Jovenal Moïse, the president of Haiti, was assassinated by what appears to be men who were well armed with heavy-caliber weapons in his home on Wednesday. It is not yet clear who the men are. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph says that the men spoke English or Spanish but provided no further details. The Miami Herald reports that the gunmen falsely claimed to be with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and says that sources say that one of the gunmen spoke English with an American accent. The State Department has called the claims of DEA involvement “absolutely false.” The Haitian ambassador to the US has called the assassins “mercenaries.” The operation seems to have been well trained and sophisticated.
The enormously unpopular Moïse had been illegally holding on to power and growing increasingly authoritarian since last February. The US backed president’s term in office was over, but he had been trying to hold on to another year of power, claiming it was owed to him because disputes over the 2018 election cut into his term. Even though the Haitian judiciary has refuted his claim, the US State Department has backed it. State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing that “a new elected president should succeed President Moïse when his term ends on February 7th, 2022.”
The situation in Haiti has been becoming more confusing, as protests and violence have grown in the streets, and so has the American response.
There are two issues in Haiti. One is a referendum on a new constitution that has been accused of being designed to consolidate power in the presidency. Moïse’s proposed constitution would abolish the senate, replace the prime minister with a vice president appointed by the president and give the president control over all ministries. The president would also have the power to appoint the electoral council that organizes elections. The president would also be conferred immunity from crimes and corruption committed while president. The other crucial issue is the postponed election. The US is backing the election but not the referendum.
The referendum has received international criticism for failure to be “inclusive, participatory or transparent” and for being “unconstitutional and illegal.”
US support for the election is more confusing.