PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, a former banana producer and political neophyte who ruled Haiti for more than four years as the country grew increasingly unstable under his watch, was killed on Wednesday. He was 53.
Moïse was assassinated at his private home following “a highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group,” interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said. His wife, Martine Moïse, was injured in the attack and remains hospitalized.
“Haiti has lost a true statesman,” Joseph said. “We will ensure that those responsible for this heinous act are swiftly brought to justice.”
Moïse took office in February 2017, pledging to strengthen institutions, fight corruption and bring more investments and jobs to the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. But his administration was plagued by massive protests from the start, and critics accused him of growing increasingly authoritarian.
Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than a year after Parliament was dissolved and lawmakers failed to organize legislative elections. He was widely criticized for approving decrees, including one that that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.
Political and economic instability deepened in recent months, with widespread protests paralyzing the country of more than 11 million people. In addition, gangs in the capital of Port-au-Prince have grown more powerful, with more than 14,700 people driven from their homes last month alone as gangs set fire to homes and ransacked them.
In addition, 15 people were killed during a June 29 shooting rampage in the capital, including a journalist and well-known political activist. Officials blamed a group of rogue police officers but have not provided any evidence.
Moïse is survived by his wife and three children.
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press writer John Rice in Mexico City contributed to this report.
Dánica Coto And Evens Sanon, The Associated Press