By Alan Heil
The small Caribbean state of Haiti is once again plagued by seemingly unresolvable deadly turmoil.
Located at the western end of the island of Hispaniola 400 miles south of Florida, this tiny country of 11 million people once again finds itself in the most horrific crisis this year in the Western hemisphere.
- President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home early on July 6, and his wife Martine was in critical condition, airlifted almost immediately the same day for treatment in the U.S.
- The Associated Press reports that recently, Haiti inflation and gang violence have increased as food and fuel “grew scarcer where 60% of Haitians earn less than $2 a day. Haiti is still trying to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 following a history of dictatorship and political upheaval.”
Initial U.S. reaction
President Biden: “We condemn this heinous latest attack and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moise’s recovery.” There were quick bipartisan calls from U.S. Congressional leaders to help bring the Moise assassins to justice.
Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio put it bluntly: “We cannot allow this cowardly, evil attack to bring even more hardship to the Haitian people and further destabilize their country.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the U. S. Congress was prepared to help. “Congress condemns this barbaric attack. We stand ready to provide support and assistance to the people of Haiti at this challenging time.”
According to CNN, after the assassination Washington almost immediately dispatched an interagency delegation there and returned to report to President Biden on the situation they found last weekend. The delegation included members of the National Security Council, State and Justice Departments.
ABC News reports that events have plunged Haiti into “deeper turmoil,” as Moise’s murder leaves a power vacuum there during a time of extreme violence, a growing humanitarian crisis, and a worsening COVID-19 epidemic.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she was not aware of any delegation member staying on the ground in Haiti but that the U.S. is “now working to get a better understanding” of Haiti’s latest request for help.
The U.S., she added, is remaining is close touch with a range of Haitian leaders and law enforcement officials in the troubled country.
Other recent developments complicate the situation. According to Haiti’s constitution, the slain president should be replaced by the head of the country’s Supreme Court, but that official died of COVID-19 several days ago. This leaves open the question of a successor to fill the office.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More