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Assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was accused of being a dictator who was “among the worst in recent memory” — and had recently warned of a planned coup and attempt on his life.
Moïse — the 53-year-old leader shot dead Wednesday in his home by “mercenaries” claiming to be DEA agents — had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections, which led to Parliament being dissolved.
Just last month, the US condemned the systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and attacks on the press in Haiti.
Opposition leaders had repeatedly demanded he step down — and thousands had taken to the streets in numerous demonstrations over recent years.
In February, he rounded up 23 opponents, claiming that they planned to kill him.
His morbid premonition came true Wednesday in a hit that interim leader Claude Joseph called “hateful, inhumane and barbaric” — words that many of Moïse’s opponents would have said were equally fit to describe his leadership.
What is Jovenel Moïse’s background?
Jovenel Moïse was born into a middle-class family in Trou-du-Nord in June 1968, the son of merchant Etienne Moïse and seamstress Lucia Bruno, according to his bio on Caribbean elections.
After the family moved to the capital, Port-au-Prince, when he was 6, Moïse studied at the Don Durélin National School, the Lycée Toussaint Louverture, and the Cultural Center of the Collège Canado-Haïtien.
He studied political science at Université Quisqueya, where he met his future wife, a classmate.
Following university, he started an auto parts business as well as a 25-acre banana plantation, before opening a water plant, according to the bio.
After rising up through a local chamber of commerce, he also worked at bringing solar power to the poverty-stricken nation.
The future president then burst onto the political scene in 2015, when then-President Michel Martelly designated Moïse the presidential candidate of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party.
He was declared the winner in November 2016, despite an earlier controversy in which he had claimed to have more than 30 percent of the vote while a poll had it at just 6 percent.
Who is Moïse’s family?
The president’s first lady — who was also injured Wednesday by the assassins — was his college sweetheart.
Martine Moïse, 47, was a fellow student at Université Quisqueya, with the pair marrying in 1996, remaining together until the deadly attack this week.
A “well-known businesswoman,” according to the First Ladies and Spouses of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (SCLAN), she also entered politics in 2015 to support her husband’s presidential bid.
After his controversial win, she was formally made first lady on Feb. 7, 2017.
The ruling couple had three children — Jomarlie, Joverlein and Jovenel Jr. It was not immediately clear where they were at the time of the attack.
The first lady has devoted herself to children’s rights causes, SCLAN said, using the slogan, “All for the children.”
What was Moïse’s presidency like?
Moïse’s rule has been one of the most controversial in the troubled nation’s history — with opposition leaders branding him a cold-blooded dictator who was governing illegally.
He had ruled by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections, which led to Parliament being dissolved.
Many also questioned him taking office in the first place, having won with just under 600,000 votes in a country of 11 million.
Opposition leaders had accused him of seeking to increase his power, including approving a decree that limited the powers of courts and creating an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.
His assassination came just a day after he announced a new prime minister, Ariel Henry — the seventh of his short presidency.
The UN on June 30 had condemned a systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and attacks on the press in Haiti.
US officials had also accused members of Moïse’s administration of conspiring with brutal street gangs in cracking down on anti-government demonstrators.
That allegedly included a 2018 attack in which 71 people were killed, over 400 houses destroyed and at least seven women raped by armed gangs, according to the US Treasury Department.
In 2019, thousands took to the streets to demand his removal from office — with protests continuing regularly since then.
Earlier this year, Haiti’s ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, conceded in a letter to the Washington Post that Moise’s presidency was branded “among the worst in recent memory” and blamed as the “root” of the nation’s violent unrest.
André Michel, one of Haiti’s top opposition leaders, recently issued a nine-page document criticizing Moïse and his administration.
“Its catastrophic governance, built on corruption and the systematic violation of human rights, has raised drastic discontent among the Haitian population,” Michel said.
Did Moïse have any enemies?
Moïse insisted he was the subject of assassination attempts in February when he justified arresting 23 powerful opponents, including a Supreme Court judge.
“The dream of those people was an attempt on my life,” Moïse claimed as he addressed the nation from the Port-au-Prince airport, the Washington Post reported at the time.
He insisted he was “not a dictator” as his administration condemned what it alleged had been a planned “coup.”
Opponents, however, called the coup claim a “big joke” and said it was used to justify “kidnapping” opponents, the BBC said at the time.
But his assassination also came amid a huge spike in gang violence, including kidnappings for ransom — some even tied to the administration.
The violence only added to the anger in a country where 60 percent of the population makes less than $2 a day.
His death also came during yet more political upheaval in the nation, which in the coming months was to have elections for president, a new parliament and local government officials.
Just a day before the attack, he had announced his new prime minister, Henry.
Henry was to replace Joseph, who had been in the position just three months, and who on Wednesday after Moïse’s death said he had taken control of the nation after the “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
This long list of political opponents and protesters both internationally and domestically would suggest he had no shortage of enemies. However, no suspects or motives have so far been given for his murder.
With Post wires
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