Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated early Wednesday morning during an attack on his private residence on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, according to a statement from the Caribbean country’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who called the killing a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.” He was 53 years old.
First Lady Martine Moïse, 47, was also shot in the overnight attack and has been hospitalized; however, according to Joseph, her condition is not immediately clear.
The official Twitter account of the Embassy of Haiti in Canada shared a copy of the Prime Minster’s statement. A CNN translation of the press release stated that “a group of unidentified individuals, some of whom were speaking in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and fatally wounded the Head of State. The First Lady was shot and is receiving the necessary treatment.”
In a telephone interview with The New York Times, Joseph said he is currently running the country.
While Haiti is touted for becoming the first independent Black nation in the Western Hemisphere in 1804, the nation has a long history of dictatorships, coups, and political corruption, including the assassination of Haitian president Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam in 1915.
Abuse of political power continued for more than two decades of dictatorship under the rule of François Duvalier, also known as “Papa Doc,” then followed by his son, Jean-Claude, also known as “Baby Doc.”
President Moïse was also a controversial political figure, who was accused of ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and the official end of his term in February 2021.
Political tensions have risen in recent months across the country as opposition leaders argued Moïse, who took office in early 2017, had overstayed his term and demanded that he step down. Meanwhile, the president and his supporters maintained that a chaotic election resulted in a year-long gap, which forced his term to start behind schedule.
Moïse also approved a decree that limited the powers of courts to audit government contracts and established an intelligence agency that solely reported to the president.
Following Moïse’s assignation, residents of the nation are fearful for the future as gang violence in the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince continues to spike, and inflation soars while wages remain astonishingly low at less than $2 a day for the majority of the population. All while Haiti still struggles to rebuild, both structurally and emotionally, from the 2010 earthquake that ravaged the country killing an estimated 250,000 people.
In the wake of the tragedy, Prime Minster Joseph tried to provide some solace to the resilient nation, saying, “Democracy and the Republic will win.”