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Local Haitian Americans, Florida Officials Respond To Moïse Assassination

A man with his face wrapped in a yellow shirt raises his arms in the air. He stands in front of a small ground of other protestors, small flames, and smoke.
Joseph Odelyn
AP Photo
People protest against the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse near the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. Officials pledged to find all those responsible for the pre-dawn raid on Moïse’s home early Wednesday in which the president was shot to death and his wife, Martine, critically wounded.

Some Haitian Americans in the greater Tampa Bay region are concerned about Haiti’s political turmoil and the safety of their loved ones.

Worries about the political turmoil in Haiti are being felt locally following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

A squad of gunmen killed the Haitian leader and wounded his wife in an overnight raid on their home in Port-au-Prince Wednesday.

Moïse’s killing comes amid growing chaos in a country that has endured months of violence and protests of his increasingly authoritarian rule.

While officials with the Haitian Association Foundation of Tampa Bay will not comment on political issues, they said it's currently not safe to travel to Haiti and added that many local families are worried for loved ones who are still there.

“On behalf of the Haitian community and in our name, we offer our condolences to the members of the family and our prayers for peace in our beloved land,” the group said in a statement.

Political opponents had called for Moïse to step down, arguing that his term had legally ended in February. But international forces that have intervened in Haiti in the past, including the United States, supported the president’s claim to another year in office.

The political upheaval in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has sparked ongoing protests and an uncontrolled crime wave fueled by gangs. Rival gangs control some important areas of the country. Kidnappings, as well as food and fuel shortages, are on the rise.

A number of Florida lawmakers have weighed in on the situation.

South Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime wrote that President Biden should appoint a special envoy to Haiti in an op-ed in the Miami Herald.

Orlando Rep. Val Demings called for “full transparency and an independent investigation” into the shootings.

And Sen. Marco Rubio condemned the "cold blooded murder of President Moïse,” adding that the assassination “will only bring more hardship to the people of Haiti and further destabilize the country.”

Many in Haiti — along with some Haitians in Florida — fear the country has been sliding back toward dictatorship.

Moïse, who had seven prime ministers in his four and a half years in office, dissolved the Haitian Parliament early last year after most lawmakers’ terms ran out.

He had been ruling by decree for more than a year since then and aimed to amend the constitution to increase his executive power.

Before the assassination, Moïse’s government pledged to hold presidential, legislative, and local elections in the fall.

UN special envoy Helen Meagher La Lime has said she sees a democratic opening through prompt and fair elections as Haiti’s only possible escape from the turmoil.

Haiti's police chief said that four suspects were fatally shot by police a short time after the assassination. Two others were also reportedly arrested.

First Lady Martine Moïse is being treated at a Miami hospital.

Jacob Wentz is the inaugural WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2021.
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