Assassination of President Escalates Instability in Haiti and Disrupts Logistics Operations

Assassination of President Escalates Instability in Haiti and Disrupts Logistics Operations

On the morning July 7, Haitian authorities declared a two-week state of siege after a squad of masked gunmen assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and wounded his wife at their private residence. Police have so far detained 17 suspects in connection to the fatal shooting and a nationwide manhunt is underway for at least eight additional suspects. The suspects are reportedly foreign nationals, including retired Colombian military veterans and Haitian Americans from the exile community in South Florida. As part of the state of siege, Haitian authorities have  closed the country’s borders, halted operations at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP), and suspended pickup and delivery services until further notice. 

Following the news of the President’s assassination, Haiti’s interim prime minister declared a state of siege for the subsequent 15 days. A state of siege permits police and members of the security forces to forcibly enter homes, restrict mobility, and conduct special security measures that enable the arrest of the assassins. The state of siege also prohibits assemblies which instigate civil disorder. The Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Tabarre was closed and all flights were canceled on July 7. Though airport operations technically resumed on July 9, cargo movement remains suspended indefinitely. All businesses also remain closed due to safety concerns. Officials will decide on July 12 when facilities can reopen. The Dominican Republic also announced the closure of the land border with Haiti until further notice. 

Uncertainty over the transfer of power and governance is creating further instability in Haiti and sources are reporting that civil unrest is breaking out across the country. Protests have been reported in Port-au-Prince, with participants burning tires to block roads; however, most streets in the capital have remained empty as residents are encouraged to stay indoors. Security forces remain around Place de Saint Pierre on Route de Kenscoff, the road that leads up from the Petion-Ville area to the presidential residence. Haiti does not have a functional Parliament now, as only 10 of Haiti’s 30 Senate seats are currently filled. Interim prime minister Claude Joseph’s term is about to finish, and President Moïse had already appointed a replacement, causing confusion about who should assume the Prime Minister position. Additionally, Haiti has two Constitutions, with different protocols for line of succession in the event of an unforeseen vacancy in the presidency.

As uncertainty over the country’s governance unfolds, civil unrest is likely to worsen in the coming days. This will be exacerbated by increasing gang violence, high levels of poverty, and the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Haiti’s interim government has requested a U.S. military intervention to stabilize the island. Since intelligence has not yet identified threats to key infrastructure like ports and energy facilities, the U.S. is reportedly hesitant to grant this request. It has, however, sent a special investigative team to Haiti to assist in determining responsibility. 

Those with operations in Haiti are encouraged to monitor local developments and prepare for an increasing number of protests, looting, and changing executive actions. Monitoring the role of the U.S. in the ongoing situation is important, as a military intervention could intensify the fragility of the situation in the country. 

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