At approximately 0100 local time (0500 UTC) on 7 July 2021, gunmen shot and killed President Jovenel Moïse and wounded First Lady Martine Moïse at their residence in the upscale neighborhood of Petion-Ville near the capital Port-au-Prince, according to interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph. While the identities of the attackers have not been confirmed, the gunmen — conversing in both English and Spanish during the attack — claimed to be agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and demanded that bystanders outside the president’s residence not interfere with the operation as they fled the scene of the attack. A high-ranking Haitian government official anonymously claimed that the attackers were mercenaries, and local reports indicate the assailants used high-powered machine guns, a grenade and drones during the attack. Following the assassination, Joseph declared a nationwide “state of siege,” and announced that the Haitian National Police and Haitian armed forces would maintain security in Haiti and that he would lead the country. The National Police will be deployed to Petion-Ville and other areas. Sporadic looting has been reported in Port-au-Prince. Toussaint Louverture International Airport (MTPP/PAP), which serves Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, is closed until further notice. Dominican President Luis Abinader ordered the military to close the shared border with Haiti in response to the assassination. The U.S. and Canadian embassies in Port-au-Prince have announced their closures for 7 July.

Analyst Comment: Protests and unrest will likely follow the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Moïse served as a divisive president, leveraging executive orders to rule by decree and expand his power, which included the suspension of parliament in 2020. The latest period of unrest during Moïse’s presidency occurred in February 2021 when widespread protests broke out and demonstrators demanded that he step down; the opposition contends that Moise’s term legally ended on 7 February 2021, in accordance with the Haitian constitution, rather than in February 2022 as Moïse claimed. Many Haitians blame Moïse for Haiti’s deteriorating security environment. Haiti’s minister of justice announced on 7 February that security forces foiled a planned coup d’etat and arrested 23 people, including a member of the Supreme Court, who authorities allege would have become the president had the coup succeeded, as well as the inspector general of the National Police. Moïse, who had appointed a new prime minister to replace Joseph on 6 July, has previously timed appointments of new prime ministers to placate critics of his government’s policies and to distract from other perceived failures.