Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, per Reuters, and the situation there worsened drastically on Wednesday with the overnight assassination of President Jovenel Moise in his home. There are no updates yet on the suspected identity of the gunmen, some of whom were reportedly overheard speaking Spanish (Haiti is French-speaking) during the 1am attack, nor on the condition of Moise's wife, Martine Moise, who was also shot. The latest developments, plus context:
- CNN initially reported that the line of succession was unclear, in that typically the president of Haiti's Supreme Court would assume the role as president in this case, but Rene Sylvestre recently died of COVID and was due to be buried today. Moise had just on Monday named a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, who was tasked with preparing for presidential and legislative elections slated for Sept. 26. His predecessor, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, has apparently taken the leadership role, though the New York Times notes it's unclear "how long [that] might last."
- Technically, Joseph can't replace Moise, because he would need Parliament's OK to do so. That's a problem. CNN paints an overall scene of "political instability, with many key roles in the country's government already empty and the Parliament effectively defunct." Didier Le Bret, a former French ambassador to Haiti, echoes that: "There is no more Parliament, the Senate is missing for a long time, there's no president of the Court of Cassation."
- The Washington Post explains the nitty-gritty of Moise's much-debated term length. The opposition (and constitutional scholars and legal experts as well) maintained his five-year term was up on Feb. 7, 2021. By Moise's count, he had one more year to go. The 2015-2016 presidential election was such a contentious mess that Moise wasn't sworn in until Feb. 7, 2017. He says the five-year clock started then; opposition groups say it started on Feb. 7, 2016, the day his predecessor, Michel Martelly, stepped down. The US State Department agreed with Moise's view.
- He has been ruling by decree since January 2020, the point when parliamentary terms expired and scheduled elections didn't take place. There was an uproar in the streets after his non-exit in February, and 23 people were arrested on Feb. 7 and accused of plotting to assassinate Moise. "The goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life," Moise then said, per the Post. "That plan was aborted."
- The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a security alert that reads, "Due to an ongoing security situation, the US Embassy is restricting its direct-hire US citizen staff to the Embassy compounds in Tabarre until further notice. The Embassy will be closed today, including for consular services. Please avoid unnecessary travel in this area at this time." Reuters reports the Dominican Republic is closing its border with Haiti.
- A woman who lives near Moise's home and heard the attack described it like so to the AP: "I thought there was an earthquake, there was so much shooting."
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