Presidential candidate Serge Duvalier died at a hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday, just hours after he was struck by a stray bullet during a campaign rally. Duvalier, 68, was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

The country is in turmoil, after a coup d’etat has lead to the death of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse. The acting president, Michel Martelly, has declared a state of emergency, and according to the US State Department, the US Embassy is closed due to the violence. President Trump has yet to comment.

Here’s what you need to know:

Police and a forensic team search for evidence near the president’s residence near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday.Credit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Nearly 24 hours after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in a bedroom of his home, gunfire erupted late Wednesday in the capital Port-au-Prince as security forces became embroiled in a chaotic shootout with a group of suspected attackers, killing four and detaining two.

While the country is under martial law imposed by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, he said authorities are still searching for the mercenaries who carried out the attack.

This death will not go unpunished, Joseph said Wednesday in an address to the nation.

However, the authorities have not given the names of those killed or arrested, nor provided any evidence linking them to Mr Moses’ death.

The rapidly spreading crisis has exacerbated the unrest and violence that has plagued Haiti for months, threatening to plunge one of the world’s most troubled countries into anarchy.

Leon Charles, head of the Haitian police, said security forces were in control of the situation, but admitted that other suspected members of the command were still at large.

While questions are being raised about the identity of the perpetrators of such a daring attack and how they managed to bypass presidential security to carry out the attack, the vague political landscape has contributed to the deep turmoil gripping this Caribbean nation of 11 million people.

Although Mr Joseph – the country’s sixth prime minister in the past four years – has said he is now in charge, his power is fragile as a new prime minister was due to be sworn in this week.

Ariel Henry, who was supposed to take over the post, said Yosef was no longer prime minister and claimed the post belonged to him. The country currently has no functioning parliament, and it is not known if or when the elections scheduled for the autumn will take place.

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the crisis was scheduled for Thursday afternoon. In their statement, the Council members unanimously called on all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and avoid any action that might contribute to further instability.

President Biden called the attack horrific and promised American help.

As rumors surfaced, some details of the attack became clearer.

Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bokhit Edmond, told a news conference that the assassination of the country’s president was carried out by well-trained professionals, hitmen, commandos.

Carl Henry Destin, a Haitian judge, told the Nouvelliste newspaper that the assailants posed as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration – both U.S. and Haitian officials said they were not affiliated with the D.E.A. – when they broke into the president’s private residence on the outskirts of the capital around 1 a.m.

He said the maid and another staff member of the house were tied up by the attackers when they went to the president’s room.

According to him, the president was shot at least 12 times.

The president’s office and bedroom were ransacked, Destin said. We found him lying on his back, blue pants, white shirt stained with blood, mouth open, left eye out.

He said Mr. Moise was apparently shot with both a large-caliber weapon and a smaller 9-millimeter pistol.

The president’s wife, Martina Moise, was injured in the attack and was taken by ambulance to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, where she was out of danger and in stable condition, according to Joseph.

Destin said the couple’s daughter, Jomarley, was also home at the time of the attack, but hid in a bedroom and came out unharmed.

Haiti’s late President Jovenel Moïse, center, with his wife Martine Moïse and interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, right, during a ceremony in Port-au-Prince in May.

Haiti’s already turbulent political climate threatened to become even more turbulent on Thursday with a power struggle between two rival prime ministers, adding to tensions following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

The interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, declared he was in charge and declared martial law for 15 days, placing the country under martial law. But even constitutional experts doubt whether he has the legal authority to do so and whether he can stay in power.

Joseph was to be replaced this week by Ariel Henry, whom Moses had appointed prime minister in recent days. But within hours of the assassination, Mr. Joseph assumed leadership of Haiti and took command of the police and military in what he said was an effort to provide order and stability.

Mr. Henry said in an interview with Le Nouvelliste that Mr. Joseph was no longer prime minister and that he claimed the right to lead the government.

I am the first minister with the decree in my favour, said Mr Henry, adding that he was in the process of forming his government, of which Mr Joseph will be a member.

Mr. Henry said he did not want to throw oil on the fire, but he criticized Mr. Joseph’s decision to impose martial law and called for dialogue that could ensure a smooth political transition.

Lilas Deskiron, a Haitian writer who was culture minister from 2001 to 2004, said the situation is very confusing because Mr. Moise left behind a prime minister he fired and another he has yet to appoint.

Haiti today is a parliamentary democracy without a functioning parliament. Before his death, Mr. Moise ruled by decree, and the presidency has traditionally had the greatest executive powers. He also appoints the Prime Minister. The long-planned elections were to be held later this year, but Thursday it was not yet known if and when they would take place.

Haiti has a long history of political instability. The 20th and 21st The 20th century was marked by a series of coups, often supported by Western powers, and frequent leadership crises that brought Haitians to the streets in protest.

It is unclear whether the political fallout from this week’s attack will be similar.

Ms. Deskiron said that no one understands what is happening at the political level and that most Haitian politicians and intellectuals are currently in a wait-and-see and powerless position.

A few hours after the killing, Mr Joseph calmed down and told the Haitian public that the situation was under control. He has also declared 15 days of national mourning, which will begin on Thursday.

During the 15 days of national mourning, the national flag will be hoisted at half mast, nightclubs and other similar establishments will remain closed and radio and television stations will be asked to broadcast allegorical programmes and music, according to an order published in the government’s official newspaper, Le Moniteur.

A police officer stands guard outside the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.Credit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Shortly after the Haitian president was gunned down Wednesday by assassins who broke into his home, the country’s interim prime minister announced that he had declared martial law.

For many people around the world, anxiously following developments in Haiti, the term was unfamiliar and even confusing.

But the situation became a little clearer when the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, published details of the scheme in the official government newspaper, Le Moniteur.

Haiti is currently under a de facto state of siege. For 15 days, the police and security forces can enter homes, control traffic, take special security measures and take all general measures to arrest the assassins of President Jovenel Moïse. It also prohibits gatherings intended to incite or prepare for riots.

There’s a little problem. Or two, actually.

Only parliament has the power to declare martial law, says Georges Michel, a Haitian historian and constitutional expert. But right now Haiti no longer has a functioning parliament. The mandate of the entire House of Commons expired more than a year ago, and only 10 of the 30 seats in the Haitian Senate are currently filled.

Legally, he can’t do that, Michel said. We are in a state of necessity.

In fact, there are a few more wrinkles.

Mr Joseph’s term as interim Prime Minister is coming to an end and President Moses has already appointed his successor, the sixth since he took office.

We have a total loss, said Jacqui Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya University, a large private university in Port-au-Prince. We have two Prime Ministers. We cannot say which of the two is more legitimate than the other.

It’s worse than that.

Haiti also has two constitutions, and these two documents say differently what should happen when the president dies in office.

The 1987 version, published in the two national languages, Creole and French, provides that when the office of president becomes vacant for any reason, it must be filled by the judge with the highest rank in the country.

However, the constitution was amended in 2012 and according to the new constitution, the president is to be replaced by a council of ministers headed by a prime minister. Unless, as in the case of Mr. Moïse, the president is in his fourth year in office. In that case, Parliament will elect an interim president. That is, of course, if there is a parliament.

Unfortunately, the constitution was amended in French, but not in Creole. So there are currently two constitutions in force.

Not everything is clear, said Michel, who helped draft the 1987 constitution. This is a very serious situation.

Mr. Lumarque complained about the state of his country.

This is the first time we’ve seen the state this weak, he said. There is no parliament. A dysfunctional Senate. The chief justice of the Supreme Court has died. Jovenel Moise was the last legitimate authority to lead the country.

News analysis

U.S. soldiers deliver World Food Program relief supplies in Jabouin, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew devastated dozens of villages in 2016.Credit…Meredith Kohut for The New York Times.

For decades, Haiti’s plight has been at the top of the list of countries that impress the world with their level of desperation. But the failures did not occur in a vacuum: They are supported by the international community, which has poured $13 billion in aid into the country over the past decade.

Instead of the nation-building that the money should have been spent on, Haiti’s institutions have become even more hollow.

Haiti is not so much a failed state as what one analyst has called a welfare state – an existence supported by billions of dollars from the international community. Foreign governments do not want to turn off the tap for fear of causing Haiti’s collapse.

Nonetheless, the money has served as a difficult lifeline, providing little incentive for the government to implement the institutional reforms needed to rebuild the country, as it depends on international governments to open their coffers when the situation worsens, according to Haitian analysts and activists.

The aid has supported the country and its leaders by providing essential services and supplies. It has also allowed corruption, violence and political paralysis to flourish.

According to leaders of Haitian civil society, the United States is not helping to build a functioning system, but supporting the powerful and tying the country’s fate to them.

Since 2018, we have been demanding accountability, Emmanuela Dujon, a Haitian political expert who testified before the U.S. Congress this year, said in an interview. The international community needs to stop imposing what it thinks is right and instead think about long-term vision and stability.

Members of the Haitian diaspora in Montreal demonstrate against Moïse in front of the Haitian consulate in March…Nasuna Stuart-Ulin for The New York Times

Many Haitians in the diaspora fear the worst after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, an act of violence that many see as a powerful symbol of the chaos that has gripped the Caribbean nation in recent months.

Rodney St. Clair Eloi, a Haitian-Canadian poet and publisher in Montreal, said Moïse’s murder was a blow to democracy in Haiti. That makes all Haitians murderers, because, like it or not, he was the president of all Haitians, he said. It is the failure of society and the elite that has brought us to this point.

Mr Moïse, who was killed in a terrorist attack on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, headed a country plagued by instability, corruption and banditry. His refusal to relinquish power has enraged Haitians around the world, and many in the diaspora have delayed their return to the country over the past year as kidnappings and other violence have become more commonplace.

Because of its chronic instability, Haiti has a large diaspora, with some of the largest communities in the United States, Canada, France, and the Dominican Republic. About 1.2 million Haitians, or people of Haitian descent, live in the United States, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, it is believed that the number is higher because there is a significant number of undocumented immigrants in the country.

Frantz André, a prominent advocate for Haitian rights in Montreal, organized a demonstration in March at which dozens of Haitians protested what they call Mr. Moise’s political repression. He described Mr. Moses as a very polarizing figure and said other Haitians abroad have mixed feelings about the president’s assassination.

I don’t think it would be wise to call for victory if he is killed, because we don’t know what will happen next and the situation could become even more precarious, Andre said. Educated people saw it as a threat to democracy, others opposed it because they had nothing to eat.

André added that a significant minority supported Moïsé and saw him as a catalyst for change because he promoted the idea of voting rights for Haitians outside the country and pushed for a constitutional amendment.

  1. Joseph Odelin/Associated Press

  1. Joseph Odelin/Associated Press

  1. Joseph Odelin/Associated Press

  1. Joseph Odelin/Associated Press

  1. Reuters

  1. Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

  1. Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

  1. Joseph Odelin/Associated Press

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Haitian security forces are engaged in a massive manhunt for suspects in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Four people were killed and two others arrested after the shooting on Wednesday.

Brazilian soldiers at a UN mission in Port-au-Prince in 2007.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The United Nations once sent thousands of peacekeepers and police officers to Haiti as part of a coordinated international effort to rescue the country from its chronic outbursts of political violence and instability. But the cholera epidemic that followed the 2010 earthquake, spread by infected peacekeepers, was an indelible blow to the world body in the eyes of many Haitians.

Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who led the country during that period, admitted in his memoirs published last month that the cholera disaster had ruined the UN’s reputation in Haiti for good.

The peacekeeping force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti or the French acronym Minustah, was authorized by the Security Council in 2004 to send up to 6,700 troops of all ranks and more than 1,600 civilian police officers to Haiti.

Ninety-six members of the peacekeeping mission are among the victims of the 2010 earthquake, which is estimated to have killed more than 300,000 people. The crisis forced the Security Council to increase the strength of UNMIT to 8,940 troops and 3,711 police officers.

But many Haitians see the peacekeepers as an occupying force that has not always protected them. The reputation of the troops was further tarnished by reports that the Nepalese contingent may have brought cholera into the country due to poor sanitary conditions – reports that were later confirmed by independent investigations.

Ban eventually admitted some responsibility, but the UN successfully rejected Haitian victims’ claims for compensation. The UN trust fund set up under Mr. Ban to help Haiti deal with the cholera epidemic, which should have had $400 million, has only a fraction of that amount.

Minustache’s mandate ended in 2017 with the transition to a much smaller mission known as the United Nations Integrated Mission in Haiti, or its French acronym, Binuch. However, the mission, which is limited to the capital Port-au-Prince, is encountering difficulties.

None of the objectives – helping Haiti establish good governance, the rule of law, a stable environment and the promotion of human rights – has seen much progress.

Helen La Lim, a former US diplomat and Binuh leader, summed up the deteriorating conditions in the country in her report to the Security Council last month:

The deep-seated political crisis that has plagued the country for four years does not seem to be abating, she said. Political agreement remains difficult to reach as the rhetoric of some political leaders becomes increasingly vicious.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that La Lim is in constant contact with interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, urging the Haitian people to ensure calm.

Dujarric said Binuh was in the process of surveying its 1,200 employees in Haiti, including about 200 workers from other countries, and advised them to stay in place and stay safe.

Correction: 8. July 2021

In an earlier version of this article, the amount of the trust fund set up by the UN to help Haiti after the cholera epidemic was incorrect. It was $400 million, not $400,000.

An ambulance carries the body of President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday.Credit…Reuters

While security forces are still searching for the killers and investigators are sifting through evidence collected at the scene, the body of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was loaded into an ambulance Wednesday and taken to the morgue.

A procession of cars drove away from the president’s residence, but apparently not everything went according to plan: Observers say the drivers quickly turned around when they came upon a tire-locked highway and heard shots.

They needed another route.

The same could be said of Haiti on Thursday, the day after the president was assassinated by a team of hitmen, described as well-trained professionals, who broke into his home on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince before disappearing into the night.

Now the interim prime minister, whose legitimacy was already in doubt – a replacement had already been appointed before the assassination – has put himself in charge and imposed a Haitian version of martial law on the country.

Parliament is full of vacancies and inactive positions. And a country full of violence is about to make things worse. On Wednesday night, sustained gunfire was heard in Port-au-Prince.

This is a very serious situation, said Georges Michel, a Haitian historian and constitutional expert.

The interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, called for calm. Let us strive for harmony to move forward together so that the country does not fall into chaos, he said in a televised address to the nation.

But after decades of earthquakes and disease, poverty and political upheaval, the country has learned firsthand that the chaos is still there.

I don’t know what will happen next, one man said as neighbors gathered to share the news. The sky is the limit.

Andre Poltre contributed to this report.

Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, in 2017.Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Since its inception, Haiti as a country has been hampered by outside interests.

For decades the European powers, and later the United States, refused to recognize the country as an independent republic.

The Caribbean nation became the first republic with a black government when it declared its independence from France on New Year’s Day 1804. On that day Santo Domingo, once the richest colony of France and known as the jewel of the West Indies, became Haiti.

It was a land long coveted for its riches – sugar, coffee and cotton – marketed by enslaved people. The Declaration of Independence means that for the first time a cruelly enslaved people has wrested its freedom from its colonial masters. But this happened only after decades of bloody war.

In 1825, more than two decades after independence, King Charles X of France sent warships to the capital Port-au-Prince and forced Haiti to compensate the former French colonists for their lost property.

Haiti was unable to pay this enormous sum and was forced to take on a debt that it had to repay for almost a century. Throughout the 19th century. In the early twentieth century, a period of political and economic instability, the country invested little in its infrastructure and education.

In 1915, American troops invaded the country after a mob assassinated Haiti’s president.

The United States later justified the occupation as an attempt to restore order and prevent a perceived imminent invasion by French or German forces. But U.S. troops again introduced forced labor in road construction projects and were later accused of extrajudicial killings.

This largely unpopular occupation ended in 1934, but American control of Haiti’s finances lasted until 1947.

After a series of coups in the middle of the last century, the Duvalier family, father and son dictators, ruled Haiti with brute force until the 1980s. His regime plunged Haiti into debt and introduced the Tontons Macoutes, the notorious secret police that terrorized the country.

In the early 1990s, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was elected president. He was voted out twice in the next 15 years.

Aristide preached liberation theology and threatened the establishment with economic reform. After the first coup, he was returned to power. But after a second coup in 2004, supported by the United States and France, he finally stepped down as president. He was exiled to the Central African Republic and then to South Africa.

With 11 million inhabitants, Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

In 2010 it was hit by a devastating earthquake that killed around 300,000 people. The country has never recovered and is still in a state of economic underdevelopment and insecurity. In 2016, a cholera outbreak linked to UN peacekeepers killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened another 800,000.

Then, early Wednesday, Jovenel Moise, who became president in 2017, was assassinated at his residence.

A street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last month. Credit…Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on Wednesday could complicate efforts to contain the Covid 19 pandemic in the Caribbean country, which has not yet begun vaccinating its citizens, World Health Organization officials warned.

Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of WHO, said her organization has made Haiti a priority in recent weeks because of the increase in reported cases.

I hope that the vaccines coming into the country can reverse the course of the pandemic and bring some relief to the Haitian people during this very difficult time, Dr. Etienne said. We are now supporting them and we will redouble our efforts.

When the pandemic began, Haiti was not experiencing the kind of epidemic wave that many experts feared would devastate the country, which is among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. However, the pandemic situation has worsened in recent weeks. The number of reported cases has increased, but experts say this is almost certainly an underestimate, given the country’s limited investigative capacity.

Last month, Covid-19 claimed the life of Renée Silvestre, the president of Haiti’s Supreme Court, a leader who could help bring order after the killing plunged the country into even greater political uncertainty.

Dr. Etienne’s organization said in an email that while it is too early to assess the impact of the killing, a further deterioration in the security situation in Haiti could negatively impact the work done to date to reduce the number of Covid-19 infections, as well as immunization plans.

Video

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was killed in an attack on his private residence on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince…Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

According to the organization, Haiti also faces challenges related to the start of the hurricane season and the recent discovery of alpha and gamma virus variants on the island. Although the vaccines are expected to arrive in Haiti soon, the organization has not yet announced an exact delivery date.

In June, Dr. Etienne called on the international community to do more to help Haiti address the growing number of cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. The situation in Haiti is an instructive example of how quickly this virus can change, she said.

According to Dr Etienne, Haiti is an extreme example of the glaring inequality in access to vaccines. For every success, there are a few countries that have failed to reach even the most vulnerable segments of their population.

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, millions of people still do not know when they will have the opportunity to be vaccinated, she added.

She says the unequal distribution of vaccines creates practical and moral problems.

If we do not ensure that countries in the South have the same opportunities to be vaccinated as countries in the North, the virus will continue to circulate in the poorest countries for years to come, Dr Etienne said. Hundreds of millions of people will remain at risk while the richer countries return to normal. Clearly, this should not be the case.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did Jovenel Moise die?

He died of a heart attack.

Did the US assassinate Moise?

No.

Who is the president of Haiti now?

Haiti is currently led by President Jovenel Moise.

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