Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on stage at the Miramar Cultural Center. He spoke to a capacity audience about Haiti’s progress during his first year in office. – Miramar, Florida/USA – April 15, 2018 (Shutterstock)
Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse has been killed and his wife injured in an attack on their home in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Unidentified gunmen stormed the property at 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT), interim PM Claude Joseph said.
He called for calm, saying that “all measures had been taken to guarantee the continuity of the state”.
Mr Moïse had been in power since 2017 but had faced widespread protests demanding his resignation.
Mr Joseph called the shooting of the president a “heinous, inhuman and barbaric act”, saying the attackers spoke “English and Spanish”. He gave no further details.
He said the situation in the impoverished Caribbean nation was under control, adding: “Democracy and the republic will win.”
The streets of the capital appeared to be largely empty on Wednesday morning, but questions remain about how much control Mr Joseph can assert in a nation plagued by political instability and gang violence.
The neighbouring Dominican Republic ordered the “immediate closure” of its border with Haiti.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “shocked and saddened at the death of Mr Moïse”, calling it “an abhorrent act” and appealing for calm. The White House called the killing a “horrific crime”.
First Lady Martine Moïse is being treated in hospital but her condition remains unclear.
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Jovenel Moïse, 53, had been in power since February 2017.
His time in office was rocky as he faced accusations of corruption and there were widespread demonstrations in the capital and other cities earlier this year.
Haiti’s opposition said that Mr Moïse’s five-year term should have ended on 7 February 2021, five years to the day since his predecessor, Michel Martelly, stepped down.
But there had been a year’s delay to elections after Mr Martelly’s departure, and Mr Moïse insisted he had one more year to serve as he did not take office until 7 February 2017.
Parliamentary elections should have been held in October 2019 but disputes have delayed them, meaning Mr Moïse had been ruling by decree.
In February this year, on the day the opposition wanted him to leave office, Mr Moïse said an attempt to kill him and overthrow the government had been foiled.
Chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters have left the country, with a population of 11 million, one of the poorest nations in the Americas.
The worsening living standards have pushed nearly 60% below the poverty line.
An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.
A UN peacekeeping force was put in place in 2004 to help stabilise the country, and only withdrew in 2017, but the turmoil has shown no sign of ending.