Haiti's president assassinated

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

Updated 0209 GMT (1009 HKT) July 8, 2021
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8:45 a.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Leaders react to news of Moise's killing

From CNN's Tatiana Arias, Claudia Rebaza, Sharon Braithwaite and Lauren Said-Moorhouse

Global leaders denounced the assassination of Jovenel Moise and expressed solidarity with the people of Haiti on Wednesday.

“We reject the vile assassination of the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise. It is a cowardly and barbaric act against the entire Haitian people. Our solidarity with the sister nation and the family of a great friend of Colombia”, Colombian President Ivan Duque Duque said in a statement. "We support institutions and democracy, and we ask the Organization of American States (OAS) for an urgent mission to protect the democratic order."

"Spain strongly condemns the assassination of the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise. Our condolences to his family and our solidarity with the Haitian people," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted. "We call for the unity of the political forces to find a way out of the serious crisis that the country experiences."

His UK counterpart, Boris Johnson, also expressed his shock at the "abhorrent act" and called for calm.

8:26 a.m. ET, July 7, 2021

US Embassy in Haiti closed following attack

From CNN's Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Jennifer Hansler

In this April 29, 2019 file photo, Haitian security personnel guard outside the US Embassy in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
In this April 29, 2019 file photo, Haitian security personnel guard outside the US Embassy in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

The US Embassy said in a security alert on its website that it would restrict "direct-hire US citizen" staff to embassy compounds in Port-au-Prince "until further notice" and that it would be closed Wednesday as a result of the "ongoing security situation."

It asked for people to avoid unnecessary travel in the area at this time.

The travel advisory level for Haiti was already at the highest level – Level 4: Do Not Travel – “due to  kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and COVID-19,” according to the State Department.

This post has been updated.

8:07 a.m. ET, July 7, 2021

White House press secretary calls assassination of Haitian president a "horrific crime"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki called the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise a "horrific crime" and pledged that the Biden administration will stand with the people of Haiti.

"It's a horrific crime, and we're so sorry for the loss that they are all suffering and going through as many of them are waking up this morning and hearing this news. And we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that's needed," Psaki said on CNN's "New Day."

"We're still gathering details, we're still gathering specifics. And of course, our embassy and State Department will be in close touch," she said.

"It's a tragedy," Psaki said. "We stand with them, and it's important the people of Haiti know that." 

Watch:

7:56 a.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Here's the full statement from the acting PM announcing Moise's death

From CNN's Martin Goillandeau

Jovenel Moise, Haiti's president, departs after an inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, on Monday, May 24, 2021.
Jovenel Moise, Haiti's president, departs after an inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, on Monday, May 24, 2021. Johis Alarcon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A copy of the statement from acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph is circulating on social media following news of the early hours attack on the Haitian President's residence.

The official account of the Embassy of Haiti in Canada tweeted the government communique before following up with a subsequent tweet expressing its "great sadness" in confirming the death of the president. The embassy also said, "The First Lady, injured, receives the necessary care. Our hearts go out to the presidential family and to the whole nation."

This is a translation of the full Haitian press release from PM Joseph:

"At around one (1) o'clock in the morning, on the night of Tuesday, July 6 to Wednesday, July 7, 2021, 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.

"Condemning this heinous, inhumane and barbaric act, the Prime Minister a.i., Dr. Claude Joseph, and the CSPN are calling for calm. The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces.

"All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and to protect the Nation.

"Democracy and the Republic will win."

7:29 a.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haiti's president was a controversial leader

From Caitlin Hu

In this April 7, 2018, file photo, Haiti's President Jovenel Moise leaves after a ceremony marking the 215th anniversary of revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture's death, at the National Pantheon museum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 
In this April 7, 2018, file photo, Haiti's President Jovenel Moise leaves after a ceremony marking the 215th anniversary of revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture's death, at the National Pantheon museum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Haitian president Jovenel Moise was a controversial figure, with many in the country disputing his 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 February 7, 2021, citing a constitutional provision that starts the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.

Throughout his presidency, the President had repeatedly failed to hold elections at local and national levels, leaving much of the country’s governing infrastructure empty.

His death takes place against a background of extreme violence in Haitian capital 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 and worsening the country’s humanitarian crisis. Infamous ex-police officer Jimmy Cherizier recently vowed before local media to carry out a “revolution” in the city.

7:07 a.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haiti's president has been assassinated, prime minister says

Haiti President Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit in New York on September 25, 2018.
Haiti President Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit in New York on September 25, 2018. Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Haitian President Jovenel Moise was killed during an attack on his private residence early on Wednesday, according to the country's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph.

Joseph said in a statement that a group of unidentified individuals attacked Moise's home at around 1 a.m. and fatally wounded the head of state. Haiti's first lady was also shot and is receiving treatment, he added.

The Prime Minister condemned what he described as a "heinous, inhumane and barbaric act" and called for calm.

"The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces," the statement added. "All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and to protect the Nation."

Moise was 53 years old. The former banana exporter spent most of the past year waging a political war with the opposition over the terms of his presidency.

Moise claimed his five-year term should end in 2022 -- a stance backed by the United States, United Nations and Organization of American States.

The opposition has argued he should have stepped down on February 7 this year, citing a constitutional provision that starts the clock on the term once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.