Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has been assassinated in an attack on his home, according to a statement from the country’s interim prime minister, who called the killing a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act”.
A group of unidentified individuals attacked Moïse’s private residence overnight on Wednesday and shot him dead, interim Premier Claude Joseph said.
First Lady Martine Moïse was shot in the attack and was hospitalised, Joseph said. Her condition was not immediately clear.
“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph said in a statement from his office. “Democracy and the republic will win.”
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, was already in a precarious political situation before the assassination, having grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Moïse.
Moïse, who was 53, ruled by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and the opposition demanded his resignation in recent months.
In the early hours of Wednesday, the streets were largely empty in the Caribbean nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, but some people ransacked businesses in one area.
After the attack, gunshots could be heard throughout the capital.
Joseph said police have been deployed to the National Palace and the upscale community of Pétionville and will be sent to other areas.
He said some of the attackers spoke in Spanish but offered no further explanation.
The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border it shares with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.
Haiti’s economic, political and social woes have deepened recently, with gang violence spiking heavily in Port-au-Prince, inflation spiralling and food and fuel becoming scarcer at times in a country where 60 percent of the population makes less than $2 a day.
These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.
Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, said there were still “a lot of details to be understood” about Moïse’s “shocking” assassination.