(Update 2: Adds info about declaration of state of siege, reactions from int’l community)
Port-au-Prince, Jul 7 (EFE).- Haiti’s interim prime minister declared a state of siege on Wednesday, taking that step after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated during an early morning attack on his residence.
Claude Joseph, who was accompanied by National Police Director Leon Charles and other authorities, made the announcement in a televised address after presiding over an extraordinary Cabinet meeting, saying that “all measures have been taken to ensure the continuity of the state.”
The head of government, who is now leading the country, condemned the “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act,” said that Haiti’s National Police and armed forces have the security situation under control and called for calm in the restive Caribbean nation.
He vowed that Moise’s assassins will be brought to justice and sent his condolences to the family and friends of Moise, whom he described as a “very brave” man.
In a statement earlier Wednesday, Joseph said first lady Martine Moise also suffered a gunshot wound in the attack and required medical attention.
Joseph, who was due to be replaced this week, said the attack was carried out at around 1 am Wednesday by an unidentified group of armed assailants at Moise’s private residence in Port-au-Prince, adding that those individuals were speaking English and Spanish.
The streets of Port-au-Prince were calm and practically empty after the assassination, with members of the National Police controlling access to the Pelerin 5 neighborhood where Moise’s residence is located.
The airport in Port-au-Prince has been closed, with flights due to land in the Haitian capital either re-routed elsewhere or canceled, while the Dominican Republic has shut its four border crossings with Haiti and also suspended cross-border air operations with the neighboring country.
Reactions poured in from the international community after Moise’s assassination.
US President Joe Biden condemned the killing as a “heinous act,” saying that although his administration needs much more information it is a very worrisome sign of the depths of Haiti’s political crisis.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on first lady Martine Moise of Haiti,” Biden said. “We stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for his part, condemned the assassination and issued a call for unity and the preservation of the constitutional order.
In September 2019, thousands took to the streets to call for Moise’s resignation amid widespread corruption, fuel shortages, hunger and insecurity in the impoverished country.
Moise’s assassination came two months before presidential and legislative elections slated for Sept. 26.
The 53-year-old Moise would have been ineligible to run, but authorities scheduled a referendum on a new constitution on the same day. Moise backed the measure, saying it was needed to strengthen the powers of the president, but it was unpopular with the country’s opposition and the international community.
Moise came to power in early 2017 after winning the presidential election in the first round. Two weeks before his inauguration, he testified before a judge on money-laundering charges stemming from an investigation opened in 2013, accusations that he denied.
Although Moise and his supporters maintained that he had another year left in his term, the opposition said he should have handed over power in February of this year, or five years after Haiti’s previous popularly elected president, Michel Martelly, had left office. EFE