Haitian government officials took the extraordinary step of requesting that the United States send in troops to protect Haiti’s port, airport, gasoline reserves and other key infrastructure as the country has descended into turmoil in the wake of the brazen assassination of President Jovenel Moïse early Wednesday morning.
Haiti has a history of unwanted American military interventions. But fears have been growing that unrest in the streets and political turmoil after the attack could worsen what is already the country’s worst crisis in years. Haiti is plagued by political intrigue, gang violence, a public health crisis driven by the pandemic and difficulties delivering essential international aid.
The Haitian minister of elections, Mathias Pierre, said the request was made because President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised to help Haiti.
A deputy State Department spokeswoman, Jalina Porter, told a news briefing on Friday that she could not confirm such a request. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did say that the United States would be sending senior F.B.I. and homeland security officials to Port-au-Prince “as soon as possible” to determine how to assist Haiti.
Haitian authorities have said the assassination involved “foreign” forces, and the police have identified more than two dozen people involved in the assassination of the president, including 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent.
Colombia’s president asked several of the country’s top intelligence officials and an officer from Interpol’s central office in Colombia to travel to Haiti to assist with the investigation, Colombia’s defense department said on Friday.
Mr. Pierre, the Haitian minister of elections, said the country had already been facing a large problem with “urban terrorists” who might use the opportunity to attack key infrastructure in the country while the police are focused on their manhunt.
“The group that financed the mercenaries want to create chaos in the country,” he said. “Attacking the gas reserves and airport might be part of the plan.”
Robenson Geffrard, a reporter for Le Nouvelliste, one of the country’s leading newspapers, said a “sense of uncertainty” and the “shadow of violence” was looming over the capital, Port-au-Prince, raising fears that Friday was but a fleeting interlude before the situation spirals out of control again.
“In supermarkets and public markets, people are jostling” to stock up on basic goods such as rice and pasta, Mr. Geffrard said, and there are lines at stations selling propane gas, often used for cooking.
The country is enmeshed in a constitutional crisis, with a nonfunctioning Parliament and competing claims over leadership. The Caribbean nation’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, says he has taken command of the police and the army. But the president, days before his death, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. Mr. Henry told a local newspaper after the assassination that he was the rightful prime minister.
The situation has been further complicated by the pandemic. While there are many legal uncertainties, in the past the country’s top justice has been expected to fill any void in the political leadership. But that justice, René Sylvestre, died of Covid-19 in June.
Haiti, the only country in the Americas with no active Covid-19 inoculation campaign, has virtually no vaccine doses, and public health experts say that the coronavirus is far more widespread there than publicly reported.
Ms. Psaki said the United States would be sending vaccines to Haiti, possibly as early as next week.
With the prospect of greater turmoil looming, international observers worry that a growing humanitarian crisis could lead to the kind of exodus that has previously followed natural disasters, coups and other periods of deep instability.
The Pan American Health Organization said in a statement that the crisis was “creating a perfect storm, because the population has lowered its guard, the infrastructure of Covid-19 beds has been reduced, the security situation could deteriorate even further and hurricane season has started.”
A clearer picture of the group that Haiti accuses of assassinating President Jovenel Moïse emerged on Friday as officials in the Colombian defense ministry identified 13 suspects by name and said all were former members of the Colombian military.
Two had been killed, the officials said, and the other 11 were in custody, and they said some had traveled to Haiti as early as May.
In the past, some former members of the Colombian military, which receives heavy financial support and training from the U.S. military, have acted as hired guns following their service.
Colombians are attractive to those looking for military help because they often have years of experience fighting left-wing guerrillas and narcotraffickers inside their own country — and are often trained by U.S. experts.
Colombian officials condemned the attack and said they were doing everything possible to assist the Haitian government in its search for the truth. On Friday, Colombia’s defense department said that the president had asked several top Colombian intelligence officials to travel to Haiti to assist with the investigation, including the head of the national intelligence office, the head of the police intelligence office, and an officer from the Interpol central office in Colombia.
General Jorge Luis Vargas, the head of the national police, said that Colombian officials were investigating four businesses that they believed had recruited individuals for the operation, and they were using the businesses’ Colombian tax numbers to learn more.
One of the suspects, Francisco Eladio Uribe, was being investigated last year by the country’s special peace court for homicide, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Uribe was accused of being involved in a scandal known in Colombia as “false positives,” in which hundreds of members of the military were accused of killing civilians and saying they were combat casualties in a bid to show success in the country’s long civil war.
In an interview with W Radio, a woman who identified herself as Mr. Uribe’s wife said that the two had been married for 18 years and had three children, and that he had left home one day after telling her that he had “a very good job opportunity.” She identified the company that employed him only as “C.T.U.”
She said her husband had been investigated but exonerated in the military scandal.
Colombian officials said that some of the accused left Bogotá as early as May, and flew to Panama before traveling to the Dominican Republic and then to Haiti. Others, the officials said, arrived in the Dominican Republican in early June, and then traveled to Haiti. The two countries share the same Caribbean island, Hispaniola.
General Luis Fernando Navarro said that the accused individuals had left the military between about 2002 and 2018, and that they were involved in “mercenary activities” with “purely economic” motives.
It is not clear whether the individuals recruited for the operation knew the specifics of the task they were being assigned, according to John Marulanda, the head of the association for retired military officials.
The idea that people would sign up for such a risky operation “doesn’t make sense, from a military perspective,” Mr. Marulanda said.
Paul Angelo, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies security issues, said that Colombians had a history of being recruited into criminal tasks because they sometimes had limited options once they left the armed forces.
“Colombia is a country that for far too long had military conscription, which fell on the shoulders of the poorest men in the country,” he said. “When an economic underclass is taught how to fight and how to conduct military operations and little else, those skills don’t transfer readily to the civilian sector except in the private security realm.”
A former officer in Colombia’s army, who asked not to be identified, said that a mercenary who traveled abroad could easily be paid about $2,700 a month, compared with a military salary of about $300 a month — even for soldiers with years of combat experience.
“It’s not just Haiti, it’s Kabul, Mexico, Yemen, Emirates,” he said in a telephone interview, listing where former Colombian soldiers have gone.
Reporting was contributed from Colombia by Sofía Villamil in Cartagena and Edinson Bolaños in Bogotá.
The usually crowded streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, returned to some normalcy on Friday, three days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, according to a local journalist.
“But it’s a precarious, apparent calm, it can go awry at any moment,” said the journalist, Robenson Geffrard, a reporter for Le Nouvelliste, one of the country’s leading newspapers.
Mr. Geffrard said that economic activity had resumed. Street vendors were out; supermarkets, gas stations and banks reopened; and public transportation and public administration tentatively picked up.
So had gang violence, he said, an integral part of Haitians’ daily lives.
“Armed gangs resumed hostilities with a lot of bursts of automatic weapons,” Mr. Geffrard said, adding that there was gang fighting along one of the main roads connecting the south of Port-au-Prince to the surrounding provinces.
A “sense of uncertainty” was looming over the capital, he said.
“In supermarkets and public markets, people are jostling” to stock up on basic goods such as rice and pasta, Mr. Geffrard said. Lines have appeared in front of stations selling propane gas, which is often used for cooking.
Mr. Geffrard said that in the hours after the assassination, the shock and fear were such that people deserted the streets, turning Port-au-Prince into a ghost town.
A video he posted on Twitter on Thursday showed the usually bustling suburb of Pétionville, where the presidential residence is, almost empty of people, with only a few motorcycles venturing out on the roads.
The silence in the capital was broken on Thursday only when crowds of protesters gathered outside of a police station to demand justice for the suspects the police had arrested in the search for the president’s killers. A video from Agence France Presse showed protesters shouting slogans in front of a police station while cars and tires were being burned in nearby streets.
“There is still this specter of violence, of insecurity that haunts the minds of the population,” Mr. Geffrard said.
During a news conference on Thursday, the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, called on businesses to reopen despite the 15-day “state of siege” he imposed, essentially putting the country under martial law.
“It is true that there is a state of siege, but I want to tell everyone to resume economic activities,” Mr. Joseph said, as he also ordered the reopening of Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture international airport.
Two Americans arrested in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti this week said that they were not in the room when he was killed and that they had worked only as translators for the hit squad, a Haitian judge said on Friday.
Clément Noël, a judge who is involved with the investigation and who interviewed both men soon after their arrest, said that neither was injured in the assault.
One of the Americans was identified as James J. Solages, a U.S. citizen who lived in South Florida and previously worked as a security guard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. The other was identified as Joseph Vincent, 55.
Judge Noël, speaking by telephone, said that he could not provide details on the wider plot or a possible motive, but said the two Americans maintained that the plot had been planned intensively for a month.
The Americans, he said, would meet with other members of the squad at an upscale hotel in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, to plan the attack. He said they had relayed that the goal was not to kill the president but to bring him to the national palace.
Mr. Moïse was shot dead in his private residence on the outskirts of the capital around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, his body riddled with bullets.
Judge Noël said the Americans had been taken into custody after a shootout with police that resulted in the death of two Colombians.
When they were taken into custody, they had in their possession weapons, clothes, food and other paraphernalia used in the assault.
Judge Noël said that it was Mr. Solages who had yelled that the assailants were agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency over a loudspeaker at the start of the assault.
Mr. Vincent said he had been in the country for six months and that he had been staying with a cousin. Mr. Solages said he had been in Haiti for a month.
The men said the Colombians involved in the plot had been in the country for about three months.
All that Mr. Vincent would say about the broader plot was that the mastermind was a foreigner named “Mike” who spoke Spanish and English. Mr. Solages said that he had found the job to translate for the hit squad in a listing posted online. They would not say how much they had been paid.
Judge Noël said Mr. Solages had “replied in a very evasive manner.”
As the Haitian security forces continued to hunt for suspects in Mr. Moïse’s assassination, the interview offered the clues into who carried out the operation. Most of those in custody are Colombian, the authorities say, and include retired members of the military.
The body of another mercenary was found on Thursday around 10 a.m., on the roof of a private residence in Pétionville. The man, presumed a Colombian, was hit by a single bullet in his left side and killed, despite the fact he was wearing a bulletproof vest, said a justice of the peace, Phidélito Dieudonné. The man had climbed the security wall of the home, and then used a ladder to get up on the roof, Mr. Dieudonné said. He had no firearm or identity documents on him, but a couple of license plates had been dropped to the courtyard.
At a news conference announcing the arrests on Thursday, the authorities had singled out the Americans as they sat on the floor with their hands handcuffed behind their backs. It was not clear what evidence the Haitian authorities had against the two men, when they had entered the country and what their connection might be to those identified as Colombian.
Mr. Solages, 35, is a native of Jacmel, a city in southern Haiti, and lived in Broward County, the Florida county that includes Fort Lauderdale. He was the president of a small charity organization that said it focused on giving grants to women in his home city. But federal tax records show that he claimed to work 60 hours a week on an organization that in 2019 took in just over $11,000.
The organization, Jacmel First, says that its primary objective is reducing poverty and promoting education and better health systems in Haiti. His biography on his website said that he was a consultant, building engineer and “certified diplomatic agent.”
He also claimed to be chief commander of the bodyguards for the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. A Canadian government official said that Mr. Solages was briefly a reserve officer for a security company that had a contract to protect the embassy in 2010.
By the end of Thursday, as photographs of Mr. Solages in custody in Haiti circulated online, the charity group’s website had been taken down. So was a Facebook page that showed Mr. Solages in sharp suits.
Asked about the president’s murder and Mr. Solages’s arrest, Jean Milot Berquin, of Jacmel First’s board members, said, “I’m so sorry about that,” and declined to comment further.
While the biography on Mr. Solages’s charity website paints him as a professional and politician, his LinkedIn profile lists an entirely different set of jobs that sound more like maintenance positions.
His online résumé says that he has an associate degree from a technical college and is a plant operations director at a senior living facility in Lantana, Fla. (Company officials did not respond to requests for comment.)
State corporation records show that he owns maintenance company whose address was the same as the charity’s: a second-floor office above a restaurant in a strip mall. The office is now occupied by someone else.
Mr. Solages’s Twitter account, which has been dormant for over a year, includes inspirational quotes like “Don’t let nobody tell you that you are aiming too high or expecting too much of yourself, with both Mars, your ruler, and the Sun about to move to your favor, you should in fact expecting more of yourself then (sic) ever before.”
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States has formally requested that the Biden administration impose human rights sanctions on those behind the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse.
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken dated Wednesday, Haiti’s envoy to Washington, Bocchit Edmond, said his government was asking the United States to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act “on all perpetrators who are directly responsible or aided and abetted in the execution of the assassination of the president.”
Congress passed the Global Magnitsky Act in 2016 to penalize foreign government officials for human rights abuses in any country, following the death of a Russian tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in a Russian prison in 2009.
Mr. Edmond and other Haitian officials have said they believe “foreigners” were behind the plot to murder Mr. Moïse, who was gunned down in his residence early Wednesday morning. At least 19 people, including 17 Colombians and two American citizens, have been detained in Haiti in connection with the attack.
Mr. Edmond’s letter also details his government’s previously known request for American assistance with its investigation into the killing. He said the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s international operations office and the Department of Justice “can play a critical role in rendering justice.”
During a Friday briefing for reporters, the State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, Jalina Porter, said the Biden administration was “committed to cooperating with Haitian authorities” but did not provide more detail.
Ms. Porter referred questions about the detained Americans to Haitian authorities, citing “privacy considerations,” and also referred questions about the detained Colombians to officials of that country.
After 24 hours filled with intense standoffs and gun battles, the police said they had identified more than two dozen people involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse this week, including 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent.
Mr. Moïse’s chief bodyguards have been called for questioning as part of the investigation into the president’s murder, said Bedford Claude, chief public prosecutor in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. He said he had issued summons for the head of presidential guard, Jean Laguel Civil, security chief for the presidential palace, Dimitri Hérard and two other top presidential bodyguards to appear for questioning next Wednesday.
One of the main questions surrounding Mr. Moïse’s murder is how the assassins managed to enter the residence of Haiti’s most guarded man without apparently encountering resistance from dozens of bodyguards protecting him.
The authorities have so far offered no clue as to who might have organized the operation or a motive for the attack, but they have pointed to “foreign” involvement, and arrested 19 people, including two Americans and 17 Colombians.
On Friday, the Taiwanese authorities said that 11 heavily armed people had been arrested a day earlier on the grounds of its embassy in Port-au-Prince, about a mile from the assassination. Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said the Haitian police were investigating.
In the aftermath of the assassination, at least two people killed in clashes with police were also identified as Colombians.
Colombia’s defense minister, Diego Molano, said initial information suggested that the people from his country in custody were retired members of the Colombian military.
On Friday, President Iván Duque of Colombia said that he had spoken with Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph. “We expressed our solidarity and support at this time,” Mr. Duque said on Twitter. “We offered full collaboration to find the truth about the material and intellectual authors of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.”
Mr. Joseph said he had taken command of the police and the army. But the president, days before his death, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. Mr. Henry told a local newspaper after the assassination that he was the rightful prime minister.
Despite declaring what is essentially martial law and imposing a curfew, Mr. Joseph asked people to return to work on Friday. Airports resumed commercial flights, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy.
More than a dozen of the suspects — some with physical injuries — were paraded before the cameras at a late-night news conference on Thursday. At least six other suspects are on the run, the authorities said.
“We are pursuing them,” said Haiti’s police chief, Léon Charles, before a phalanx of politicians and police officers.
The Haitian government’s extraordinary request for U.S. forces to help stabilize the country in the aftermath of the assassination of its president carries haunting vestiges from American military interventions that happened more than a century ago.
Back then, however, the United States dispatched forces without an invitation from Haiti. The American government was motivated by Haiti’s internal turmoil and a willingness to meddle in the affairs of neighbors to protect its own interests under the Monroe Doctrine.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines into Haiti, calling the invasion a justifiable response to avert anarchy after Haiti’s president, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, was assassinated by a mob. The American military stayed for nearly two decades.
But even before that, Mr. Wilson saw fit to take military action in Haiti, worried about what his administration saw as the growing influence of Germany there, according to a historical page about the U.S. interventions on the State Department archive website.
In 1914, his administration sent in Marines who removed $500,000 from the Haitian National Bank for what the administration called “safekeeping” in New York, giving the United States control of the bank, the website said.
Eighty years later, President Bill Clinton ordered more than 23,000 U.S. troops sent to Haiti in what was termed “Operation Restore Democracy,” aimed at ensuring a transition that would return ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
In 2004, President George W. Bush sent in the Marines as part of an “interim international force” after Mr. Aristide resigned under intense U.S. pressure.
Two videos filmed at the same time from separate buildings near Haiti’s presidential compound suggest that the group who killed President Jovenel Moïse claimed to be agents from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
The videos appear to show the assailants arriving near Mr. Moïse’s residence. A witness on one video claims to see the assailants disarming some of Mr. Moïse’s guards stationed nearby.
In the videos, about a dozen armed men can be seen walking slowly up a main street in the Pèlerin 5 neighborhood alongside at least eight vehicles — a mix of sport utility vehicles and trucks. The men appear calm and do not encounter resistance or try to hide.
Over a loudspeaker, a male voice shouts multiple times in English: “This is a D.E.A. operation! Everybody, don’t shoot!”
He repeats the command in Creole.
The D.E.A. has an office in Port-au-Prince to help Haiti’s government “develop and strengthen its counternarcotics law enforcement program,” according to the U.S. Embassy. But Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told Reuters that the gunmen had falsely identified themselves as D.E.A. agents. “No way they were D.E.A. agents,” he said.
The attack “was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers,” Mr. Edmond said in Washington.
In one of the two videos, the man holding the camera comments on what is unfolding, saying that the armed men are coming to the president’s home.
“They’ve taken Jovenel. Jovenel is gone,” he says, referring to Mr. Moïse by his first name, as shouting can be heard in the distance. “Don’t you see the guys disarming the Jovenel guys?”
The Taiwanese authorities said on Friday that 11 heavily armed people had been arrested on Thursday on the grounds of its embassy in Port-au-Prince, about a mile from where President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was assassinated.
It was not immediately clear whether the people arrested at the embassy were involved in the assassination. Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said the Haitian police were still looking into the matter.
In a separate statement posted on Friday, Taiwan’s Embassy in Haiti condemned the assassination as “cruel and barbaric” and referred to those arrested on its grounds as “mercenaries.”
Ms. Ou, the spokeswoman, said that on Thursday morning, security personnel had discovered a group of “fully armed, suspicious-looking individuals” breaking through the embassy’s security perimeter and had immediately notified the police and embassy staff.
She said that no embassy personnel were on the grounds when the intruders were discovered, because they had been instructed to work from home shortly after the assassination in the early hours of Wednesday.
Ms. Ou said embassy officials had immediately agreed to allow the Haitian police to enter the grounds to conduct a search and make arrests.
By 4 p.m. on Thursday, the police had arrested the suspects, she said, adding that no one was harmed and that an initial inspection indicated only minimal property damage.
It was not immediately clear whether the 11 people detained at the embassy were included in the group of 19 suspects who the Haitian authorities say have been arrested in connection with the assassination.
Haiti is one of only 15 nations to have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a self-governed island claimed by China. Taiwan’s embassy in Port-au-Prince is in Pétion-Ville, the suburb where Mr. Moïse was killed.
“At this difficult time,” Ms. Ou said, “the government of Taiwan reiterates its support for interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph in leading Haiti to overcome this crisis and restore democratic order.”
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Haiti was gripped by unease on Friday after the nation’s president was killed at his home on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince earlier in the week. There are questions about who is in charge of the Caribbean nation even as the coronavirus is spreading and armed gangs wield growing power.
The presidential house peppered with holes and littered with bullet casings. The front doors badly damaged. The president’s body lying on the floor at the foot of his bed, “bathed in blood.”
The Haitian justice of the peace who arrived at the home of President Jovenel Moïse in the hours after his assassination on Wednesday described a haunting scene.
“There were 12 holes visible in the body of the president that I could see,” the justice, Carl Henri Destin, told The New York Times. “He was riddled with bullets.”
In the days after the assassination, the Caribbean country was still reeling, and as details of the assassination emerged, they seemed to offer more questions than answers.
Forty to 50 people were involved in the assault, and they appeared to have been well-trained, State Department officials told members of Congress on Thursday, according to three people familiar with the briefing who spoke on the condition of anonymity. That report was in keeping with earlier comments by the Haitian ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, who described the attackers as “professionals, killers, commandos” in a call with reporters.
The assailants made it past two police checkpoints before reaching the president’s gate, the State Department said, according to people familiar with the briefing, adding that the security personnel guarding the president’s residence had suffered no injuries.
There were also said to be no reports of an exchange of gunfire between the guards and the attackers — which raised some eyebrows.
“It’s weird that there was no one was fighting back,” said Laurent Lamothe, a former prime minister of Haiti, noting that the presidential guard usually had a detachment of about 100 officers. “There was a lot of shooting, but no deaths. The only death was the president.”
One American lawmaker, Representative Andy Levin, a co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the circumstances of the attack, and particularly the apparent lack of fighting, raised questions about whether the assassination could have been “an inside job.”
Mr. Destin, the justice of the peace, said the president’s house had been ransacked. “Drawers were pulled out, papers were all over the ground, bags were open,” he said. “They were looking for something apparently.”
And the attack, he said, had been very violent.
President Moïse had been dressed in a white shirt and jeans, he said, both of which were torn and covered in blood. Bullet holes perforated his arms, hip, backside and left ear.
Mr. Destin said two of the president’s children had been present during the attack. He took a statement from the president’s 24-year-old daughter, who had returned to the house from the hospital to collect clothing for her wounded mother.
She told him that she and her younger brother had hid together in his bathroom, Mr. Destin said.
The international airport in Port-au-Prince is resuming commercial flights on Friday, two days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti led to its closure and a series of canceled flights.
Christopher D. Johnson, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince, confirmed in a statement that flights would resume on Friday. The facility, Toussaint Louverture International Airport, first closed early Wednesday, Mr. Johnson said.
Among the U.S. airlines that operate flights between the United States and Haiti are American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit. JetBlue, which averages five flights per day between the United States and Haiti, has suspended flights until at least Saturday, a spokesman said, and is evaluating the situation.
“If and when we add flights before Sunday, we will reach out to customers to inform them,” said the spokesman, Derek Dombrowski. The Haiti-based Sunrise Airways, which flies within the Caribbean, grounded all flights until further notice.
American Airlines operates two daily flights from Miami and one daily flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The airline said it planned to operate both flights out of Miami but was still evaluating Fort Lauderdale flights because of “early timing.”
On Thursday, a day after declaring a “state of siege” and a curfew, Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, asked people to return to work and ordered the airport reopened.
The Dominican Republic’s president, Luís Abinader, had closed the country’s border with Haiti and also increased security, causing dozens of trucks to back up along the crucial passageway, according to The Associated Press.
Haiti has been thwarted by outside interests from its very foundation as a country.
For decades, European powers, and later the United States, refused to recognize it as an independent republic.
The Caribbean nation became the world’s first Black-led republic when it declared its independence from France on New Year’s Day 1804. That day, Saint-Domingue, once France’s richest colony, known as the “Pearl of the Antilles,” became Haiti.
It was a land long coveted for its riches of sugar, coffee and cotton, brought to market by enslaved people. Its declaration of independence meant that, for the first time, a brutally enslaved people had wrenched their freedom from colonial masters. But it came only after decades of bloody war.
In 1825, more than two decades after independence, the king of France, Charles X, sent warships to the capital, Port-au-Prince, and forced Haiti to compensate former French colonists for their lost property.
Haiti, unable to pay the hefty sum, was forced into a debt that it had to shoulder for nearly a century. Throughout the 19th century, a period marked by political and economic instability, the country invested little in its infrastructure or education.
In 1915, U.S. troops invaded after a mob killed the Haitian president.
The United States later justified its occupation as an attempt to restore order and prevent what it said was a looming invasion by French or German forces. But U.S. troops reintroduced forced labor on road-construction projects and were later accused of extrajudicial killings.
The widely unpopular occupation ended in 1934, but U.S. control over Haiti’s finances lasted until 1947.
After a series of midcentury coups, the Duvalier family, father-and-son dictators, reigned over Haiti with brute force until the 1980s. Their regime plunged Haiti deeper into debt, and introduced the so-called Tontons Macoutes, an infamous secret police force that terrorized the country.
In the early 1990s, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was elected president. He was then ousted twice from power over the next 15 years.
Haiti, with a population of 11 million, is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
In 2010, it suffered a devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people. The country never really recovered, and it has remained mired in economic underdevelopment and insecurity. A cholera outbreak in 2016, linked to U.N. peacekeepers, killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened another 800,000.
Then early Wednesday, Jovenel Moïse, who became president in 2017, was assassinated at his residence.