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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2:52 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haitian ambassador to US says attackers who assassinated president are believed to be "mercenaries"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler 

The attackers who assassinated President Jovenel Moise are believed to be “mercenaries,” Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said, referring to them as “well-trained killers.”

He said video from the scene showed them speaking Spanish and said they presented themselves as Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents.

“I believe they are fake DEA agents,” he told reporters Wednesday. Edmond asserted that the attackers were foreigners, but declined to give evidence to this beyond citing footage of them speaking Spanish.

“We don't know how they came in,” Edmond said, adding that they did not know if the attackers were still in the country. He said if they have left, it would be via a land border with the Dominican Republic because Haiti would have detected a plane leaving and the airport has been closed since the attack. He said the airport would reopen “once we have this situation under control."

He stressed the importance of the international community’s assistance in carrying out an investigation and also pointed to the need for security, specifically saying that they need armed forces, not local police, to protect their borders.

“We need to have armed forces, because our country was created by military, so it's very important to have that and so our borders can be protected, and to have a better control over the borders, because it is not acceptable to have the commanders, the foreign commanders, to enter a country, to kill the president, and to leave without any concern,” he said.

Edmond added, “If the border was well protected by the armed forces, it would have been difficult, because the national police doesn't have that mission to protect borders." 

The ambassador said he had been in touch with the White House, State Department and his counterpart, the US ambassador to Haiti.

2:48 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

The Dominican Republic suspends flights to and from Haiti

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias in Atlanta and CNNE’s Jessica Hasbun in Santo Domingo

The Dominican Republic’s flight authority has suspended “air operations to and from the Republic of Haiti,” according to a statement from the country’s Civil Aviation Board (JAC) obtained by CNN on Wednesday. 

Following the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, JAC President Marte Piantini ordered that all flights, exempting those of Dominican Republic nationals and diplomatic personnel seeking to return from Haiti, be suspended.

Only flights transporting “Dominican Republic nationals and foreign diplomatic personnel duly accredited in the Republic of Haiti," will be allowed to fly back to Santo Domingo’s La Isabela International Airport, which is also known as the Joaquín Balaguer International Airport.

Those passengers “must present identification as proof of their nationality or diplomatic status,” the statement added.

2:06 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haitian Times journalist: "Folks are scared about what’s to come next"

From CNN's Caitlin Hu

Haitian Times newspaper publisher and journalist Vania Andre, tells CNN she is concerned about the potential of street violence following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

The Haitian Times is considered an influential newspaper for Haitians living in the US.

In a statement to CNN, Andre said: 

The Haitian diaspora is upset and in search of answers. Although Jovenel Moise was wildly unpopular with several calls for him to step down, there’s still a feeling of disappointment given what this indicates for the state of the country. Folks are scared about what’s to come next and there are very real fears about whether or not violence in the streets will ensue."

Andre went on to explain the impact the assassination of Moise could have on Haitians living in the US:

"This generation of Haitians in the Diaspora is living in two worlds, where they are confronted with the challenges of being Black in America, championing Black Lives Matter, fighting against gun violence, and impacted by what they see happening with George Flloyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless other black Americans that have died at the hands of police, while also dealing with the persistent political and social problems in Haiti that also have racial and class undertones.  

For a while Haitians in the Diaspora were hopeful about Haiti’s future, especially given the outpouring of support for the country in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. There was a sense that Haiti was going to build back bigger and better. Folks left their corporate jobs and stability in the U.S. to  be a part of that reawakening for Haiti, and sadly the reality has been the complete opposite, and Moise’s assassination is the final nail in the coffin for them. 

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."

2:10 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Forensic team gathers evidence from outside Haiti president's home

From CNN's Tatiana Arias and Sharif Paget

Joseph Odelyn/AP
Joseph Odelyn/AP

Bullet holes can be seen on the walls outside the home of assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise, who was killed during an attack on his private residence early on Wednesday.

Members of the Haitian police and forensics teams are patrolling the area as they look for evidence outside the presidential residence. 

Haitian first lady Martine Moise was also shot in the attack and arrangements are being made to move her to a hospital in Florida for treatment.

Prime Minister Claude Joseph said a group of unidentified people stormed Moise's home at around 1 a.m. and fatally wounded the head of state. He described the assassination as a "heinous, inhumane and barbaric act."

Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images
Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images

Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images
Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images

Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images
Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images

1:27 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

The Dominican Republic deploys military to Haiti border region

From CNN’s Jessica Hasbun in Santo Domingo and Tatiana Arias in Atlanta

Military personnel from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Defense have been deployed by air, land and water to monitor the border region with Haiti on Wednesday, the defense ministry tells CNN.

The military operation is called Operation Gabion, meaning “Reinforced Wall Operation” and seeks to safeguard and protect the border region following the assassination of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise.

The deployment was launched after a meeting involving the Security and National Defense Council, led by the Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinader.

1:22 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haiti's first lady will be evacuated to US for treatment

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler 

Members of the military are seen near the hospital where Haitian first lady Martine Moise was taken on July 7.
Members of the military are seen near the hospital where Haitian first lady Martine Moise was taken on July 7. (Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images)

Arrangements are being made to move the Haitian first lady Martine Moise to a hospital in Miami for treatment, the Haitian ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said.

The first lady was injured in the attack in which her husband President Jovenel Moise, was assassinated.  

Speaking at a virtual briefing with reporters Wednesday, Edmond described the first lady's condition as stable but critical.

Haiti's prime minister earlier said the first lady was shot in the attack and was receiving "the necessary treatment" for her injuries.

12:39 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

'My battle against corruption is a battle without mercy,' Moise told CNN last year

From CNN's Caitlin Hu

To mark the ten-year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, CNN's Caitlin Hu last year interviewed Moise about the future of his presidency amid corruption allegations.

Here's a look back at what he had to say in 2020:

On the image of Haiti in the world today:

“I will tell you the truth: The image that we have today of Haiti, there are countries that discourage their citizens from coming to Haiti due to political trouble and turbulence…I know we need unity, solidarity, to learn to live together. That solidarity that we had in the wake of the (2010) earthquake, we need that solidarity with actors in the country to put the country on the path toward change, toward economic growth.

“(My administration) has seen that the State is not in service to the people. It was a revelation. I am working myself as head of state to put the country to the service of the people. How to do that? We have to rethink the very architecture of the state project.” 

“We have to reform the state, even transform the state. In reforming the state, we will construct a new nation for all.”

On corruption in the country (which the opposition accused Moise of allowing to flourish):

“It has not been easy for my presidency, because as you know there is a system: The state has been taken hostage, the state has been captured. The state has been captured by corrupt oligarchs …and they use what I would call subterfuges to make people believe in them and to control public opinion. This corruption problem, there are many cases here.

“I will stay my course, my battle against corruption is a battle without mercy, it is a battle to liberate the state from the laws of a few corrupt oligarchs to put the state to the service of the Haitian people, to make the state work for the wellbeing of the people and it’s toward that end that we have made reforms that will bring us all the growth that we want. But this cannot be done without political stability."

Responding to critics calling for him to resign:

“We are going to work to change the constitution and have legislative and local elections. Under the protection of the new constitution, Haiti will finally begin to live. There is no choice but to work together, in solidarity -- it is an obligation to unite around this goal.” 

On the gutting of parliament:

“This is a serious situation, but one we have known in the previous three decades. Between 1990 and 1999, we had a similar situation under president René Préval, and we spent more than a year without a parliament in this country. And then in 2015, I believe under President Martelly, we spent 12 months, perhaps even 15 months, without parliament. So this isn’t a completely unprecedented situation. 

“The country will continue to live without a parliament. We will continue to direct the country.”

On whether he would accept being evacuated from the country, in the case of another earthquake:

"Ah no. Never."

12:57 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

Haiti's growing humanitarian crisis

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova

Marie Rose Emile watches over her 6-month-old grandson Jonise as he is treated for malnutrition at the Hospital of Immaculate Conception, in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Wednesday, May 26. 
Marie Rose Emile watches over her 6-month-old grandson Jonise as he is treated for malnutrition at the Hospital of Immaculate Conception, in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Wednesday, May 26.  Joseph Odelyn/AP

Haiti's political crisis will only deepen in the wake of the president's assassination, but the impoverish Caribbean nation is also facing a dire economic situation.

Its economy had been contracting even before the pandemic, and shrunk a further 3.8% in 2020. About 60% of the population is now living in poverty, according to the World Bank.

UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency, said in May that severe acute childhood malnutrition was expected to more than double this year as the country grapples with rising violence, the pandemic, and a lack of access to essential services.

The agency warned that more than 86,000 children under five could be affected -- more than double when compared with the previous year.

Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in May that she was "saddened to see so many children suffering" after a weeklong visit. "Without additional, urgent funding in the next few weeks, the life-saving treatment we are providing against malnutrition will be discontinued and some children will be at risk of dying," she added.

UNICEF also said acute malnutrition, which is somewhat less dangerous than severe acute malnutrition, had increased 61% over the last year.

An estimated 217,000 children under the age of five could suffer from acute malnutrition this year compared to 134,000 during the same period in 2020, according to the United Nations' children's agency.

12:55 p.m. ET, July 7, 2021

UN chief joins chorus of world leaders and organizations denouncing Moise's killing

From CNN Senior Correspondent Richard Roth, Karol Suarez, Stefano Pozzebon, Pierre Bairin, Tatiana Arias and Sharif Paget

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemns “in the strongest terms” the assassination of the Haitian president, his spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

Guterres is the latest to voice their concern at the assassination and escalating political uncertainty in Haiti.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador said he was "sending a hug to the people of Haiti" during a Wednesday press briefing. He recalled Moise attending his own inauguration and said Mexico was about to send 150,000 vaccine doses to the country as it is "very much in need of international help."

His Chilean counterpart, Sebastian Piñera, declared the assassination "cowardly" and called for "unity and peace to strengthen democracy and find a way out of the serious crisis that Haiti is going through.” 

France's Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed the sentiments of other politicians, before adding, "All light must be shed on this crime which takes place in a very degraded political and security climate. I invite all actors in Haitian political life to calm and restraint."

The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights expressed its "consternation and condolences" in the face of "the brutal assassination" of President Moise, Tania Reneaum, IACHR's executive secretary said during a press conference in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also shared his shock at Moise's "tragic" passing and expressed his "deepest condolences."