Haiti President Jovenel Mose was assassinated and his wife was injured in an attack on their residence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said unidentified gunmen entered the property at 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
He has issued a nationwide call for calm and declared a state of emergency.
BREAKING: Haiti's communications secretary says police have arrested the "presumed assassins" of President Jovenel Moïse. https://t.co/o2BjlroxvG
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 8, 2021
The assassinated president has been in power for several years
Mr Mose had been the president of Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, since 2017, but he has faced overwhelming calls for his resignation.
Coups, political instability, and rampant gang violence have characterized the country’s recent history.
Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, tweeted that he was “saddened” by MrMose’s death, calling it “a disgusting act” and urging calm. President of the United States Joe Biden expressed his sympathies to the Haitian people for the “horrific assassination.”
Martine Mose, the first lady, is said to have arrived by plane in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for treatment. Her condition is unknown at this time.
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Mr Joseph described the president’s assassination as a “heinous, inhumane, and cruel act,” claiming that the perpetrators were “foreigners who spoke English and Spanish.” Creole and French are the official languages of Haiti.
According to some stories, men clad in dark and using high-powered guns pretended to be part of a US narcotics enforcement operation, however, no official details have been provided. Bocchi Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, stated there was “no chance” the attack was carried out by US drug operatives. It was the work of “professional mercenaries,” he believed.
Mr Joseph promised the killers would be brought to justice and that the security situation was “in control” in his address to the country. The state of emergency, sometimes known as a “state of siege,” provides for the prohibition of public meetings and the employment of the military as a police force, among other executive powers.
“All means have been made to assure continuity,” Mr Joseph said, adding that “democracy and the republic will win.” However, there are still concerns about Mr Joseph’s ability to exert authority.
In the event of a presidential vacancy, Haiti’s constitution states that ministers, led by the prime minister, will take power until elections can be called.
US opinion on the country’s elections
But it is also unknown, as MrMose Haiti president recently named a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, who has yet to be sworn in. Later, the US stated that elections should take place this year in order to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
For 50 years, the United States has been Haiti’s largest donor, but it has had a tumultuous relationship with some of the country’s rulers, resulting in a series of blockades and interventions. In addition, the government has strong counter-narcotics links with Haiti in order to prevent South American drugs from being smuggled via the country and into the United States.
On Wednesday, the streets of Port-au-Prince appeared to be fairly tranquil.
“We are on our mobile phones, our radios, our televisions, waiting for what happens next… everyone is afraid,” one neighbour, Pascale Solages, told the BBC.
The Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti has been ordered: “immediately closed.”