At around 1:00am on Wednesday July 7, a group of unidentified people, including some speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president, mortally wounding the head of state. The First Lady suffered bullet injuries and was in hospital, said a statement released by Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph’s office.
Joseph said he was now in charge of the country. CNN reports Haiti’s borders and international airport are closed and martial law has been imposed after the interim prime minister declared a “state of siege.”
With Haiti politically divided, and facing a growing humanitarian crisis and shortages of food, there are fears of widespread disorder. The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border it shares with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.
Moise had been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree, after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed in the wake of disputes, including on when his own term ends.
In addition to the political crisis, kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months, further reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.
Haiti also faces chronic poverty and recurrent natural disasters.
U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the attack and expressed condolences in a statement issued by the White House.
“We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” the statement said.
Biden called the attack “worrisome,” adding that “we need a lot more information” while responding to a reporter’s question before boarding Marine One enroute to Joint Base Andrews Wednesday morning.