Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared a “state of siege” in Haiti on Wednesday, closing the country’s borders and imposing martial law after President Jovenel Moïse was killed.
Four suspects connected to the assassination were killed by police overnight and two others have been detained, according to officials.
Haiti will be under martial law for 15 days and police and other security force members can enter homes, control traffic and take up “general measures that permit the arrest of the assassins” of Moïse, according to The New York Times.
A Haitian historian and constitutional expert told The Times that only parliament can declare a state of siege.
“Legally, he can’t do this,” Georges Michel said. “We are in a state of necessity.”
Parliament, which has not sat since 2020, has also not yet confirmed Joseph, who is in the process of being replaced by Ariel Henry, who was appointed by Moïse.
“We are in total confusion,” Jacky Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya University, told The Times.
“We have two prime ministers. We can’t say which is more legitimate than the other.”
Haiti also appears to have two Constitutions that each say different things about what to do if the president dies while he is in office.
The 1987 version says that the country’s most senior judge should step into the role while the 2012 amended Constitution said that the president should be replaced by a council of ministers. If a president was in his fourth year in office, Parliament would vote on his replacement.
“Things are unclear,” Michel said. “It’s a very grave situation.”
Moïse was assassinated Wednesday when gunmen raided his home, according to the Miami Herald.
Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said Moïse was shot 16 times.
“The president had a lot of enemies, strong enemies locally that he was doing a lot of reforms, and he had a lot of pushback on those reforms,” Lamothe told CNN.
Video footage taken early Wednesday that appears to show the moments before Moïse’s assassination includes a claim that the gunmen shown are with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down,” a voice rings out over a loudspeaker, according to a video obtained by the Herald.
Both Haitian and U.S. officials said there was no DEA involvement in the assassination of Moïse.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.