© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Jovenel Moise addresses the media with his wife Martine after winning the 2016 presidential election in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Picture taken on November 28, 2016. REUTERS / Jeanty Junior Augustin /
By Andre Paultre
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitian President Jovenel Moise was shot dead by unidentified attackers at his private residence overnight in a “barbaric act,” the government said on Wednesday, raising fears of escalating unrest in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The murder coincided with a wave of gang violence in Port-au-Prince as armed groups have fought with the police and each other for control of the streets https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haiti-gang-leader – launches-revolution-violence-scale-2021-06-24 in recent months, turning many districts of the capital into no-go zones.
The 53-year-old president’s wife, Martine Moise, was also shot in the attack that took place around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and was receiving medical treatment, Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement.
“A group of unknown persons, some of them Spanish-speaking, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” he said.
Joseph said the police and military had the security situation under control, although shots could be heard throughout the crime-ridden capital of 1 million people after the attack.
With Haiti politically polarized and facing a growing humanitarian crisis and food shortages, fears of widespread chaos are spreading. The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border it shares with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.
The bloodshed in Haiti is due to worsening poverty and political unrest.
The country of about 11 million people, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, and has faced a series of coups and foreign interventions.
A UN peacekeeping mission, aimed at restoring order after a rebellion toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, ended in 2019 with the country still in crisis https://www.reuters.com / article / us-haiti-politics- idUSKBN1WU2SP. In recent years, Haiti has been hit by a series of natural disasters and still bears the scars of a major earthquake in 2010.
Moise, a banana exporter turned politician, faced fierce protests after assuming the presidency in 2017. This year, the opposition accused him of seeking to install a dictatorship by overstepping his term and becoming more authoritarian. He denied those accusations.
“All measures are being taken to ensure the continuity of the state and protect the nation,” Joseph said.
Moise had ruled by decree for more than a year after the country failed to hold legislative elections and wanted to push through a controversial constitutional reform.
The US Embassy said in a statement that it would be closed on Wednesday due to the “current security situation.”
The United States is evaluating the “tragic attack” and President Joe Biden will be briefed on the assassination, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in Washington.
“We are ready and support you to provide whatever assistance is needed,” he said. “Of course our embassy and the State Department will be in close contact, but it is a tragedy. We support them and it is important that the people of Haiti know this.”
The United States had condemned on June 30 what it described as a systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and attacks on the press in Haiti, urging the government to counter the proliferation of gangs and violence.
Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader held an emergency meeting early Wednesday on the situation in Haiti, but had not yet issued a statement.
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