Shockwaves are running through Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7. Moïse was shot in the bedroom of the presidential villa in Port-au-Prince in the middle of the night by a large group of mercenaries, according to Haitian officials. Moïse’s wife, Martine, was also shot, but not fatally. She is currently under hospital care in the US.
Breaking Into the Villa
The mercenaries, numbering more than two dozen, gained access to the residence by pretending to be from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They stormed the villa in the raid and overwhelmed security forces. Moïse was shot about 12 times and the attackers fled, some shot, some captured. None of Moïse’s security forces were injured or killed, which leaves unanswered questions about how they conducted themselves and what actually happened.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of suspects in the Moïse murder case. Haitian authorities are currently seeking a former senator, a fired government official, a cocaine smuggler, and others in connection with the murder. And a US-based Haitian pastor has been accused as the mastermind.
One reason there are so many suspects is that Moïse did not have a serene or quiet presidency. He was chosen in a second round of elections in 2016 with a majority of 600,000 votes, a paltry turnout in a country of 11 million people. During his tenure, there were nationwide protests against corruption.
His flagship program, the Caravan of Change, was supposed to build schools, hospitals, roads, and reduce food insecurity by increasing agricultural production. The program was mired in charges of fraud and failure. Gang crimes and killings were also rampant during his reign, including a massacre of 15 people a week before Moises’s own murder.
The length of his term was also in question. In 2019 he held no parliamentary elections, which dissolved the governing body in 2020. He ruled by decree and sought reforms of Haitian statutes, many of which were unpopular.
Negligence or Betrayal?
The origin of the assassination will take a long time to unravel. In addition to the questions of “who did it?” and “why?”, the question of “how?” also need to be asked. Moïse was in the presidential residence with a team of security personnel on call. Yet, he was not safe in his own house.
How did assassins break in and succeed in killing him, without harming any of the security guards? Moreover, how were several of these assassins easily caught or killed by Haitian law enforcement officers after they fled the scene?
There are two options as to what happened: First is that the president’s security team acted with gross negligence, finding themselves simply unprepared for such an attack. The second is that someone was working from the inside to help the assassins succeed.
Due to these two options, neither of which are good, the head of security at the presidential residence has been taken into police custody. The head of the presidential guard has been removed from his position. Four elite members of the security detail are being held in isolation. The Haitian government and people want answers. They want justice, even if it is for a president who didn’t always act justly.
The Challenges of Securing High-Risk VIPs
Hindsight is always 20-20. Despite the hardships of a criminal investigation, the answer will be known: either gross negligence was involved or betrayal. Justice will hopefully be served and the country will move on.
But what about preventing the next assassination? The weak links of the security detail of high-risk VIPs must always be sought and discovered before it is too late – before a tragedy like the Moïse assassination occurs.
This is the job and responsibility of security firms that provide protection for high-profile and high-risk VIPs – to keep their clients safe, not just with guns and bodies, but with clever calculations and predictions, to always be one step ahead of enemies, real or imagined. In the case of Moïse, his security detail failed him. The next president of Haiti will need to take better care that the same does not happen to him.
For additional resources and guidance, the Interfor team is here to help.