Haiti's president assassinated

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Nick Thompson, Sheena McKenzie, Hannah Strange and Samantha Beech, CNN

Updated 10:09 PM ET, Wed July 7, 2021
31 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:52 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

What we know about the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise

From CNN's Samantha Beech

Security forces conduct an investigation as a soldier stands guard at the entrance to the residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7.
Security forces conduct an investigation as a soldier stands guard at the entrance to the residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7. Joseph Odelyn/AP

Haiti's President Jovenel Moise was killed in an attack at his residence after a group of unidentified individuals stormed his home at around 1 a.m. local time.

The country's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the president was killed in a "highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group."

Here's what else we know:

  • Haitian first lady Martine Moise was shot and injured in the attack, and has been taken to Miami for treatment. Her condition is described as stable but critical. 
  • The attackers have not been caught and no one has claimed responsibility, but the Haitian ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, said the killers were "well-trained" and believed to be “mercenaries."
  • The US denies that attackers were Drug Enforcement Administration agents, after video from the scene showed the attackers presenting themselves as such. 
  • World leaders have condemned the assassination and are calling for unity in the wake of the attack, with the UN Security Council expected to meet Thursday.
  • Haiti has declared a "state-of-siege" for the next 15 days, which means all borders are closed and martial law is temporarily imposed, with Haiti’s military and the Haiti National Police (HNP) empowered to enforce the law.  
  • Two weeks of national mourning has been called for in tribute to Moise, which scheduled to start Thursday and end on July 22.
  • The attack comes amid a backdrop of political instability, with many key roles in the country’s government already empty and the parliament effectively defunct. The country’s opposition movement has long called for Moise to resign.
  • The future leadership of the country is not yet clear. Moise had just named a new prime minister, neurosurgeon Ariel Henry, on July 5. However, it is his predecessor -- acting prime minister Claude Joseph — who has assumed control of the country in the wake of the president’s death.
  • Criminal violence escalated in the capital city Port-au-Prince in the month of June, including attacks on police and arson of civilian homes. More than 10,000 people have fled to temporary shelters. The country was also rocked by a wave of kidnappings earlier this year.
  • Covid-19 is also on the rise in Haiti, with its highest death toll yet reported in June. Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa F. Etienne last month called on the international community to “urgently” assist the country in combating the virus.
  • Haiti is heading toward elections and a controversial constitutional referendum in September. The referendum had been championed by Moise as an opportunity to strengthen the Haitian presidency.

7:19 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Amnesty International calls for investigation into president's killing and human rights violations

From CNN's Natalie Gallón

Amnesty International has called for investigations into the killing of the Haitian president and the alleged "grave human rights violations" under his watch.  

The group called the assassination and the shooting of the Haitian first lady, "a shocking indicator of the serious human rights and political crisis that Haiti has been facing for years."

In a statement, Amnesty said it is concerned about the potential escalation of violence in coming days and will be carefully monitoring any potential protests that ensue, attacks against human rights defenders, and attacks against ordinary Haitians.

The organization called on the Haitian authorities to put human rights at the center of their response to the political crisis.

The Americas director at Amnesty International Erika Guevara-Rosassaid said “the killing of President Jovenel Moïse must be immediately and impartially investigated alongside the grave human rights violations and chronic impunity that ordinary people have suffered under his watch." 

“This is a wake-up call for the international community, and for the Haitian authorities who have overseen chronic impunity and ignored the calls of human rights defenders that has paved the way for such a serious crisis,” she said.

Amnesty International also called on the international community to provide all assistance to the country to find ways to de-escalate violence and provide human rights protection, including for journalists and human rights defenders.

In May, the Biden administration granted humanitarian protection for some Haitians in the United States, allowing an estimated 100,000 people to apply to remain lawfully in the country.

7:08 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haiti's ambassador to the US says Moise's killing was "politically motivated"

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

 Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond
Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond (CNN)

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise was carried out by “professional killers” who may still be in the country, the Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond told CNN Wednesday evening.

“We can say for certain they were professional killers. It was a well-orchestrated attack against the president,” Edmond said.

Edmond said the motivations of the assassins are unclear, but he believes it was a politically motivated killing.

“I wish I had known the motivation of the killing but I do believe the president was killed for his beliefs, for his policies, for his reforms,” Edmond said. “Unfortunately in Haitian politics so far we are not able to find a way to discuss our political disagreements in a peaceful manner.”

The assassins presented themselves as DEA agents, Edmond said, and are believed to be from outside of Haiti.

The US State Department has denied the attackers were DEA agents. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said those claims were “absolutely false."

“I believe from the preliminary information they are foreigners certainly helped by some local accomplices,” Edmond said. “They may be still in Haiti, the national police has started a manhunt to track them down.”

“We will put all necessary resources to make sure we apprehend them,” Edmond added.

Edmond said Haiti’s first lady Martine Moise, who was shot and injured in the attack, was evacuated to Miami where she is being treated.

“We hope the doctors will find a way to save her life,” Edmond said, “We keep her in our prayers.”

Watch here:

5:08 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haiti declares 2 weeks of national mourning following president's assassination

From CNN's Etant Dupain and Tatiana Arias

Haiti's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph
Haiti's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph (Primature de la République d'Haïti)

Haiti has declared a two-week period of national mourning following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

The tribute to Moise is scheduled to start Thursday and end on July 22, according to an official decree published Wednesday.

The decree also detailed the "state of siege" which has been declared in Haiti for a period of 15 days following the assassination.

Haiti's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph has assumed leadership of the country in the immediate aftermath of the attack and earlier declared the "state of siege" after a council of ministers meeting Wednesday morning.  

“I call on everyone to stay calm and I am very sorry to report to you the death of the president. Me and all the ministers have been working since the news broke and we want to assure you we will bring the killers of the president to justice. Please stay calm and let the authorities do their work. We don’t want the country to plunge into chaos. This is a very sad day for our nation and for our people,” Joseph said.

More context: Under Haitian law, there are three levels of emergency, starting with a “state of emergency,” followed by a “state of siege”, and finally the highest level of emergency, which is the “state of war.”  

A state-of-siege means all borders are closed and martial law is temporarily imposed, with Haiti’s military and the Haiti National Police (HNP) empowered to enforce the law.   

4:47 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haitian ambassador to the US says future leadership unclear after president's assassination

From CNN's Caitlin Hu

 Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond
Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond (CNN)

The future leadership of Haiti is not yet clear, the Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond told CNN, following the overnight assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Haiti's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph has assumed leadership of the country in the immediate aftermath of the attack. He has declared a "state of siege" in Haiti, saying he did not want the nation to "plunge into chaos."

Edmond said he doesn't know if there is a timeline or deadline for a formal announcement of succession.

"I will let that to the Haitian authorities and discussion with civil society stakeholders to see how they can move forward with that. So I cannot, I cannot make an estimate on that, but that I know there has been, there is an interim government, or has to control the situation and to make sure that everything's under control," he said.

Haiti's president of the Supreme Court would normally be next in line, but that position is currently empty since its holder, René Sylvestre, recently died of Covid-19. His funeral was due to take place Wednesday.

The president of the National Association of Haitian Judges Judge Jean Wilner Morin told CNN that for Joseph to formally replace the president, he would have to be approved by Haiti's parliament. But the parliament is currently partially empty and effectively defunct.

Complicating the line of succession even further, Moise had appointed another prime minister, Dr. Ariel Henry, just two days ago.

Edmond couldn't say if Henry will remain in his role as new prime minister. He also said it's not clear if the presidential and local elections expected to take place in September will go ahead.

"I cannot tell you nothing right now because I let the authority (in Haiti) to settle down, to make sure that everything is in place. So, it will be able to be carried out, but for I cannot tell you anything," Edmond said.

Edmond also said he wasn't aware of any specific threat to the president's life ahead of the assassination.

"But what I can refer you to, I can refer you to the last interview he gave in January to in Spanish newspaper, where he said that a lot of people want him killed. For his reforms. That's the only thing I can tell you," he said.

More details: Edmond added Haiti has formally requested assistance from the US and is waiting for a response.

"We've been talking with US authorities about this situation. And it's being considered, I don't know exactly how they are considering it, but we did request formally assistance from the United States, one with the investigation, and secondly with the security situation," he said.

Edmond said the UN Security Council is expected to meet on the situation in Haiti on Thursday.

"Hopefully, the UN will take more bold actions to strengthen our security. Because it's really a problem for us now," he said.  

3:49 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

US urges Haiti to bring president's killers to justice

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Christian Sierra and Michael Conte 

A Haitian police officer stands guard outside of the presidential residence on July 7,  in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A Haitian police officer stands guard outside of the presidential residence on July 7, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Valerie Baeriswl/AFP/Getty Images

The United States has again condemned the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and urged Haiti to bring the attackers to justice.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated the United States’ condemnation of the attack that left the president dead and the first lady injured. 

“We extend our deepest condolences to President Moise's family and his loved ones and to the people of Haiti, in the midst of this tragedy,” he said.

Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken was briefed on the assassination and the security situation in Haiti. He added that the Department has been in regular contact with acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph.  

He said the US Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison has been in regular contact with a range of Haitian officials.

“Secretary Blinken started his day this morning with a comprehensive update on the situation on the ground, including the latest developments as we knew them at the time, the security situation. He was briefed by Ambassador Sison, who at this moment happens to be in Washington,” he said at a press briefing Wednesday.

“He was also on the phone with the DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission) who is on the ground in Haiti right now, DCM Nicole Theriot, as well as other members of his team. So we are prepared to receive additional requests for assistance from Haitian authorities.”

Price called on all political parties, civil society groups, and stakeholders to echo the call for calm from acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph.  

“Those who seek to accomplish their political goals through violence and by subverting the rule of law will not succeed in thwarting the Haitian people, and their desire for a better, for a brighter future. We urge Haitian authorities to bring those responsible to justice,” Price said.
3:30 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

US State Department says suggestion attackers were DEA agents is "absolutely false"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price
State Department spokesperson Ned Price (Pool)

The United States has denied a suggestion the attackers who assassinated President Jovenel Moise were Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said those claims were “absolutely false”.

Earlier, the Haitian Ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said that video from the scene showed the attackers speaking Spanish and said they presented themselves as Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents. 

“I believe they are fake DEA agents,” he told reporters. Edmond added the attackers are believed to be “mercenaries,” referring to them as “well-trained killers.”

Price noted “the Haitian Ambassador himself has dismissed these allegations.”

 “These reports are absolutely false. The United States condemns this heinous act. These false reports are nothing more than that, just false reports,” he said.
2:52 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haitian ambassador to US says attackers who assassinated president are believed to be "mercenaries"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler 

The attackers who assassinated President Jovenel Moise are believed to be “mercenaries,” Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said, referring to them as “well-trained killers.”

He said video from the scene showed them speaking Spanish and said they presented themselves as Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents.

“I believe they are fake DEA agents,” he told reporters Wednesday. Edmond asserted that the attackers were foreigners, but declined to give evidence to this beyond citing footage of them speaking Spanish.

“We don't know how they came in,” Edmond said, adding that they did not know if the attackers were still in the country. He said if they have left, it would be via a land border with the Dominican Republic because Haiti would have detected a plane leaving and the airport has been closed since the attack. He said the airport would reopen “once we have this situation under control."

He stressed the importance of the international community’s assistance in carrying out an investigation and also pointed to the need for security, specifically saying that they need armed forces, not local police, to protect their borders.

“We need to have armed forces, because our country was created by military, so it's very important to have that and so our borders can be protected, and to have a better control over the borders, because it is not acceptable to have the commanders, the foreign commanders, to enter a country, to kill the president, and to leave without any concern,” he said.

Edmond added, “If the border was well protected by the armed forces, it would have been difficult, because the national police doesn't have that mission to protect borders." 

The ambassador said he had been in touch with the White House, State Department and his counterpart, the US ambassador to Haiti.

2:48 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

The Dominican Republic suspends flights to and from Haiti

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias in Atlanta and CNNE’s Jessica Hasbun in Santo Domingo

The Dominican Republic’s flight authority has suspended “air operations to and from the Republic of Haiti,” according to a statement from the country’s Civil Aviation Board (JAC) obtained by CNN on Wednesday. 

Following the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, JAC President Marte Piantini ordered that all flights, exempting those of Dominican Republic nationals and diplomatic personnel seeking to return from Haiti, be suspended.

Only flights transporting “Dominican Republic nationals and foreign diplomatic personnel duly accredited in the Republic of Haiti," will be allowed to fly back to Santo Domingo’s La Isabela International Airport, which is also known as the Joaquín Balaguer International Airport.

Those passengers “must present identification as proof of their nationality or diplomatic status,” the statement added.