Haiti’s first lady flown to Miami for treatment after husband’s assassination


The First Lady of Haiti was airlifted to Southern Florida on Wednesday afternoon for treatment at a Miami hospital after being shot multiple times during a nighttime assassination raid that killed President Jovenel Moise.

Moise, 53, was assassinated at the couple’s residence in Port-Au-Prince in the early hours of Wednesday by a band of gunmen posing as agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

The brazen assassination inflicted further chaos on the Caribbean nation, the poorest in the Americas, which was already enduring gang violence, soaring inflation and protests against Mr Moise’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has declared a ‘state of siege’ and locked down Port-Au-Prince, halting all flights to and from the Hatian capital, while neighboring Dominican Republic has mobilized its military to the border.  

The Hatian president’s 47-year-old wife, Martine Moise, also suffered multiple gunshot injuries during the deadly attack, and was airlifted in critical condition to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where she arrived at 3.30pm, reported WPLG-TV.

She was then transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for medical treatment. Officials said her vital signs were stable but her condition was still critical.

Mrs Moise sustained gunshot wounds to her arms and thigh, along with unspecified but severe injuries to her abdomen and hand, the ABC affiliate reported.

Trinity Air Ambulance touches down at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida, carrying a gravely injured Martine Moise, Haiti’s First Lady 

Martine Moise, 53, suffered multiple gunshot wounds during her husband's assassination in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, overnight

Martine Moise, 53, suffered multiple gunshot wounds during her husband’s assassination in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, overnight 

Moise was taken by ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for treatment

Moise was taken by ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for treatment 

Officials said the patient's vitals were stable by critical after she suffered multiple gunshot wounds

Officials said the patient’s vitals were stable by critical after she suffered multiple gunshot wounds 

President Jovenel Moise, 53, and First Lady Martine, 47. The First Lady was wounded in the attack and airlifted to the US

President Jovenel Moise, 53, and First Lady Martine, 47. The First Lady was wounded in the attack and airlifted to the US

President Joe Biden said he was ‘shocked’ by the assassination and that ‘a lot’ more information is needed.

‘We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on First Lady Martine Moise,’ the US President said in a statement. ‘We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moise’s recovery.’

Speaking to reporters as he left for a trip to Chicago, Biden called the incident ‘very worrisome’.   

A group of ‘foreigners’, some of whom spoke English and Spanish, broke into Mr Moise’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince at around 1am on Wednesday, according to a statement by the French-speaking country’s prime minister. 

Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph described the attack on the president and First Lady as a ‘hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.’ 

The prime minister identified the mercenaries as a mix of Haitians and natives of Colombia and Venezuela, according to local reporter Alexander Gálvez, who spoke to Colombian radio station Blu Radio.

Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, said the assailants’ whereabouts remained unknown as of Wednesday. He added they may have left the country – likely to the neighboring Dominican Republic, a Spanish-speaking country.

‘We don’t know if they left,’ Edmond said. ‘If they are not in the country right now, there is only one way for them to leave and that is through the borders because there is no plane.’ 

Edmond said that had the attackers attempted to escape on a private plane, civil aviation authorities would have detected the aircraft. However, movement across the Haiti-Dominican Republic border region could have gone undetected. 

Dominican Republic newspaper El Día reported that government officials had instructed authorities at its four airports to question any Colombian national leaving the country.

In footage purportedly recorded by a witness, someone with an American accent shouts into a megaphone: ‘DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.’ 

Footage circulating in Haitian WhatsApp groups purports to show men with rifles arriving at the president's home last night

Footage purports to show men arriving at the president's home last night

Footage circulating in Haitian WhatsApp groups purports to show men with rifles arriving at the president’s home last night

Footage circulating online purportedly taken by a neighbour of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property

Footage purportedly taken by a neighbour of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property

Footage circulating online purportedly taken by a neighbour of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property

Members of the Haitian police and forensics mark a bullet on the street as they look for evidence outside of the presidential residence on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Members of the Haitian police and forensics mark a bullet on the street as they look for evidence outside of the presidential residence on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

A Haitian police officer stands guard outside of the presidential residence on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

A Haitian police officer stands guard outside of the presidential residence on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise has been assassinated by gunmen claiming to be DEA agents in a nighttime raid on his home that also left his wife seriously injured, according to reports (pictured with his wife Martine in October 2018)

The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise has been assassinated by gunmen claiming to be DEA agents in a nighttime raid on his home that also left his wife seriously injured, according to reports (pictured with his wife Martine in October 2018)

Gunfire then erupts in the video which was uploaded to Instagram by someone who says they were in the Pelerin 5 neighbourhood, where the president’s house is located. 

The assailants were pretending to be from the US Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) and were ‘mercenaries,’ a government source told The Miami Herald.

Mr Moise had been accused of turning Haiti into a dictatorship, refusing to relinquish the presidency after his term ended earlier this year, using armed thugs to spread fear and trying to change the constitution to consolidate power – including installing an intelligence agency that answered directly to him. 

He was killed a day after he nominated Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as the new prime minister. Mr Henry, the eighth PM in the last four years, was due to take over later this week from Mr Joseph, who had been named as interim in April.   

Residents last night reported hearing high-powered rounds and saw men dressed in black sprinting through the neighbourhood. There were also claims of a grenade going off and drones being deployed. 

Further videos purportedly taken by a neighbour show men with rifles arriving outside the president’s house. It is not clear whether they are from the country’s security forces or if they are the assassins.

PM Joseph, who earlier said he had taken charge of the country, declared a ‘state of siege’ on Wednesday which grants him additional powers.

‘II have just chaired an extraordinary council of ministers meeting and we have decided to declare a state of siege throughout the country,’ the prime minister said.

He said that the police and armed forces were taking ‘all measures to guarantee the continuity of the State and protect the Nation.’

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from South Florida, released a statement that read in part: ‘I was shocked by the news about the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse and to learn that his wife, Martine, also was shot during the attack. My thoughts are with the people of Haiti and I pray that this will not lead to more havoc in an already extremely troubled nation.’ 

A car riddled with bullet holes outside the late president's home in the hills near Port-au-Prince on Wednesday

A car riddled with bullet holes outside the late president’s home in the hills near Port-au-Prince on Wednesday

Presidential guards patrol the entrance to the residence of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince

Presidential guards patrol the entrance to the residence of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince

Haitian security forces stand guard at the entrance to the presidential residence

Haitian security forces stand guard at the entrance to the presidential residence 

Ammunition casings lay on the ground near the entrance to the house of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise

Ammunition casings lay on the ground near the entrance to the house of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise

The entrance to Mr Moise's private residence which was raided by gunmen in the early hours of Wednesday

The entrance to Mr Moise’s private residence which was raided by gunmen in the early hours of Wednesday

Military vehicles block the entrance to Petion Ville, the neighborhood where the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise lived in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday

Military vehicles block the entrance to Petion Ville, the neighborhood where the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise lived in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday

Soldiers patrol in Petion Ville, the neighbourhood where the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise lived in Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday after the shooting

Soldiers patrol in Petion Ville, the neighbourhood where the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise lived in Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday after the shooting

US-based Haitian singer-songwriter Wyclef Jean tweeted about the assassination on Wednesday morning

US-based Haitian singer-songwriter Wyclef Jean tweeted about the assassination on Wednesday morning

The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his home in the Pelerin 5 neighbourhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince

The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his home in the Pelerin 5 neighbourhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince

World leaders condemn Moise’s assassination and warn more unrest could follow 

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he was ‘shocked’ by the assassination of Haiti’s president and that ‘a lot’ more information is needed.

‘We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on First Lady Martine Moise,’ Biden said in a statement.

‘We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moise’s recovery,’ he added.

Speaking to reporters as he left for a trip to Chicago, Biden called the incident ‘very worrisome’ and said ‘we need a lot more information.’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the killing by still unidentified assailants was a ‘horrific attack’ and said ‘we will be helpful in any way to the people of Haiti, to the government of Haiti if there’s an investigation.’

The White House was ‘still gathering information,’ she told MSNBC television. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was ‘shocked and saddened at the death of President Moise.’

‘Our condolences are with his family and the people of Haiti,’ he added. ‘This is an abhorrent act and I call for calm at this time.’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the assassination.

‘I’d like to make an appeal for political unity to get out of this terrible trauma that the country is going through,’ Sanchez said during a visit to Latvia.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that the shooting risked the start of ‘instability and a spiral of violence.’

Borrell added: ‘The perpetrators of this assassination must be found and brought to justice.’  

Dominican President Luis Abinader condemned the killing, saying on Twitter the crime ‘undermines the democratic order in Haiti and the region.’

He offered condolences to the family of Moise and his wife Martine, who was wounded, and to the Haitian people. 

Colombian President Ivan Duque condemned what he called a ‘cowardly act’ and expressed solidarity with Haiti. He called for an urgent mission by the Organization of American States ‘to protect democratic order.’ 

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered her condolences in a statement on Twitter.

‘We wish the First Lady a prompt recovery, & stand together with our ally Haiti in this difficult time,’ Tsai wrote. Haiti is one of the few countries in the world that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was ‘shocked and saddened at the death of Mr Moise’, calling it ‘an abhorrent act’ and appealing for calm. 

Mr Moise’s death comes after he claimed police had foiled an assassination plot in February amid massive protests in the country over claims the president was acting like a dictator and refusing to hold elections. 

In response, the former auto parts dealer had 23 people arrested who he said were behind the plot including a top judge and a police officer. 

‘There was an attempt on my life,’ Mr Moise said in a national address at the time. ‘I thank my head of security at the palace. The goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life. That plan was aborted.’ 

Mr Moise’s death risks throwing the country into total disarray after months of violent demonstrations and claims that the president had used armed gangsters to stay in power.  More than 14,700 people have fled their homes due to the spate of killings.

There are just 10 elected officials in the country and there is no legal framework for who should take power in the event of the president’s death. 

Some reports suggested that the next in line of succession should be the head of the Supreme court, but the judge died recently of Covid-19.

For acting PM Joseph to formally replace Mr Moise he would need the approval of Haiti’s parliament but due to the lack of recent elections the legislature is effectively defunct.  

‘There is no constitutional answer to this situation,’ Bernard Gousse, a former justice minister and legal expert, told the Herald.  

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that the shooting risked the start of ‘instability and a spiral of violence.’ Borrell added: ‘The perpetrators of this assassination must be found and brought to justice.’  

The usually busy streets of Port-au-Prince were largely empty on Wednesday morning as Haitians awoke in shock at the news.

The country’s main airport, Toussaint Louverture International Airport, was closed except for diplomatic and humanitarian flights. 

Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic ordered the ‘immediate closure’ of its land border with Haiti. The countries share a 240-mile frontier on the island of Hispaniola. Dominican President Luis Abinader condemned the killing, saying on Twitter the crime ‘undermines the democratic order in Haiti and the region.’

Thousands took the streets of the capital earlier this year to demand that Mr Moise step down and hold elections amid his efforts to make sweeping changes to the constitution so that he could cling to power.  

Opponents argue that the president, who took power in 2017, should have left office on February 7 after failing to hold elections the previous year as his term was ending. 

Mr Moise claimed his five-year term was due to end in 2022 – the United States and the United Nations had called for a free and transparent election to be held by the end of 2021. The U.S. also disagreed with his efforts to change the country’s constitution.

In an interview last year, Mr Moise defended himself against allegations of corruption and denied that he was turning the country in a dictatorship. 

‘We’re trying to find a solution to this crisis. I’m not the first president to rule by decree. And I’m confident that the answer is around the corner; then the legislature will be put in place to play its role,’ he told The Telegraph. 

Mr Moise had also faced accusations of financial impropriety and power-grabbing by limiting powers for auditing government contracts and creating an intelligence agency that only answers to the president. 

He wanted to abolish the Senate, leaving a single legislative body, and replace the post of prime minister with a vice president who answered only to him, in a bid to streamline government. 

Swathes of the population deemed his rule illegitimate, and he churned through a series of seven prime ministers in four years. Most recently, Mr Joseph was supposed to be replaced this week by Mr Henry after only three months in the post. 

Mr Henry, 71, has been part of Haiti’s coronavirus response and previously held posts in the government as interior minister, and social affairs and labour minister.

He is close to the opposition, but his appointment was not welcomed by the majority of opposition parties, who had continued to demand the president step down. 

A protestor moves from the fire during a demonstration on February 14, 2021 in Port-au-Prince

A protestor moves from the fire during a demonstration on February 14, 2021 in Port-au-Prince

Haitians demonstrate during a protest to denounce the draft constitutional referendum carried by the President Jovenel Moise

Haitians demonstrate during a protest to denounce the draft constitutional referendum carried by the President Jovenel Moise

People stage a demonstration demanding that President Jovenel Moise to give his resignation in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti on February 14, 2021

People stage a demonstration demanding that President Jovenel Moise to give his resignation in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti on February 14, 2021

The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise, 53, (pictured at the UN in New York in 2018) was shot dead in a raid on his private residence in the early hours of this morning

The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise, 53, (pictured at the UN in New York in 2018) was shot dead in a raid on his private residence in the early hours of this morning

Haiti: An island nation born in blood and ruled over by a series of dictators including the ruthless Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc

 The modern nation of Haiti was born in 1804 from a long and bloody revolution by slaves and free people of color against the French and it has suffered a turbulent history ever since.

Its first century of independence largely saw political instability with a succession of brutal dictatorships interrupted only by brief stints of democracy and foreign occupation. The US occupied the country – which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic – from 1915 to 1934.

Its most notorious leaders were the father and son dictators Pap Doc and Baby Doc, who ruled for three decades that saw an estimated 90,000 people die.

Francois Duvalier – who was known as Papa Doc for his previous career as a medical doctor – came to power as president in 1957 on a populist and black nationalist platform.

He survived a military coup the following year and his regime became one of the most repressive in the Western hemisphere, relying on its death squad, the Tonton Macoute, to kill opponents.

Duvalier solidified his rule by incorporating elements of Voodoo into a personality cult and in 1964 he declared himself as president for life.

Papa Doc promoted ‘Noirisme’, a movement that sought to highlight Haiti’s African roots over its European ones while uniting the black majority against a mulatto elite in a country divided by class and colour. 

It is estimated 60,000 people were killed before Duvalier died in 1971, passing on the presidency to his son Jean-Claude.

Baby Doc was a 19-year-old chubby playboy when he ‘inherited’ the country – one of the world’s poorest – from his despotic father after he died suddenly of an illness. 

Haitians suffered under the increasingly despotic and repressive regimes of Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc (pictured together) for three decades, with an estimated 90,000 people killed

Haitians suffered under the increasingly despotic and repressive regimes of Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc (pictured together) for three decades, with an estimated 90,000 people killed 

His son continued the oppressive regime and hundreds of political opponents were either executed or simply disappeared.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that up to 30,000 Haitians were killed, many by execution, under the regime of the two Duvaliers, which lasted nearly three decades.   

But there were some improvements for the people of Haiti under the younger Duvalier. Echoes of press freedom and personal criticism, never tolerated under his father, emerged – sporadically – because of international pressure. 

Baby Doc was a 19-year-old chubby playboy when he ¿inherited¿ the country - one of the world's poorest - from his despotic father after he died suddenly of an illness in 1971

Baby Doc was a 19-year-old chubby playboy when he ‘inherited’ the country – one of the world’s poorest – from his despotic father after he died suddenly of an illness in 1971

Still, human rights groups documented abuses and political persecution. A trio of prisons known as the ‘Triangle of Death’, which included the much-feared Fort Dimanche for long-term inmates, symbolized the brutality of his regime. 

As president, he married the daughter of a wealthy coffee merchant, Michele Bennett, in 1980. 

The wedding was a lavish affair, complete with imported champagne, flowers and fireworks. The ceremony, reported to have cost $5 million, was carried live on television to the impoverished nation.

Duvalier and his wife Michele had two children, son Francois Nicolas ‘Nico’ Duvalier and a daughter, Anya. 

Under Duvalier’s rule, Haiti saw widespread demographic changes. Peasants moved to the capital in search of work as factories popped up to meet the growing demand for cheap labor. Thousands of professionals fled a climate of repression for cities such as New York, Miami and Montreal.  

And aid began to flow from the United States and agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The tourists followed, some in search of a form of tropical hedonism that included booze, prostitution and Voodoo ceremonies for which the country became legendary. 

Tourism collapsed in the early 1980s after Florida doctors noted that an unusual number of AIDS cases were coming from Haitian emigres, even though the disease was believed to have been brought from the U.S.

But it was corruption and human rights abuses that defined Duvalier rule.

Facing accusations of corruption, torture and other human rights abuses, Duvalier fled to Paris in 1986 following mass protests, the desertion of the Tonton Macoute and pressure from the U.S. 

In the wake of the younger Duvalier’s ousting, the country turned on his security forces, slaughtering them by the thousands. 

His departure ushered in a period of halting democracy that has continued with tumultuous elections.  

Former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in the country’s first free elections in 1990. But he was overthrown in a coup, reinstated, ousted a second time and finally sent into exile under pressure from the United States, France and Canada.

Rene Preval came to power in elections in 2006, followed by former carnival singer Michel Martelly in 2011. 

Moise then won a disputed election and took power in 2017 but was soon hit by protests triggered by fuel shortages that turned violent.

He was further undermined when in 2019 court auditors investigating where $2 billion in aid from a Venezuelan oil fund had gone found that companies run by him before he became president were ‘at the heart of an embezzling scheme.’

Moise insisted he could stay on as head of state until February 7, 2022 – an interpretation of the constitution rejected by the opposition.

The businessman had governed by decree without any parliamentary checks since 2020. 

   

A group of gunmen, some of whom allegedly spoke in Spanish, broke into Mr Moise's home at around 1am on Wednesday, according to a statement from Prime Minister Claude Joseph. He said that Haiti remained under the control of the police and armed forces and 'all measures are taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and protect the Nation.'

A group of gunmen, some of whom allegedly spoke in Spanish, broke into Mr Moise’s home at around 1am on Wednesday, according to a statement from Prime Minister Claude Joseph. He said that Haiti remained under the control of the police and armed forces and ‘all measures are taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and protect the Nation.’

In addition to presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti was due to have a constitutional referendum in September after it was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Supported by Mr Moise, the text of the constitutional reform, aimed at strengthening the executive branch, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the opposition and many civil society organisations. 

Under the terms of the current constitution, written after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1987, ‘any popular consultation aimed at modifying the Constitution by referendum is formally prohibited.’ 

Haiti has struggled to maintain a semblance of democratic order despite the overthrow of 28 years of bloody dynastic rule at the hands of the notorious François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.

In recent years critics of the regime said it was impossible to organise a poll due to the general insecurity in the country and gang violence, which some claimed was deliberately controlled by Mr Moise. 

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs and a general lawlessness. 

The Caribbean island has suffered poverty and political instability for decades and has struggled to rebuild in the wake of a devastating earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. 

Haiti gained independence from colonial France after an uprising by slaves in 1804. 

However, democracy has never truly taken root in the republic which only held its first free and fair elections in 1990.

Mr Moise and his wife Martine meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2016

Mr Moise and his wife Martine meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2016

President Jovenel Moise battled deadly riots as he oversaw massive inflation, food and fuel shortages as he clung onto power

President Jovenel Moise battled violent protests as he oversaw massive inflation, food and fuel shortages in Haiti since taking power in 2017.

The poorest country in the Americas has failed to establish a working democracy since overthrowing the Duvalier dictatorship in the late 1980s.

Moise, a former auto parts salesman, took office with just 600,000 votes in the country of 11 million and faced an uphill task in holding onto his mandate.

In 2019, he faced fury over fuel and food shortages amid steep currency devaluation and corruption allegations. At least 17 people were killed and hundreds were injured in the riots. 

The anger rumbled on into the following year as Moise refused to hold elections, claiming that his five-year presidential term wasn’t due to run out until 2022. 

Haiti has struggled to achieve political stability since a popular uprising in 1986 ended 28 years of dynastic dictatorship by Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.

The last few decades have been marked by coups, unrest and foreign interventions.

Only two presidents have managed to serve their entire term. 

Successive governments have failed to spark real development in the island nation that has to regularly contend with deadly natural disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes.

The country had received much aid in the wake of the 2010 quake that killed around 300,000, but that has tapered off of late.

Moise, however, failed to cut expenses, meaning the budget deficit deepened to record levels.

The local currency depreciated against the dollar and inflation was rampant. 

More than half of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than 2.4 U.S. dollars a day, according to the World Bank.

Allegations in a report by the Superior Court of Auditors of the embezzlement of billions of dollars by public officials and those close to them, including Moise before he became president, have also sparked ire.

The PetroCaribe program included a fund for infrastructure and social projects in member countries. Opposition politicians say no serious projects were ever completed.

Moise, whom some opposition members accuse of buying votes in parliament for his prime minister nominees, has denied any wrongdoing, but his government has failed to investigate further.

Haiti ranked 161 from 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 global survey of corruption. 

As a result, many Haitians have lost faith in politics. Only 21 percent of the electorate turned out for the last presidential election in 2016.

Opposition politicians say that fact undermines the legitimacy of the presidency of Moise, a former businessman with little prior political experience.

But they have themselves failed to get voters out to polling booths, instead resorting to disrupting parliament and calling for street protests, making Haiti hard to govern.

Moise took few public steps to address peoples’ grievances, leading to massive unrest in recent years, including riots in February.   

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk