Biden condemns assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, says U.S. ready to offer assistance

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he departs the White House in Washington, U.S., July 7, 2021.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Wednesday condemned the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, who was shot dead by attackers in his private residence overnight.

“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,” Biden said in a statement.

Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, confirmed the killing and said the military and police were in control of security in the country. Joseph added that the first lady, Martine Moise, was injured in the attack and is being treated at a hospital.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. was in touch with the government in Haiti and stood ready to provide aid if requested.

“We stand prepared to assist. We’re certainly in touch, but obviously this is still developing, and so we’ll assess what their needs are,” Psaki told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One en route to Illinois.

Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, called on the U.S. and other nations to provide assistance to the armed forces in Haiti in the wake of the assassination.

Edmond said economic assistance was not the current priority and emphasized the need to bolster security in Haiti. In particular, he noted the importance of protecting Haiti’s borders as the perpetrators could still be inside the country or may have already escaped.

“We cannot have a stable country without security,” Edmond said during a press conference Wednesday.

Edmond added that a formal request to the U.S. for help in investigating the assassination has been submitted and is being evaluated. He noted that he was in contact with the White House, the State Department and U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison.

The State Department echoed Biden’s condemnation of the assassination and urged Haiti to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Those who seek to accomplish their political goals through violence and by subverting the rule of law will not succeed in thwarting the Haitian people, and their desire for a better, for a brighter future. We urge Haitian authorities to bring those responsible to justice,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price at a press conference Wednesday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been briefed on the attack and the security situation in Haiti by the U.S. ambassador, who is currently in Washington, and Deputy Chief of Mission Nicole Theriot, who is in Haiti, Price said. The State Department has also been in frequent contact with the prime minister.

Price said he couldn’t confirm that the U.S. has received a formal request for assistance but said the U.S. ambassador was in touch with the Haitian National Police.

The State Department strongly denied any involvement by the Drug Enforcement Administration after the attackers reportedly were heard identifying themselves as DEA agents.

“These reports are absolutely false,” Price said. “The United States condemns this heinous act. These false reports are nothing more than that, just false reports.”

Based on a video shot from a neighbor’s house during the attack, Edmond asserted that the perpetrators of the assassination were “well trained professional killers, commandos,” some of whom spoke Spanish. Haitians speak French and Creole.

The attack adds to the political upheaval in the Caribbean country, which has been facing a surge in gang violence, Covid-19 cases and anti-government protests, the Associated Press reported.

Moise, 53, was accused of trying to increase his power and faced months of demands from opposition leaders to step down, according to the AP. He had been ruling by decree for over a year after Haiti did not hold elections.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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