Haitian Authorities Pursue Suspects Involved In President Moïse's Assassination
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Haiti's police chief says that four suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise have been killed by police. Another two are under arrest. This after heavily armed assassins killed the president in his home in Port-au-Prince early Wednesday and shot the first lady. She's now hospitalized in Miami. Later in the day, Haitian authorities sealed the country's borders and imposed martial law. Garry Pierre-Pierre is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Haitian Times, a U.S.-based publication. And he joins us now from New York City. Good morning, Garry.
GARRY PIERRE-PIERRE: Good morning.
FADEL: So, Garry, Haitian authorities have said they believe the assailants were mercenaries. What else have we learned about the attack?
PIERRE-PIERRE: Well, we haven't heard much more than what you said because we're not quite sure that the authorities had the right people.
PIERRE-PIERRE: We really just don't know. They haven't released much information about who were behind this heinous murder. And so we're just basically learning a lot more about what's happening now. It's early right now in Port-au-Prince. People are, basically, asleep. And then we're really just trying to figure out what's going on right now.
FADEL: So a lot of unknowns right now. You know, I know your publication is U.S.-based, but can you talk about what the last 24 hours have been like on the streets of Haiti since the president's assassination was announced?
PIERRE-PIERRE: Well, people are shocked, obviously. And there's been very few activities on the streets. The government has called for emergency powers. And that means that they've closed all the borders, as we have reported. And there hasn't been much movement in the capital city.
PIERRE-PIERRE: And people have been very shocked. And, you know, of all the political instability in Haiti we've covered over the years, this is a new one. There hasn't been an assassination of a president since 1915 or so.
PIERRE-PIERRE: So this is not something that is very common in Haitian society.
FADEL: Now, Moise came to power four years ago after a career as a banana exporter. He faced challenges - extreme gang violence, no functioning parliament, the pandemic. In his last 15 months in power, he was criticized for ruling by decree. How is he regarded by Haitians?
PIERRE-PIERRE: Very low. I mean, he was not at all popular. You know, you called him a banana exporter. But according to records, he only exported one - he was sort of like a serial entrepreneur, you know? He was a banana exporter. He was a music personality. He dabbled in a lot of things. So it's hard to pinpoint what his forte was. And so, you know, people just didn't know him. He was basically hoisted upon the population. So that's why you have about 10% of the population are to vote for him, because there was not a large mobilization of people who felt passionate about him. He was not very popular.
FADEL: So you mentioned that he wasn't very popular. And opponents were calling for his resignation, accusing him of trying to extend his presidential term. Is there any clear reason why Moise would be assassinated and targeted in this way?
PIERRE-PIERRE: Well, he made a lot of enemies. He attacked the monopolies of the private sector that they've enjoyed forever in Haiti. And the problem with that is, as laudable as that may sound, he didn't have the support. He didn't have a mandate from the country. Like I said, about 10% of the eligible voter turned out to vote during his election. So really, he didn't inspire the nation like someone like Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his erstwhile predecessor, did.
FADEL: Now, I understand you were back in Haiti in January. What were your impressions during that time?
PIERRE-PIERRE: I was there to do reporting with my colleague regarding some environmental issues. It was tense. It was very uncomfortable because I had never seen Haiti this way. We had - we would stop just random places to interview people about the environment. And quickly, you know, we'll be surrounded by folks. Or folks working with us were really, really, really, really afraid and told us that we had to leave. And so it was really an uneven (ph) place. And I just felt that, even back then, that, wow, I had never seen Haiti this way. What's going on? So there has been a lot of problems in Haiti.
FADEL: Garry Pierre-Pierre is editor-in-chief and founder of the Haitian Times. Thank you.
PIERRE-PIERRE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.