Martial Law Declared as Power Vacuum Leaves Haiti on the Brink


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.

Joseph declared an “état de siège” as Haiti was in turmoil while police hunted for the suspects behind the assassination of the president of the impoverished Caribbean nation, CNN reported.

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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“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.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith