FILE PHOTO: Jovenel Moise addresses the media next to his wife Martine after winning Haiti’s 2016 presidential election
Jovenel Moise addresses the media next to his wife Martine after winning the 2016 presidential election, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Picture taken Nov.28, 2016.
REUTERS/Jeanty Junior Augustin, File

Caribbean Community leaders who had held a special caucus session on continuing violence in Haiti woke up early Wednesday to learn that unidentified gunmen had shot and killed Haitian President Jovenel Moise during a surprise home invasion earlier in the day. His wife was also shot and injured and was being treated in hospital officials said.

Not a single person from Haiti had bothered to attend this week’s two-day main annual summit, which was held virtually, a point that CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Antigua, Gaston Browne was quick to note despite the special session on Haiti. The summit ended late Tuesday.

Browne said the leaders had looked at the runaway violence, difficulties preparing for upcoming presidential elections and other issues but were disappointed that Haiti had not taken up its seat at the table of the last two conferences held this year. He accused the late head of state of having a callous and contemptuous approach to things CARICOM despite the group’s best efforts at mediation.

“He treated CARICOM with some amount of contempt. He was always making excuses why he could not attend a conference. We held a special caucus on the violence and general situation in Haiti after our summit ended Tuesday night. Recently we had even offered to send a good offices team to Haiti to mediate the situation but had not heard anything. This is a very sad situation that has badly shaken us up,” Browne said.

Mr. Moise’s assassination is the first in the bloc since a communist-leaning rebel faction of Grenada’s cabinet had shot and killed charismatic Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in late 1983, providing an excuse for the Reagan administration in the US to invade the island to allegedly restore order and to kill off the close links between the island and Cuba and other socialist nations.

And during an attempted coup by a Muslim faction in Trinidad in the summer of 1990, Prime Minister Ray Robinson was shot in the leg when the rebels had invaded parliament during a Friday sitting of the house. Robinson survived the leg wound and continued on as prime minister. These violent incidents against leaders are among the most serious on record. Assassinations are rare.

Browne said the “violence in Haiti had destabilized the country and had made it literally ungovernable to all. Everyone was susceptible, even the disabled and now the president has paid the ultimate sacrifice with his own life. The situation there was of grave significance to us as a region and we hope all can be done to prepare for free and fair elections. This is an unfortunate situation.”

French and Creole-speaking Haiti is the 15th and last nation to join the largely English-speaking bloc of former British colonies back in 2002 but frequent bouts of political instability have worked against its full participation in the region.

Browne said Moise had flunked participation in this week’s summit by saying that he was in the process of appointing a new prime minister. It is unclear whether his death would prevent the new number two from being sworn in.

The Miami Herald, meanwhile, reported that the gunmen had claimed to be DEA agents but officials said they were in fact mercenaries. Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph called the attack an “odious, inhuman and barbaric act. The security situation in the country is under the control of the national police and the Haitian Armed Forces,” he said as he appealed for calm.

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