Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated early Wednesday (July 7) in an attack at his private residence by an unidentified group, officials reported. The nation’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, released a statement about the deadly attack, calling it a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.” First Lady Martine Moïse was also hospitalized, according to Joseph’s statement.
“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph said. “Democracy and the republic will win.”
Moïse was a controversial figure in the nation’s government, as critics called for him to step down February of this year, based on a constitutional provision that starts a president’s term when he is elected, not when he takes office.
The president’s death comes as violence in Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince has escalated in recent weeks, prompting officials to increase police presence in the National Palace and particular neighborhoods.
According to CNN, the US Embassy in Haiti was closed following the attack, citing security threats. The outlet reported that the line of succession was disrupted after the person who would have taken over, the President of the Supreme Court, died recently after contracting COVID-19. While in office, Moïse failed to hold elections at the national and local levels, leaving much of the country’s governing infrastructure effectively defunct.
General elections were scheduled to take place in the country later this year.
Leaders around the world have expressed their condolences, and condemned the assassination.