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A horror in Haiti

A horror in Haiti


Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in his own home last week. But who was behind it all? And why did they want to kill him?

Hi, I’m Claudia – and this is Sensemaker 

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Last Wednesday, Haiti’s president was killed – in his own home. 

A week on, what do we really know about the assasination?


“The people are in shock, the people, myself are in shock, because no one would ever think that president Jovenel Moïse would be killed, tortured in his own house.” 

Claude Joseph

That’s Claude Joseph, the man currently acting as prime minister of Haiti. 

Seven days ago, a group of armed men stormed the home of Haiti’s president, and shot him dead:

“The brazen attack unfolded overnight at the private residence of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse. The gunmen speaking Spanish and English reportedly yelled that they were DEA agents but the Haitian government said that they were instead mercenaries, highly trained killers who shot dead the 53 year old Moïse and critically injured his wife.”

NBC News

Over the last few days, the Haitian government has arrested dozens of people they think were involved in the attack. 

A lot of them are Colombian mercenaries, ex-soldiers.

Three of the suspects are US citizens. 

So who was behind the attack? And why did they want to kill Jovenel Moïse? 


“Daily life for most Haitians is a struggle to survive. The island nation with a population of 11 million has the unfortunate distinction as the poorest country in Latin America”

France24 report

Haiti has been a poor, troubled country for many, many years. 

Since its independence from the French over two centuries ago, it’s been subject to crippling debt repayments to its former colonisers – tens of millions of dollars of compensation to former slave owners that went on until 2010

It’s been threatened with invasion, occupied by the US and beset by foreign interference, economic blockades and coups – over and over again. 

Then in 2010, the country was shattered by an earthquake. 

“It’s been called a catastrophe of major proportions. The Caribbean island nation of Haiti has been rocked by its biggest earthquake in over 200 years.”

ABC news report

Six years later, before the country had really recovered, a catastrophic hurricane hit Haiti’s shores. 

“Initial reports were of flooding and destruction, brown torrents of water that had washed homes and villages from the landscape.”

BBC news report


It’s against this turbulent backdrop that Jovenel Moïse ran for president.

He didn’t come from a political background. 

He’d been a relative unknown. He’d spent most of his career as a banana exporter. 

He won the vote, but his election campaign was mired by accusations of fraud. 

People thought he was just a puppet: in the pocket of the former president.

It took two years, and a re-run of the election, for Jovenel Moïse to take office in 2017, when he promised to give his people a better life:

“Together we will change Haiti he says, together we will work to make sure all Haitians live better.”


But that’s not what has happened. Over the course of his four years in office, Haiti has gotten poorer. Unemployment is widespread. Inflation levels have spiked. And people are going hungry.

A lot of people blame Jovenel Moïse for Haiti’s worsening problems. 

So when his presidential term officially ended in February of this year, the opposition wanted him out. 

But Jovenel Moïse wouldn’t budge. He said that because his term started late, he had another year in the job. 

And he wanted to use that time to make changes to Haiti’s constitution. Changes that would have given him more power…

For the last few months, Haiti has been wracked by protests against Jovenel Moïse. 

But he’s clung on to power. 

Is that why someone wanted him dead?


The prime suspect, the person the Haitian government thinks is the mastermind behind the attack, is a man called Christian Emmanuel Sanon. 

He’s a Haitian-American doctor and a pastor, with homes in Haiti and Florida. 

It seems that he’s had political ambitions for a while. There’s a campaign video on YouTube from 2011. 

“Where is the leadership for Haiti, nowhere to be found. You know why? Because they are corrupt.”

Christian Emmanuel Sanon

But according to the Haitian community in Florida Some people said they had never even heard of him before now.  

And there are big questions about how an unknown doctor could have orchestrated a plot like this. 

Especially because he doesn’t seem to have the finances for it: Christian Sanon filed for bankruptcy in Florida in 2013. 

Still, the evidence looks incriminating: during a raid on Christian Sanon’s home in Port-au-Prince police found gun holsters… box after box of bullets…and a US Drug Enforcement branded cap. 

And there are other clues pointing towards the involvement of people with American ties.  

One of the other Haitian-Americans arrested reportedly has strong ties to Miami. 

And some of the Colombian mercenaries arrested by the Haitians after the attack claimed they’d been hired by a Florida-based security company. 

The Haitian government has asked the Americans for help with the investigation. Officers from the FBI and US Homeland Security are already on the ground.

But for now, what exactly happened in Haiti remains a mystery. 

All that is clear, is that this will likely spell more instability for this long-suffering country. 

Today’s story was written and produced by Ella Hill.

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