US lawmakers express shock at Haitian president’s assassination
Members of Congress are expressing shock and devastation at the assassination carried out against Haiti’s president early Wednesday, warning of the possibility of further turmoil in the island nation.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the entire federal government condemns the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and the attack on his wife as a “barbaric act” and said the U.S. stands “ready to provide support and assistance to the people of Haiti during this challenging time.”
Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph reportedly announced that Moïse was fatally shot early Wednesday morning in his private residence on the outskirts of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. His wife was shot during the attack and is being treated.
Joseph reportedly described the attackers as a group of “foreigners,” with some speaking Spanish, and said the national police force and the country’s armed forces are in control of the security situation.
Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the assassination of the Haitian president a heinous act and criticized the Biden administration, and international community, for failing to anticipate the atrocity.
“The murder of Jovenel Moïse is a devastating if not shocking example of the extent to which the security situation in Haiti has unraveled. For months, violent actors have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity while the international community—the United States included, I fear—has failed to heed their cries to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition,” Levin wrote in a statement.
“I implore the Biden administration to pursue a new policy toward Haiti that puts the will and wellbeing of the Haitian people first. It is essential to bringing about true peace and security and preventing more atrocities like that which occurred this morning. I will work diligently with my colleagues in the House Haiti Caucus to serve as partners in this effort.”
The House Haiti Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Levin, Val Demings (D-Fla.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), issued a joint statement calling the assassination “a horrific act and stands as a clarion call for swift and decisive action to bring political stability and peace to a nation in crisis.”
The co-chairs further called for “full transparency and an independent investigation into this criminal act. We remain committed, more than ever, to working diligently alongside the Biden Administration in support of ushering in an equitable, inclusive Haitian-led democracy. One that reestablishes rule of law, reinforces institutions of Haitian-led governance, and centers the safety and human rights of every Haitian citizen.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the assassination and called for a full investigation and “appropriate accountability for his murder.”
“I strongly condemn the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse and hope his wife who was injured in the attack recovers quickly,” McCaul said. “There must be a full investigation and appropriate accountability for his murder. My condolences to the Moïse family and people of Haiti.”
President Biden said Wednesday he was “shocked and saddened” by the news.
“We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery,” Biden said. “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.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the assassination “horrific” and “tragic” and said Biden is expected to be briefed on the attack later Wednesday while the administration continues to gather information.
The assassination marks a dramatic escalation of violence and turbulence in the country that is politically divided, grappling with a growing humanitarian crisis, and a rise in violent gang crime.
The Biden administration in May extended temporary protected status for Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. for up to 18 months, with the Department of Homeland Security citing “security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Updated at 12:41 p.m.