A group or armed men assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and wounded his wife in an overnight raid on their home Wednesday, with police killing four suspects and arresting two others hours later amid growing chaos in a country already enduring gang violence and protests of his increasingly authoritarian rule.
Three police officers held hostage by the suspected gunmen were freed late Wednesday, said Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the police and military were in control of security in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas where a history of dictatorship and political upheaval have long stymied the consolidation of democratic rule. Moïse was assassinated at his private home following “a highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group,” interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said. His wife, Martine Moïse, was injured in the attack and remains hospitalized.
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“Haiti has lost a true statesman,” Joseph said. “We will ensure that those responsible for this heinous act are swiftly brought to justice.” Moïse took office in February 2017, pledging to strengthen institutions, fight corruption and bring more investments and jobs to the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. But his administration was plagued by massive protests from the start, and critics accused him of growing increasingly authoritarian.
Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than a year after Parliament was dissolved and lawmakers failed to organize legislative elections. He was widely criticized for approving decrees, including one that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.
Political and economic instability deepened in recent months, with widespread protests paralyzing the country of more than 11 million people. In addition, gangs in the capital of Port-au-Prince have grown more powerful, with more than 14,700 people driven from their homes last month alone as gangs set fire to homes and ransacked them.