attempts to destabilize him, and he also announced that month that about 20 people
had been arrested in an assassination plot, but an appeals court later rejected the claim and freed the accused plotters, who included a judge
and a police
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE MURDER
Interim Prime Minister
Claude Joseph said highly trained gunmen, some of whom spoke Spanish or English, assassinated the president at his home, and the first lady
was also shot and wounded. He said police and the armed forces were in charge of security. A resident who lives near the president's home compared the sound of the shooting
to an earthquake.
The Haitian ambassador to the United States
, Bocchit Edmond, described the attackers as “well trained professional commandos” and “foreign mercenaries” posing as Drug Enforcement Administration agents. He did not comment on possible suspects or motives, but said Haiti has requested assistance in the investigation
Authorities announced hours after the killing that four suspects had been killed and two others had been arrested, but no information about their identities or possible motive was provided.
WHAT IS THE CONTEXT IN HAITI?
Since the end of the brutal dictatorships of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier from 1957 to 1986, the country has struggled with political insecurity, as well as extreme poverty
This year, criminal gangs have driven thousands of people from their homes, protesters calling for Mose's ouster in 2019 have shut down much of the economy
, and the country has yet to begin vaccinating its 11 million people against the new coronavirus
, which is on the rise.
Last month, Bruno Maes, Haiti's representative for the United Nations Children
's Fund, compared the gang situation to guerrilla warfare, with "thousands of children and women
caught in the crossfire." According to Pierre Espérance, executive director of the Haitian National Human Rights
Defense Network, gangs control approximately 60% of the country's territory.
Masked officers claiming to be members of a disgruntled faction stormed several police stations in March to free comrades accused of participating in a coup attempt. The army was re-established only in 2017.
Political squabbles have erupted since Feb. 7, when opposition leaders claimed Mose's legal term had expired — five years after he would have taken office if the initial vote had been allowed. Mose argued that because he wasn't sworn in until 2017, his term would have ended in February 2022.
, when Joseph Jouthe resigned amid a spike in killings and kidnappings, the government has been without a formal prime minister, and his replacement has not yet been approved by parliament.
With Mose ruling by decree, the government has scheduled new elections for September, with a possible runoff in November, as well as a referendum on a new constitution, which critics claim will allow the president to extend his power, which has also been delayed.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The international airport has been closed and a siege has been declared by authorities.
The president of the Supreme Court
would temporarily take over under the Haitian Constitution, but he recently died of COVID-19
. The National Assembly would then choose a new leader, but that is impossible because the terms of the lower house
members, as well as two-thirds of those in the Senate
, have all expired.
According to Haitian attorney Salim Succar, former chief of staff to former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, this leaves the acting prime minister, Joseph, in charge along with his fellow government ministers.
However, Joseph was only in an interim position. Mose was assassinated a day after nominating Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as Haiti's new prime minister, but he had not yet been confirmed. The uncertainty could fuel further unrest ahead of general elections later this year.
of the Associated Press
contributed reporting from Washington