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BREAKING: Haitian President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at his private house

Haitian President Jovonel Moïse. Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, has been assassinated at his private residence, according to local reports.

The serving president of Haiti was killed at his home early Wednesday morning, the government has confirmed.

Jovonel Moïse was killed in his private residence around 1 a.m. local time Wednesday by a group of assailants, Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a Wednesday statement.

The statement did not identify the assailants, but said they were Spanish-speaking.

The First Lady suffered bullet injuries, said a statement released by Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph’s office.

Joseph described the attack as “odious, inhumane, and barbarous.”

Joseph said he was now in charge of the country.

Condemning the “inhumane and barbaric act”, Joseph called for calm, saying the police and the country’s armed forces had taken control of the security situation

Haiti has been in the throes of a political crisis.

Opposition leaders have been disputing the mandate of President Jovenel Moise, whose term most legal experts and civil society groups said ended on February 7. But the president and his supporters said his five-year term only expires in 2022.

The situation has rapidly devolved since Moise made clear he would not leave the presidency, with government officials alleging a failed coup took place.

Nearly two dozen people were arrested, including a supreme court judge and a senior police official.

Protesters angered over the president’s refusal to leave office met a crackdown in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Journalists were also injured while covering the rallies. Anger and frustration have continued to boil over into the streets.

How did Haiti get to this point – and where does it go from here?

The Constitution
Moise won a first round of elections in October 2015. But the vote was marred by widespread voter fraud and a presidential runoff was pushed back several times. A vote was held again in November 2016 and Moise won with 55.6 percent support. He officially took office on February 7, 2017.

Article 134-1 of the Haitian Constitution states, “the duration of the presidential mandate is five years. This period begins and ends on the February 7 following the date of elections”.

But Article 134-2 stipulates that “in case the vote cannot take place before February 7, the elected president takes office immediately after the vote is confirmed and his mandate is expected to begin on February 7 in the year of the election”.

The dispute is over whether Moise’s five-year term began in 2016 – after the initial elections he won – or in 2017, as the president and his supporters say.

Haiti’s electoral council postponed legislative elections indefinitely in October 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported, and Moise has been governing by decree since January 2020, when the legislature’s mandate expired.

“Moise blamed Parliament for the postponement, for failing to approve an electoral law, while his opponents accused him of manoeuvres to hijack the process,” HRW said.

In a tweet on January 13 of last year, Moise announced the close of the 50th legislature, saying the terms of all deputies in the lower house (Chamber of Deputies) were over, as were those of two-thirds of the Senate.

On June 8th June, Haiti postponed a constitutional referendum scheduled for June 27 due to the coronavirus pandemic without giving a new date for the vote, further deepening the country’s political crisis.

President Jovenel Moise has been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed following disputes on the limits of his term.

In addition to presidential, legislative and local elections in September, Moise had wanted to submit a new draft of the island nation’s constitution to a popular vote on June 27.

In May, he said he would go ahead despite international criticism that the process is not “inclusive, participatory or transparent” enough in a country plagued by political insecurity and criminal gangs.

Moise, who has been facing anger and demands he resign amid the government’s failure to rein in criminal violence, was on his sixth prime minister in four years.

In April, the country’s Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe resigned as the country struggled with political chaos.

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.

It also faces chronic poverty and recurrent natural disasters

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