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‘We Don’t Know Yet What’s Next’: Bostonians React To Assassination Of Haiti’s President

In this April 2018 file photo, Haiti's President Jovenel Moise at the National Pantheon museum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Moïse was assassinated after a group of unidentified people attacked his private residence. (Dieu Nalio Chery/AP)
In this April 2018 file photo, Haiti's President Jovenel Moise at the National Pantheon museum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Moïse was assassinated after a group of unidentified people attacked his private residence. (Dieu Nalio Chery/AP)

Greater Boston’s Haitian community this morning awoke to shocking news that Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse, 53, was assassinated overnight after armed men assaulted his private residence near Port-au-Prince. His wife was also reportedly shot and wounded in the attack, which happened around 1 a.m., according to news reports.

More than 86,000 Haitians reside in Massachusetts, mostly in Boston, Somerville, Malden, Randolph and Brockton, according to federal figures. Boston is home to roughly 25,000 Haitians, mostly in Dorchester and Mattapan, and they make up 3.7% of the city's overall population.

Ruthzee Louijeune, a 34-year-old lawyer and advocate from Mattapan who is running for Boston City Council at-large, said she woke up to multiple messages relaying news of the murder.

"We all woke up early this morning in shock,” she told the Dorchester Reporter. “There is great concern about what the days ahead will look like in terms of safety, stability, and security for the Haitian people.”

“Those of us with family in Haiti are particularly concerned for their welfare. Haitain people deserve to know peace, fair and free elections, and a government that can meet their basic needs,” Louijeune said.

Julio Midy, a Boston Public Schools teacher who hosts a popular show on the Haitian-focused Radio Concorde, has been relaying news about the event to his audience this morning. “I was shocked about it, but I got dressed, went to the radio, and did my job,” Midy told the Reporter.

Midy added: “Some people would’ve never imagined something like this would happen, others anticipated it because of the way the president was running the country, because of his speeches and antagonistic attitude.”

Still, Midy said: “He made many enemies, but nobody thought something like this was possible.”

Linda Dorcena Forry, the first Haitian-American woman elected to the state Senate and now a vice president at Suffolk Construction, said the assassination was a “devastating blow” to Haiti and its people. Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester resident, is married to Dorchester Reporter editor Bill Forry.

“My condolences and prayers go out to the Moise family. No matter what your political affiliation, violence is never the answer and will only make the problems facing Haiti worse,” Dorcena Forry said in an email to the Reporter. “There needs to be justice brought to bear not only for the Moise family but for the county as a whole to move forward, there must be accountability and punishment for those that organized and committed this heinous act.”

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U.S. government officials should be prepared to “offer all measures of support and guidance” to ensure the situation doesn’t worsen, she added.

Haiti has been embroiled in a constitutional crisis in recent months linked to a dispute over the duration of Moïse’s term in office, which opponents argued should have ended in February. The government’s legislative branch was dissolved during Moïse’s term and his critics claimed that he was intent on holding onto power in defiance of Haiti’s constitution.

The security situation has worsened in recent weeks, with mass killings reported in the nation’s capitol city and at least two journalists murdered. Kidnappings have become so rampant in the country that the U.S. Department of State issued a red-alert travel advisory on June 16 warning U.S. citizens to not travel to Haiti.

Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who is part of the House Haiti Caucus, released a joint statement from the group saying the assassination "stands as a clarion call for swift and decisive action to bring political stability and peace" to Haiti.

"We also call for full transparency and an independent investigation into this criminal act," the caucus said. "We remain committed, more than ever, to working diligently alongside the Biden Administration in support of ushering in an equitable, inclusive Haitian-led democracy. One that reestablishes rule of law, reinforces institutions of Haitian-led governance, and centers the safety and human rights of every Haitian citizen.”

The caucus, formed in May, also includes Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan, and Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York.

In his own statement, US President Joe Biden called the assassination "horrific."

"We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse's recovery," he said. "The United States officers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti."

Much of the discussion in Boston’s Haitian community has already shifted to what role the United States— Haiti’s largest donor nation and the controlling interest in the region— may do as events unfold.

“To analyze it critically, the political situation of Haiti has entered a new chapter, and we don’t know yet what’s next,” said Julio Midy, the schoolteacher.

“Unfortunately, whenever Haiti has a vital decision to make for its development, Haitians do not have the last word," Midy said. “The international community, especially the United States, has the last word.”

Josué Renaud, president of the Mattapan-based New England Human Rights Organization, said that the country has been “devastated.”

“We condemn the violence which took place in Haiti and resulted in the assassination,” Renaud said. “We denounce it and it should not have happened.”

“This is a divided nation, but we hope the interim government will be able to walk with everyone,” Renaud said. “The country is so devastated and has low resources, what we have we need to preserve. People should remain calm, that’s our appeal.”

Cahrlot Lucien, a longtime leader in Boston’s Haitian community who leads the Haitian Artists Assembly, called Moïse’s murder “an attack on the dignity of human life, a step backward on the road to democracy and a stain on the country's standing.”

“While I strongly disagreed with recent policies and decisions of this administration and contested its [legitimacy], I condemn in a heart beat any attempts on the lives of its representatives, the same way that I condemn and mourn recent killings of people in the slums of the capital over the past two years, or the recent assassination of two prominent journalists at the beginning of July,” Lucien said.

Material from Associated Press was used in this report.

This story was originally published by the Dorchester Reporter. WBUR and the Reporter have a partnership in which the news organizations share stories and resources to collaborate on stories.

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