© 2022 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Haiti Under 'State of Siege' After Moïse Assassination. Can It Pull Back From The Brink?

Joseph Odelyn
A presidential guard gestures on Wednesday at the entrance to the Port-au-Prince home of President Jovenel Moise, who was assassinated by gunmen there earlier in the morning.

Haitian Prime Minister — and now interim president — Claude Joseph declared a state of emergency after gunmen killed President Jovenel Moise in his home.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, and his wife shot, at their home in Port-au-Prince early Wednesday morning — a tragedy that marks a low point for Haiti but one many hope will mark a turning point.

Interim Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared Haiti under “a state of siege” or emergency after Moïse’s murder, which he called a "heinous. barbaric and inhuman" act. The Port-au-Prince International Airport was also temporarily closed following the assassination.

Authorities there have not said who was responsible for the 1 a.m., commando-style attack on Moïse and his wife Martine Moïse, who was wounded. (She was airlifted to Jackson Health System's Ryder Trauma Center in Miami Wednesday afternoon in critical condition.) They say video taken by neighbors at the scene during the assault suggest the assassins spoke Spanish, and claimed they were from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA.

WLRN is committed to providing South Florida with trusted news and information. As the pandemic continues, our mission is as vital as ever. Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you.

According to Haiti’s Constitution, Joseph himself appears to be the person — along with the Council of Ministers — to replace Moïse until a new presidential election can be held. But given the economic collapse, political chaos and wave of criminal violence gripping their country, Haitians say it’s hard to imagine elections happening.

“You have so much violence going around, how can people go to vote?" said Port-au-Prince resident Vladimir Laborde, who owns a telecom firm and energy company.

"The president being assassinated in his own home shows our weakness with regards to our rule of law. And the institutions that ensure leadership succession in situations like this are defunct; our Parliament isn't even functioning," said Laborde. "So people are weary and they're waiting for the worst. But I also hope citizens here will say they’ve had enough and that the international community will help in the right way now."

In South Florida, Haitian-Americans like Marie Guerda Nicolas, a psychology professor at the University of Miami, say they too hope Moïse’s assassination will force Haitians and the Haitian diaspora to pull the country back from the brink.

“Hopefully this will lead to an end to the level of insecurity and senseless violence," said Nicolas, "and serve as an opportunity for us in the diaspora to recognize the role that we can play.”

Nicolas said the Haitian Psychology Association she helps lead has set up a number in Haiti for people there and here to talk with counselors about the violence at Haiti country code 509 and 2919-9000.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.