2:00 p.m. UPDATE
Editor’s Note: This is a breaking news story. We will provide updates as new information is confirmed.
President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home in Pèlerin, Port-au-Prince overnight, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph wrote in a statement.
First Lady Martine Moïse was also shot and is being treated at the hospital, Joseph said.
Contrary to other reports, Le Nouvelliste senior editor Frantz Duval said Martine Moïse isn’t dead and that she will be evacuated to a foreign hospital.
The gunmen were unidentified, Joseph said. They were speaking in Spanish and English. Ski masks were reportedly seen in front Moïse’s home after his murder.
A video obtained exclusively by The Haitian Times shows someone laying on the ground in a darkened road in the early morning hours of Wednesday, and people who may be law enforcement at the scene.
Another video of someone unseen in the dark saying “DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] operation. Everybody, stand down” went viral. But it hasn’t been confirmed that DEA was at the scene and it’s highly unlikely for them to break into a president’s home.
Joseph declared that Haiti is under siege in an address to the nation but didn’t provide further details about it. It was later announced in a decree that Haiti will be under siege and in mourning for 15 days, starting from July 8.
“President Jovenel Moïse will not die without justice,” Joseph said. “You can kill President Jovenel Moïse but you can’t kill his ideas.”
Hours after the assassination, Jean-Rebel Dorcénat, coordinator of the disarmament force, was arrested alongside two other individuals as they were driving toward the Dominican Republic. They were caught at Belladère, a commune near the Haitian-Dominican border in the central department. It is not clear yet if the arrest is linked to Moïse’s murder.
Multiple businesses and markets in Port-au-Prince are closed and the streets are mostly empty. The U.S. Embassy also closed and urged American citizens living in Haiti to avoid demonstrations and any large gatherings of people in a security alert.
Former Senator Moïse Jean-Charles’s home was ransacked then set on fire. Jean-Charles is a member of the opposition and ran for president against Moïse in 2016.
Another rival of Moïse, Dr. Reginald Boulos, denounced the assassination in a statement.
“The assassination of President Moïse is a sad day for Haiti, and I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this savage act,” Dr. Boulos said. “Violence has no place in Haiti. We will pray for justice for the entire Moise family amid this horrific tragedy. The Haitian people must unite around a common purpose to deliver peace and security to Haiti.”
Haitian-Americans woke up this morning to news that Moïse had been assassinated in the middle of the night at his home. On social media and as they got ready for their day, many expressed sadness at not only the death of the country’s head of states, but also what it means for the country.
“I feel sad, they did everything to make this guy go away and this is the final thing that they did,” said Pierre Paul, 36, a Moïse supporter based in Norwalk, Connecticut. “Oh, he’s the problem, no you’re the problem. This guy is the first president in my lifetime who was doing something and exposed so much.”
The killing came just days after Moïse named a new prime minister and granted financial clearance known as “décharge” to former ministers and prime ministers who served the country between February 7, 1991 and February 7, 2017.
This decree comes after the appointment of neurosurgeon Ariel Henry as the newest prime minister under Moïse. As a former minister of interior, Henry would have needed a “décharge” from parliament to serve in his new role.
JetBlue, Sunrise Airways and American Airlines have canceled all flights in Haiti. However, flights from major airports like John F. Kennedy International Airport and Miami International are still operating to-and-from Haiti.
Elsewhere, the Dominican Republic closed its border with Haiti.
Moïse was Haiti’s 58th president and came into the role in February 2017 amid controversial elections. He was dogged from the beginning by several prolonged crises during his tenure, including the PetroCaribe fuel scandal and the armed gangs who had been terrorizing residents for months.
On February 7, Moïse said several invaders tried to assassinate him in a failed coup d’état plot to force him from power.
Moïse is the third president to be assassinated. Haiti’s first head of state Jean-Jacques Dessalines was killed in 1806 and Vilbrun Sam in 1915.
“They’ve been killing presidents since 1806,” said Moïse in July 2020. “Today, I tell you people, you put me in power but I went through a lot because of that power you gave me. I can’t explain the tribulations I went through.”
Edens Desbas, Long Island-based radio journalist
“Whatever happened to the country you see there is a lot of people dying, Monferrier Dorval… there is no justice and I think the insecurity, nobody can control that. And Jovenel created too many enemies, [in] different spots. The private sector, the political class and his own people like Martelly, Martelly was one of his biggest enemies.”
Charles-Edouard Denis, Pétion-Ville based business owner (currently in Florida)
“I’m very very shocked because I woke up around 3:30, 4 o’clock. I saw messages from so many different groups and family members asking if everybody’s okay. That was the last thing on our minds however there’s been a lot of talk.”
“I don’t think he deserved that at all. I think he deserved to be arrested and judged.”
“Already there’s a succession discussion happening and I think that’s going to bring about more violence as well. To tell you the truth I thought these days were behind us in Haiti.”
An earlier version of the story said that Martine Moïse died from the shooting but The Haitian Times has yet to confirm this information.
Reporter Samuel Celiné contributed to this report.