The widow of the murdered Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has accused shadowy enemies of organising his assassination to stop democratic change, as a struggle for power intensified in the Caribbean country.
Haiti has been reeling since Moïse was gunned down early on Wednesday at his home in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Martine Moïse, who was wounded in the attack, said her husband was targeted for political reasons.
“You know who the president was fighting against,” a voice recording posted on her Twitter page said, without naming anybody.
“They sent mercenaries to kill the president at his home with members of his family because of roads, water, electricity and referendum as well as elections at the end of the year so that there is no transition in the country.
“In the blink of an eye, the mercenaries entered my house and riddled my husband with bullets,” Moïse said in the recording, describing the moment the attackers killed her husband. “This act has no name because you have to be a limitless criminal to assassinate a president like Jovenel Moïse, without even giving him the chance to say a single word.”
Haitian authorities said foreign, trained assassins comprising 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans carried out the assassination. Colombian media suggested the Colombians may have been hired as security for the president.
But fresh questions have been raised over Haiti’s official narrative for the assassination, as uncertainty gripped the Caribbean country and the streets of the capital remained eerily quiet amid fears Haiti is lurching into a new phase of political and social upheaval.
The late president, who spoke of dark forces at play behind years of unrest – rival politicians and oligarchs angry about his attempts to clean up government contracts and politics – had proposed a referendum to change Haiti’s constitution.
The referendum, scheduled for 26 September along with presidential and legislative elections, could abolish the prime minister’s position, reshape the legislative branch and strengthen the presidency.
Moïse’s killing has clouded those plans and led to political disarray in Haiti’s government, which has appealed for troops from the US and the United Nations.
The US said it had no plans to provide Haiti with military assistance, while the request to the UN would need authorization from its security council.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s elections minister, defended the government’s request for military assistance in an interview with Associated Press on Saturday. “What do we do? Do we let the country fall into chaos? Private properties destroyed? People killed after the assassination of the president? Or, as a government, do we prevent?” he said. “We’re not asking for the occupation of the country. We’re asking for small troops to assist and help us … As long as we are weak, I think we will need our neighbours.”
Late on Friday, the man Moïse appointed as prime minister just before the assassination claimed the right to lead Haiti. But competing claims by political rivals have fuelled uncertainty as the government scrambles to maintain order and provide answers to the public about the killing.
Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who was named prime minister by the late president on Monday, told Reuters he was now the highest authority in Haiti, not the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, and that he was forming a government.
“After the president’s assassination, I became the highest, legal and regular authority because there was a decree nominating me,” he said in a phone interview late on Friday.
The power struggle has created confusion over who is the legitimate leader of the country’s 11 million people.
Pierre said Joseph would keep that role until the 26 September vote.
There is no sitting parliament as legislative elections scheduled for late 2019 were postponed amid political unrest.
Haitian officials have not given a motive for the assassination or explained how the killers got past Moïse’s security detail.
Taking power in 2017, Moïse’s administration was beset by mass protests, first over corruption allegations and his economic record, then over his increasing grip on power.