The Haitian group in Houston is “shocked and saddened” by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse
For many in the Haitian community in Houston, the news came in the same way on Wednesday morning. First a text message and then a steady stream of family and friends. President Jovenel Moïse had been murdered overnight and his wife, First Lady Martine Moïse, had also been shot.
The assassination came as a shock worldwide, but for the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Haitians, the Houston Moïse assassination was another tragic development for a country ravaged by natural disasters, political unrest and gang violence.
“Unfortunately, Haiti has experienced political violence for a long time and, moreover, democracy has never fully taken hold, but every life lost is a tragedy and it is very devastating to hear from President Moïse and his wife,” said Shirley Laneaut, President of the nonprofit Houston Haitians United.
Moïse was shot dead overnight by a group of armed men who attacked him at his home in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Martine Moïse was reportedly in critical but stable condition in a Miami hospital on Wednesday night.
The interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph took power in Haiti and declared a “state of siege” and closed the country’s international airport. Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, said the attack was “carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers – well orchestrated” and that they impersonated agents for the US Drug Administration.
53-year-old Moïse had been the subject of widespread protests in recent months calling for the president to resign after ruling by decree for more than a year. Parliamentary elections are to be held in Haiti this year.
Houston Haitians United claims to be an “apolitical” group, although Co-Founder and Vice-Chair Sledge Leonidas stated that Moïse was the “duly elected President of Haiti” and that they were, if not all, of his efforts to revise the Haitian Constitution supported his other policies.
“People are shocked, people are sad, people are desperate for change, they want their country to flourish. This is the current state of Haiti right now, but we have been described as resilient people and as the first independent black country, Haiti is still beautiful, ”Laneaut said.
For Richard Alexandre, 45, who lives in Katy, the most pressing concern was the safety of family and friends in Haiti. The family told him that the streets of Port-au-Prince were mostly empty and residents were glued to their televisions and radios, but he was concerned about the potential for unrest.
The president of the country’s Supreme Court, which the Haitian Constitution would have adopted for Moïse, died of COVID-19 earlier this year, and Joseph is only serving temporarily.
“Some of the things I’ve tried to communicate with them about are just trying to get supplies for their home, water and food, basically like trying to prepare for a hurricane in case rioting precedes theirs Door arrive and you have to stay home and take cover, ”said Alexandre.
Alexandre hopes the Biden government, which has called the killing a “hideous act”, will step in to secure Haiti.
Despite the impending uncertainty, Leonidas said he was “hopefully that a better Haiti can emerge from this bloodshed if we take pages in history from other countries that have seen riots”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.