Moïse killed in home (July 7, 2021)
Armed attackers killed Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his home this morning. The assasination, carried out by a group of gunmen wielding assault weapons, pushes the country further over the brink of political instability, and could fuel a cycle of violence.
Haitian interim prime minister Claude Joseph said in a short statement that Moïse was killed by unidentified assailants, some of whom spoke in Spanish. Government officials cited by the Miami Herald say the attack was carried out by mercenaries.
Neighbors heard the outbreak of heavy machine-gun fire shortly after 1 a.m., with intense fighting coming in spurts of 10 to 15 minutes for over an hour. Residents also reported hearing gunshots and seeing men dressed in black running through the neighborhood. There are also reports of a grenade going off and drones being used.
In videos of the attack circulating on social media, taken by people in the area of the president’s home, a man with an American accent is heard saying in English over a megaphone: “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”
The Miami Herald cites government officials who said the assailants were not with the DEA.
First Lady Martine Moïse was wounded and is being treated, according to Joseph's statement.
The assassination leaves Haiti in a political leadership void: Joseph resigned after Ariel Henry was named prime minister on Monday. But Henry has not yet been sworn in. The head of Haiti's Supreme Court, who could also help establish order, died of Covid-19 in June. There are only 10 elected officials in the country, all senators.
In an interview with The New York Times, Joseph said that he was the one running the country at the moment. Still, it was unclear how much control he had, or how long it might last. Some are discussing installing Joseph Lambert, the head of the 10-member Senate, as provisional president.
Moïse, who had ruled by decree since 2020, after failing to organize legislative elections, faced mounting calls to resign this year. Protests against Moïse have rocked the country this year. The opposition claims his mandate ended in February. Many experts linked the president to gang violence that has terrorized swathes of Haiti, opponents said he financed groups in order to intimidate political adversaries. Fighting among rival criminal groups has displaced thousands of people in Port-au-Prince in recent weeks. (See last Thursday's post, among others.)
Moïse also was accused of corruption as part of a far-reaching report into how multiple Haitian governments spent nearly $2 billion in aid from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program.
Other factors intensifying Haitian instability are poverty and hunger, which are on the rise. The government has been accused of enriching itself while not providing even the most basic services.
(Miami Herald, Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times)
JEP accused 11 people in "false positives" case
Colombia's transitional justice court has accused 10 members of the military and a civilian of forcibly disappearing 24 people and murdering at least 120 civilians and falsely presenting them as guerrilla fighters who had been killed in combat.
It is the first time Colombia’s special jurisdiction for peace (JEP) tribunal has accused members of Colombia’s army in connection with the so-called false positives scandal, reports Reuters.
The accused include a general, six officers, three non-commissioned officers and a civilian, who the JEP identified as those responsible for giving orders without which the crimes would not have systematically happened. The killings were carried out with the aim of inflating body counts to burnish military "success" in the conflict with rebels, part of an institutional policy of body counts, said the court. (El País)
Nicaraguan police detained five more opposition figures, including former student leader Lesther Alemán (a key figure in the 2018 anti-government protests) and presidential hopeful Medardo Mairena. Another student leader, Max Jérez, was detained as were two leaders of farmers’ groups, Pedro Mena and Freddy Navas.
Almost all were arrested under “treason” laws that President Daniel Ortega has used to crackdown against opponents. Almost all his potential rivals in the Nov. 7 elections have been detained in recent weeks. (Confidencial, Associated Press)
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) called Monday, when the detentions took place, a "night of terror."
"Who will they come for next?" asks Gioconda Belli in the New York Times. The former Sandinista laments the country's post dictatorship course: "It is clear to me, looking back, that Nicaragua paid too high a cost for that revolution. Its young leadership became too enamored of itself; it thought we could defy the odds and create a socialist utopia."
Hundreds of people were reported missing during the weeks of protests in Colombia that started in late April and were met with heavy-handed police repression. Some have eventually reappeared after being held for days in extrajudicial police custody. But 77 people remain disappeared – some protesters, others not linked to the demonstrations, reports the Guardian.
Venezuelan migrants in Maicao’s swelling shanty towns, in northern Colombia, suffer from malnutrition -- cases have shot up since last year, as economic opportunities have disappeared due to the pandemic, reports the Guardian.
A Kichwa community in the Ecuadorian Amazon retreated further into the jungle last year, in a bid to avoid the coronavirus pandemic. The journey, documented in a new short film called The Return, reaffirmed the bond the community has had with the forest for generations, reports the Guardian.
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