Haiti's president assassinated

By Meg Wagner, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 10:50 PM ET, Thu July 8, 2021
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8:01 p.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Haiti's president was assassinated Wednesday. Here's what we know.

Protesters gather near the police station on July 8, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Protesters gather near the police station on July 8, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Haiti remains in turmoil Thursday as police continue to investigate the assassination of its president while questions swirl over who would take charge of the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Here's what we know:

  • More violence: Seven people suspected to be involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise were killed in a gun battle with the security forces in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, Haiti's Police Chief Leon Charles said Thursday.  Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, described the suspects as foreign "mercenaries" and said he believed they had received assistance from Haitian nationals, but officials have divulged few public details on the attack.
  • A country in turmoil: Moise's death takes place against a background of extreme violence in the capital Port-au-Prince which has claimed the lives of many citizens in recent weeks. Haiti was already dealing with political turmoil, a growing humanitarian crisis, and a worsening Covid-19 epidemic.
  • Leadership vacuum: Ariel Henry, who was appointed prime minister of Haiti on July 5, has contested the leadership of acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph following Moise's killing. Joseph, who was Haiti's prime minister when Henry was appointed, made clear he was assuming leadership on Wednesday by announcing that Haiti was being placed in a "state of siege," closing the country's border and placing it under martial law after a meeting with government ministers.
  • First lady is recovering: Edmond said he believes Haiti’s first lady Martine Moise is “now out of danger” and “we will continue to pray for her recovery." While the ambassador told CNN that he does not have the latest report, he said the first lady is “under good care now.” “I’m sure she’s now out of danger," he said.
  • Haitians are concerned: The assassination has left many Haitians and Haitian Americans to mourn the loss of both a president and a sense of stability, Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary, a priest in Little Haiti in Miami, told CNN affiliate WSVN. "I felt very broken by knowing the news, that we get so low, we get so down as a country," Jean-Mary said. "The country's in a very difficult position. In the 21st century, that's not where we expected the country to be."
  • Seeking support: Joseph said that there is currently a nationwide manhunt for the assailants responsible for the assassination. Joseph, who has imposed martial law across Haiti, said he spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday about United States’ support for Haiti moving forward. “The assassination of President Moïse is devastating for our nation, Haiti has lost a true statesman committed to our country’s democracy and a true believer in Haiti’s potential,” Joseph told CNN’s Eleni Giokos. “Now, this is the government and the entire nation that is mobilized to seek justice for President Moïse.“ Asked if Haiti is asking for UN or US peacekeeping forces on the ground in Haiti, Joseph said that he’s asked for technical support for the Haitian National Police so that they can secure the population, help track down some gangs, and also to help the country hold elections in the coming days.

7:50 p.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Acting prime minister says authorities have arrested most of Moise's attackers

From CNN's Karen Smith

There were six Colombians and two Americans involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Haiti's Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a news conference on Thursday.

Joseph said they have arrested most of the attackers involved and asked the public to “keep helping us” and “if you see something, say something.”

5:26 p.m. ET, July 8, 2021

7 suspects killed following gun battle with security forces

From CNN's Lionel Vital and Sugam Pokharel

Seven people suspected to be involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise were killed in a gun battle with the security forces in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, Haiti's Police Chief Leon Charles said Thursday. 

Of the seven, four were killed during the gunfight and the rest died from their injuries at a hospital, the police chief said at a news conference today.

2:30 p.m. ET, July 8, 2021

6 men in custody suspected of assassinating Haiti's president, police say

From CNN’s Larry Register and Lionel Vital

Security forces have six men in custody for suspected involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the wounding of first lady Martine Moïse, Haiti's Police Chief Leon Charles said.

Haitian authorities have apprehended those who perpetrated the attack on the president and his wife and are now looking for the masterminds behind it, Charles said during a news conference today.

Haiti’s Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph asked citizens who are helping to look for those involved in the attack to hand suspects over to police, not kill them. He said the president’s wife and children expect justice.

The chief of police called on the local population to help security forces and not cause unrest.

1:41 p.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Haiti acting prime minister asking US for "technical support" to move forward with upcoming elections

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian 

Acting Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks during an interview on July 8.
Acting Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks during an interview on July 8. (CNN)

Acting Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said that there is currently a nationwide manhunt for the assailants responsible for the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 

Joseph, who has imposed martial law across Haiti, said he spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday about United States’ support for Haiti moving forward.

“The assassination of President Moïse is devastating for our nation, Haiti has lost a true statesman committed to our country’s democracy and a true believer in Haiti’s potential,” Joseph told CNN’s Eleni Giokos. “Now, this is the government and the entire nation that is mobilized to seek justice for President Moïse.“ 

Asked if Haiti is asking for UN or US peacekeeping forces on the ground in Haiti, Joseph said that he’s asked for technical support for the Haitian National Police so that they can secure the population, help track down some gangs, and also to help the country hold elections in the coming days.

In New York, the UN special representative of the secretary-general for Haiti, Helen La Lime, told reporters at the UN that the acting prime minister of Haiti asked for “outside assistance.” La Lime said that the Haitian prime minister spoke to the council in a closed briefing and is making a request for “additional security assistance.”

1:11 p.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Haitian Americans are concerned for Haiti's future after the president's assassination

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus and Madeline Holcombe

Security forces gather evidence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, around the perimeters of the residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021.
Security forces gather evidence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, around the perimeters of the residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. Joseph Odelyn/AP

Haiti's President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home around 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who described the assassination as a "heinous, inhumane and barbaric act."

The incident has left many Haitians and Haitian Americans to mourn the loss of both a president and a sense of stability, Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary, a priest in Little Haiti in Miami, told CNN affiliate WSVN.

"I felt very broken by knowing the news, that we get so low, we get so down as a country," Jean-Mary said. "The country's in a very difficult position. In the 21st century, that's not where we expected the country to be."

In the wake of the president's death, Jean-Mary said the community must now do some "soul-searching."

Moise's assassination also has many Haitian-American community leaders concerned about the future of Haiti.

"There are very real fears about whether or not violence in the streets will ensue," said Vania Andre, publisher of the Haitian Times, an influential newspaper for the Haitian diaspora in the US.

In addition, many had hoped the immense international support following the devastating 2010 earthquake would improve political and social unrest. According to Andre, some Haitian Americans even moved back to Haiti to help support the country's growth.

However, the president's assassination may halt any progress and future development, Andre said.

"Moise's assassination is the final nail in the coffin for them," Andre said. "This is a generation of change, anyone who had a nonprofit, a business, an idea for initiatives that support sustainability in the country, will now think twice on whether Haiti is worth it."

10:46 a.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Ex-prime minister of Haiti calls for international investigation into president's assassination

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe attends a session at The World Economic Forum in Davos on January 25, 2014.
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe attends a session at The World Economic Forum in Davos on January 25, 2014. (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Prime Minister of Haiti Laurent Lamothe called for an international investigation into the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise.

"This cannot go unpunished," he said.

"This was basically executed by a group of very well-trained mercenaries, foreign mercenaries, and that certainly had a lot of financing for this to happen. And a lot of complicity from certainly some in Haiti," Lamothe said to CNN's Jim Sciutto.

"At this point, I don't think we have the identity of who did it, but the president had a lot of enemies, strong enemies locally," he said.

Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, also described the suspects as foreign "mercenaries" and said he believed they had received assistance from Haitian nationals, but officials have divulged few public details on the attack.

Video from the scene showed suspects speaking Spanish and presenting themselves as Drug Enforcement Administration agents, according to Edmond.

"They were just trying to create confusion within the security forces. And they were able to fool everyone and get into the house without certainly resistance from the presidential guard," Lamothe said.

9:59 a.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Here's what you need to know about the Moise presidency

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

In this Feb. 7, 2020 file photo, Haitian President Jovenel Moise arrives for an interview at his home in Petion-Ville.
In this Feb. 7, 2020 file photo, Haitian President Jovenel Moise arrives for an interview at his home in Petion-Ville. Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Haiti President Jovenel Moise's death takes place against a background of extreme violence in the country's capital of Port-au-Prince that has claimed the lives of many citizens and escalated notably in June. 

Rival groups have battled with one another or the police for control of the streets, displacing tens of thousands of people and worsening the country's humanitarian crisis. Infamous ex-police officer Jimmy Cherizier last week vowed before local media to carry out a "revolution" in the city. 

His presidency had not been without controversy: Moise had repeatedly failed to hold elections at local and national levels, leaving much of the country's governing infrastructure empty. A constitutional referendum is set to be held in September, alongside the presidential and legislative elections. Municipal and local elections have been scheduled for Jan. 16, 2022, the official electoral calendar also showed. 

Many in the country had disputed Moise's right to continue serving in the presidency this year. 

While the United States, United Nations and Organization of American States supported his claim to a fifth year in office, critics say he should have stepped down on Feb. 7, 2021, citing a constitutional provision that starts the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office. 

9:27 a.m. ET, July 8, 2021

Haitian ambassador to US says he believes the first lady is "now out of danger"

From CNN’s Larry Register

People stand at the entrance of Ryder Trauma Center where Haitian First Lady Martine Moise was taken for treatment in Miami, on July 7.
People stand at the entrance of Ryder Trauma Center where Haitian First Lady Martine Moise was taken for treatment in Miami, on July 7. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Haiti’s Ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said he believes Haiti’s first lady Martine Moise is “now out of danger” and “we will continue to pray for her recovery." While the ambassador told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on "New Day" that he does not have the latest report, he said the first lady is “under good care now.”

“I’m sure she’s now out of danger," he said.

The first lady was flown to Miami on Wednesday and is being treated at a hospital there. She was wounded in the assassination attack early Wednesday morning in Haiti that killed her husband, President Jovenel Moise.

Ambassador Edmond said an investigation is ongoing, and he does not want to speculate on a motive. He did confirm some suspects in the attack were killed or arrested. “Four were killed and two are now in custody. We do hope the National Police will continue to hunt them down because possibly there were more than six,” he said, adding that he wants those involved in the attack brought to justice.

He said the attackers were “foreigners.” However, he said “at the same time, we need to recognize that they also ... had some help, internal help” to be able to get to the president’s residence. “There is no doubt about it, there would be, there was some internal help,” he said.  

He said authorities need to “continue with the investigations ... and identify those who financed them, those who paid them to commit this horrible act.”