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Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home early on Wednesday in an attack that raised concerns that the widespread gang violence and turmoil would escalate.
Haiti, a Caribbean country considered the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, has seen escalation in street violence in recent months. Gang battles have been causing gasoline shortages in the country because shootouts on the streets prevent regular fuel distribution.
Last month, tens of thousands of barrels of gasoline and kerosene were sitting at a distribution terminal, which, however, was inaccessible due to insecurity, The Haitian Times reported.
Haiti’s troubles took a whole new dark turn on Wednesday, when the president Moise, 53, was shot dead and his wife, Martine Moise, was also shot and wounded in their private residence.
“A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement carried by Reuters.
“All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the state and to protect the nation,” Joseph said.
The authorities closed the international airport and declared a “state of siege.”
Joseph called the assassination a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
Moise ruled by decree for over a year after the Caribbean nation failed to hold elections. The local opposition had been demanding that Moise resign. The assassinated president was looking to pass a controversial reform in Haiti’s constitution.
Alex Dupuy, a Haiti-born sociologist who teaches at Wesleyan University in the U.S., told The Associated Press that Joseph was likely to lead the country for now.
After the assassination, analysts and observers fear that the crisis and turmoil in the country would deepen.
The United States is assessing the situation in Haiti, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.