Assassins who gunned down Haitian President Jovenel Moise in his private residence aimed “to kill his dream, his vision, his ideology,” according his widow's first public statement since Wednesday's predawn shooting in a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince threw the impoverished Caribbean nation into turmoil.
Speaking from the Miami hospital where she is receiving treatment for wounds sustained in the attack, Martine Moise shared new details about how events unfolded.
“In the blink of an eye, the mercenaries entered my home and riddled my husband with bullets … without even giving him a chance to say a word,” Moise said in the Creole language audio statement posted to Twitter on Saturday.
“I'm alive, thanks to God,” she said, “but I love my husband Jovenel. We fought together for more than 25 years. During all these years, love radiated within the home. But suddenly, the mercenaries came and pelted my husband with bullets.
“You have to be a notorious criminal without guts to assassinate a president like Jovenel Moise with impunity without giving him the chance to speak,” she said, referring to more than a dozen people — at least half of them retired Colombian soldiers — arrested since the attack.
Haitian police, who are still searching for other suspected members of the 28-person hit squad, said it remained unclear who hired them to attack the president's house, or why.
Moise, 53, who had held office since February 2017, had long faced protests demanding his resignation over allegations of corruption, economic mismanagement and strong-arm tactics to consolidate power.
Spoke of opponents
Moise himself had talked of fellow politicians and corrupt oligarchs behind the unrest who felt his attempts to clean up government contracts and to reform Haitian politics were against their interests.
“You knew who the president was fighting against," Martine Moise said. "These people hired mercenaries to kill the president and his family because of the projects of roads, electricity, drinking water supply, organization of the referendum and elections.
“The mercenaries who assassinated the president are currently behind bars,” she added, "but other mercenaries currently want to kill his dream, his vision, his ideology.”
Later Saturday, Jimmy Cherizier, one of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders, vowed street protests, Reuters reported. The former police officer and head of the G9 federation of gangs, blamed the police and opposition politicians for Moise’s death.
"It was a national and international conspiracy against the Haitian people," he said in a video address. "We tell all bases to mobilize, to mobilize and take to the streets for light to be shed on the president's assassination."
Haitian authorities have not disclosed a motive for the killing but say the heavily armed hit squad included 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans.
Haitian National Police Chief Léon Charles told reporters Thursday that 17 suspects — the two Haitian Americans and 15 Colombians — had been apprehended, three suspects had been killed and eight were still at large.
Colombian police said Friday that at least 13 former Colombian soldiers were believed to have been involved.
The U.S. State Department has not confirmed the reports that two U.S. citizens are in detention, but Mathias Pierre, Haiti's minister of elections, on Thursday identified the two Haitian Americans as James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55.
U.S. officials on Friday said they were deploying FBI and Department of Homeland Security personnel to Port-au-Prince to assist with the investigation.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.