Haiti Authorities Intensify Manhunt After President Jovenel Moïse’s Assassination

Haiti Authorities Intensify Manhunt After President Jovenel Moïse’s Assassination

Despite the news on social media of the apparent assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, the Haitian government continued to operate as normal.

After the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian authorities have intensified their manhunt to find those responsible. The fact that the president was shot as he entered the National Palace was particularly troubling to Haitian authorities, since it was a point of great national pride that the president visited the building every day. Since the assassination, the government has been acting with special vigor in the search for those responsible. Up to 12,000 troops and police are being deployed to scour the country to find those who conspired to kill the president. The government’s desire to find those responsible is based on a desire to restore the integrity of the presidency in Haiti and to prevent further violence in the country.

Haiti’s interim prime minister has stated that his government is stepping up the search for criminals following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and is arresting several suspects involved in the killing that took place amid a sharp escalation in gang violence.

During a press conference with the country’s police chief on Thursday afternoon, Claude Joseph also called on citizens to come together. Seventeen people were arrested, including 15 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans, according to authorities in Port-au-Prince, and at least three were killed in gunfights with security forces.

I am asking the public to hand over anyone who caught them to the police, otherwise we will not know what really happened, the Prime Minister said. We need to understand the motivations of these people. We cannot let this action go unpunished.

The murder took place around 1:00 a.m. A precision operation was conducted Wednesday at the president’s residence, the crime scene investigator told The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Moses’ guards, housekeeper and butler were all tied up. The killers then shot the president 12 times with large-caliber bullets, including one in the forehead, the investigator said. He also had a dislocated eye.

Haitian police said they have killed four suspects and arrested two others following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. His assassination caused further political turmoil in a country long plagued by anarchy and economic problems. Photo: Joseph Odelin/Associated Press

Joseph said justice will be done to Moises’ family, including the late president’s wife, Martina, who was injured in the attack and taken to Miami for treatment.

Joseph was trying to reassure a nation of 11 million people that has been plagued in recent months by violence from gangs that people familiar with the country’s politics say have ties to powerful people in politics and business.

On Thursday, Haitian police arrested two men they believe were among the suspects, and images surfaced on social media of a crowd beating them up in a Port-au-Prince slum.

Men – one of them in shirt sleeves, bloodied, with a rope tied to his hands – were shown leading young men through the streets, one of them screaming: Come on, come on! Police intervened and led the men away from the crowd. Last Thursday, the government showed on live television a group of arrested suspects – some of whom appeared beaten – on the ground, surrounded by security forces.

Two suspects, believed to be Americans, are among those arrested, the prime minister’s spokesman said.

The goal is to find the killers, especially the spiritual perpetrators, said Police Chief Leon Charles.

Ned Price,

a State Department spokesman, said the U.S. government was aware of media reports that American citizens had been arrested, but declined to provide further details, leaving the floor to Haitian officials.

Charles added that five vehicles used in the attack were seized, although the Haitians set fire to three of them. He added that weapons and other materials were also seized.

Calls for citizens to arrest foreigners attending the rally – government officials said some spoke Spanish or English – raised fears that the crowd would beat up innocent people.

Haitian police and forensic experts search for evidence outside the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

Photo:

Valérie Baerisville/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The fear now is that Haitians will attack any Spaniard they encounter on the street, said Marie Rosie Auguste, a human rights activist in Port-au-Prince. The risk of human rights violations against Hispanics is very high.

UN special envoy to Haiti Helen La Lim said Mr Joseph had told her he would stay on as prime minister before the first round of Haiti’s legislative and presidential elections in September.

She said people should put aside their differences, find a common way forward and overcome this difficult time peacefully.

After her briefing to the UN Security Council, La Limet said Haiti had asked for security assistance, but that it needed to be clarified what kind of assistance the country wanted.

A car with bullet holes was parked in front of the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

Photo:

Valérie Baerisville/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Some residents blame the late Mr. Moïse for the violence that has plagued Haiti since he took office. The violence has escalated in recent weeks as Mr Moise, who was elected in 2016 but could not stand for another year because of the unrest, refused to leave office in February when his opponents said his term had expired.

The gangs have almost total control, said Gedeon Jean, a lawyer who heads the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, an organization in Haiti that monitors the country’s politics.

In Haiti, however, leaders fund gangs to challenge political and business rivals, according to people familiar with the country’s gang structure.

We cannot say that the gangs killed the President, Mr. Gedeon said. But the gangs become very influential and turn into a revolutionary force.

Pierre Esperance, director of the Haitian National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, estimates that criminal gangs in Haiti control up to 60 percent of the country. Their power poses a real threat to the country’s already strained democracy. Right now it is impossible to hold free elections in Haiti because the gangs are in control, he said.

The main reason, according to residents, is the fear of being killed or kidnapped. In June, 150 people were killed and there were about 200 kidnappings, Jean said.

Esperance, who is investigating the killings in a country where they often go unsolved, accuses government-linked gangs of killing at least 437 people and missing 129 others.

A representative for Mr. Joseph did not respond to calls for comment. Senior officials in Mr. Moïse’s government deny any connection with the gangs.

One of the gang leaders, Jimmy Sherizier, a former police officer who last year became the leader of the G9 gang alliance that human rights activists say sides with the government, called for Mr. Moise’s resignation in a recent video. Sir, I want to thank you for your support. Cherizier made his request while the gang members, their faces masked by balaclavas, waved machetes in the air.

In 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two senior Haitian officials in Moïse’s government for allegedly plotting with Cherizier the 2018 La Salina massacre, in which attackers killed 71 people and burned 400 homes. The gang members abducted their victims, including children, from their homes and executed them in the street. The bodies were then burned, dismembered and fed to animals, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

One of Haiti’s most influential gang leaders, Jimmy Cherizier, has recorded a video calling on President Moses to leave the country, it was revealed in June.

Photo:

reynald k. petitfrer/reuters

According to the United States, the two officers provided the criminals with police uniforms, weapons and vehicles.

Since the days of François Pape Doc Duvalier, the dictator who ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1971, Haitian presidents and dictators have relied on shadowy security forces to stay in power. Mr. Moïse was no different, said Luis Moreno, the former acting U.S. ambassador to Haiti.

He quickly realized he needed to form alliances with them, Moreno said. They rule the streets.

In the face of a worsening political crisis, Haiti could go from chaos to outright anarchy, he said.

-Jose de Cordoba and Kejal Vias contributed to this article.

Email Juan Forero at [email protected] and Juan Montes at [email protected]

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