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The Assassination That Changed Haiti

Amidst a raging pandemic that is yet to be controlled, frequent and deadly natural disasters, poverty, violence and almost constant political instability, Haiti has been a country that has been a victim of its circumstances since its independence from being a French colony in 1804. Since then it has been ruled by many empires and dictators. But the people of this nation never gave up their hope for democracy and continue to fight the good fight even today.

The assassination of its President has pulled this country back into turmoil, with no vision for its future. On the night of 7th July 2021, a group of assassins stormed the private residence of the President. Président Jovenel Moïse was fatally wounded and was reportedly shot 16 times. His wife Martine Moise was also injured and was evacuated to Miami, Florida. This was another devastating blow for the Haitians, as the power vacuum created by this incident further fuels the unrest in the country.


Jovenel Moïse was a Haitian businessman who later moved to politics in 2015. He was named the Presidential candidate for the centre-right party Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK). When he became President, he claimed that at the forefront his docket was fighting corruption, free healthcare for all, strengthening basic institutions and bringing investment jobs to the people. His first election in 2015 was overturned and in the re-election that followed he won. Many questioned the legitimacy of the election as there were only 600,000 voters in a country of 11 million people. There have been several reports from the United States stating their condemnation for the several human rights violations perpetrated by Moise.



He was called a dictator and authoritarian by the opposition. André Michel, one of Haiti’s most popular opposition leaders, stated that “Its catastrophic governance, built on corruption and the systematic violation of human rights, has raised drastic discontent among the Haitian population,”.These accusations were further proven as, since the time he became president in 2017, there have been constant protests against his administration. He has also been accused of being the ‘worst among recent history’ as the leader of this small Caribbean country. Due to the failure of elections, the parliament had been dissolved and Moise had been ruling in decree for the past 2 years. Due to this act, there were several demonstrations and protests and statements from the opposition branding him a cold-blooded dictator.

There have also been several international organisations such as the UN, who on June 30 condemned the systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and attacks on the press in Haiti.


In February of 2021, Moise claimed there were various conspirators aiming to overthrow him and change the political landscape of the country. He had 20 people arrested, including a judge and a police inspector general. The finer details of the incident are still murky and we will probably never even know if there was an actual assassination attempt.


Due to the pandemic and the prior political instability that plagued the country, thousands of families have been driven away from their homes due to gang violence. The protests against the administration did not help matters and the economy is yet to recover. Haiti has yet to administer vaccinations to its population. This also means that the number of COVID cases are on a rise daily. The police and military are facing major issues trying to curb gang violence. The military was only reinstated in 2017, as it had been disbanded in 1995 after the fall of the dictatorship.

So far 28 suspects have been identified. The group consists of 2 dozen Columbians, 2 US-Haitian nationals and some Colombian soldiers as well. There was also a Doctor based out of Florida who was also implicated. US and Colombian intelligence agencies have also offered to help and are actively working with the Haitian authorities to find the accused. In spite of these arrests, the Police commissioner released a statement that they were still looking for the individual/organisation that ordered the attack. During the incident, Moise and his family were attacked by men who were claiming to be from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The arrests have posed more questions than answer them like the mixed nationality of the accused are hardly any indicators of who was actually behind the assault.

One would assume that the death of Jovenel Moïse would be the start of a more prosperous era for this country but its fate still remains up in the air. After his assassination, the most recent Prime Minister Claude Joseph took over as the interim leader as the country once again faces another impossible political crisis. This again became an issue as days before his death, Moise announced the appointment of Ariel Henry as the next Prime Minister.


Under the Constitution of Haiti, the next leader of the country till elections were to be conducted would be the President of the Supreme Court, but he passed away from COVID-19 on June 23 2021. This along with the complicated power struggle between Clause Joseph and Ariel Henry makes Haiti’s future even more uncertain.


References:

Caitlin Hu and Laura Smith-Spark,. (2020, July 10th). Haiti's leader has been killed. Here's what you need to know. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/07/07/americas/haiti-explainer-jovenel-moise-assassination-cmd-intl/index.html


brown, L. (2021, July 7th). Who was Jovenel Moïse, the assassinated Haitian president? New York Post. https://nypost.com/2021/07/07/who-was-assassinated-haitian-president-jovenel-moise/


Peter Beaumont, Tom Phillips and Julian Borger. (2021, July 8th). Haiti president Jovenel Moïse assassinated by ‘armed commando group’. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/07/haiti-president-jovenel-moise-reportedly-assassinated

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