(Corrects spelling of ambassador’s first name in 5th paragraph to “Bocchit” instead of “Bochhit”) By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he was shocked by the “heinous” assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and wounding of his wife Martine in their home, calling it worrisome and saying his administration needed […]
U.S. condemns ‘heinous’ assassination of Haitian leader, assessing attack
(Corrects spelling of ambassador’s first name in 5th paragraph to “Bocchit” instead of “Bochhit”)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he was shocked by the “heinous” assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and wounding of his wife Martine in their home, calling it worrisome and saying his administration needed more information.
Moise, 53, was shot dead and his wife wounded by unidentified gunmen with high-caliber weapons in his private residence overnight, stirring fears of a breakdown in order in the impoverished Caribbean nation, already reeling from rampant gang violence and facing a constitutional crisis.
“We condemn this heinous attack and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moise’s recovery,” Biden said in a statement. “The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
“We need a lot more information but it’s just, it’s very worrisome about the state of Haiti,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Illinois.
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told Reuters in an interview that his government would like help from Washington in strengthening the country’s police force, and that he would welcome U.S. security assistance in the wake of the assassination.
YEARS OF INSTABILITY
Members of the U.S. Congress condemned the attack. Republican Senator Marco Rubio called on Biden’s administration to help bring the killers to justice. Rubio’s home state, Florida, has a large Haitian-American population and he met with Moise in 2019 on a trip to the country.
“We cannot allow this cowardly, evil attack to bring even more hardship to the people of Haiti and further destabilize their country,” Rubio said in a statement.
The Democratic co-chairs of the Haiti caucus in the House of Representatives said the attack “stands as a clarion call” for action to bring stability and peace to the country, which has been hit by coups and rebellions over the past few decades.
“We also call for full transparency and an independent investigation into this criminal act,” the four lawmakers – Representatives Val Demings, Yvette Clarke, Andy Levin and Ayanna Pressley – said in a statement.
The opposition in Haiti had accused the United States – Haiti’s top foreign donor – of being lenient towards Moise, given his support for U.S. foreign policy. Moise’s administration broke ranks with the Caribbean community (Caricom) to oppose Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Washington sent troops to Haiti in 1994 to oust a military government and return its elected president, former parish priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to power. But the country, the poorest in the western hemisphere, has struggled with political instability and a series of natural disasters since then.
U.S. administrations have scaled back involvement with Haiti. A U.N. peacekeeping operation in Haiti ended in 2019.
In May, Biden restored special “temporary protected status (TPS)” to tens of thousands of Haitians in the United States, citing poor conditions in their homeland. Ex-president Donald Trump, a Republican known for a harsh stance on immigration, announced in 2017 that he would not grant TPS to Haitians.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Daphne Psaledakis, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Mark Heinrich)