Martine Moise, Haiti’s First Lady, Says Guards “Disappeared” During President’s Assassination


South Florida (CNN) – When the Haitian president was brutally murdered in his room last month, only one witness was there to see him. She knew him better than anyone.

Martine Moise, Haiti’s first lady, was found bloodied on the ground next to the body of her husband, Jovenel Moise, on July 7. killers to justice.

In an interview in South Florida on Sunday, Ms Moise – still in black mourning, her arm bandaged from wrist to shoulder – described the chilling details of the attack to CNN and asked for the world’s help to resolve murder.

“Someone gave the order and someone paid the money. These are the people we are looking for. I want the help of the United Nations Security Council to find these people,” she said. declared.

Ms. Moise is the only eyewitness to the murder of her husband. She is also the only other known victim, her elbow and forearm shattered in a hail of bullets as the attackers entered the presidential suite.

She first knew something was wrong that night when she and her husband heard automatic gunshots outside their house around 1 a.m. Once they realized the gunmen had entered the house, they tried to hide on the ground behind their beds, she said.

Even then, however, Moses didn’t believe what was about to happen.

“At that time, I didn’t even think they were going to be able to get into the room we were in because we had about 30 or 50 security guards (at the house),” she said.

However, they did so, in a serious security breach that the Haitian authorities have still not explained. At least two senior security officials are currently in prison, including presidential security chief Dimitri Herard and palace security coordinator Jean Laguel Civil.

From where she was lying on the floor, her arm broken and bleeding in several places, Moise said she could only see the intruders’ shoes. She estimated that a dozen men entered the room, speaking Spanish, looking for something specific.

“They came into the room to find something, because I heard them say: ‘Non es eso, non es eso – eso es’ (in Spanish:’ This is not it, this is not this – this is it ‘). Which means they found what they were looking for. ”

It wasn’t until then that they turned their attention to the president on the floor and made a fatal phone call, she recalls with devastating calm.

“He was alive at the time. They said he was tall and thin and black, and maybe the person on the phone confirmed to the shooter that it was him. Then they shot him to the ground. . “

Her husband would have received 12 bullets, bullet holes were discovered on his face, torso, legs and arms, according to an initial report by investigators.

The attackers never addressed the president directly, and Mr. Moise said nothing to them in the moments leading up to his execution, according to his wife.

“Once they shot the president, that’s when I thought, ‘It’s over for both of us. “And I closed my eyes, you know, I didn’t think of anything else. I thought, ‘It’s over. This is our last day,'” she said.

But the attackers left without further bloodshed. Moses thinks they took her for dead.

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Even after the attack, the security guards tasked with protecting Haiti’s first family never came. It was a maid who eventually found Ms Moise in the room bloodied, and who she asked to bring one of her husband’s ties to serve as a tourniquet for her arm, she said. .

A team of National Police eventually arrived to take her away, first to a local hospital she barely remembered, then on a plane to a Miami hospital with her children.

As she left her house in the dark early in the morning, Moise said she was struck by the absence of one of the usual guardians on the grounds of the compound. Dozens of guards are usually stationed in the house, she says, and their dorms are actually in the basement of the house, to ensure seamless shift rotations.

“The guards would not leave without an order. Maybe they received an order to leave – that’s what I think,” she said. “I thought a lot about how this could have happened.”

“It would have been 50 to 28, we had more security than them … I think the president died with the hope that his security team would come,” she said.

Haitian authorities have previously said no guard was injured as the attackers walked through the main gate, through the compound, violated the front door and searched for the president’s room.

What the presidential security guards know, saw or did are central questions in the ongoing investigation.

At least 24 police officers are under investigation, according to Haiti’s police chief Leon Charles. Twelve were arrested and four were accused of working closely with the group of alleged Colombian mercenaries suspected of carrying out the attack, according to national police spokeswoman Marie Michele Vernier.

But as CNN previously reported, forensic investigators were not allowed to meet or take testimony from guards who witnessed the attack.

Haitian authorities have no shortage of suspects in the murder plot – a total of at least 44 people are currently in custody, including 18 Colombians and at least three US citizens. But despite the arrests of a Florida-based pastor and a former local Justice Department official who are accused of coordinating parts of the attack, no clear leader or motive has yet emerged. None of the suspects have even been formally charged.

Speaking quietly and precisely in Haitian Creole, French and English in turn, the first lady was calm and cautious – a woman transformed from the empty-eyed hospital patient shown in picture tweeted through his official account in the days following the assassination.

Little emotion crossed her face as she recounted that bloody night – other than a brief burst of wry laughter at the suggestion that the masterminds of the assassination were among the dozens of suspects identified so far in the investigation. Haitian authorities.

Real brains are always on the run, Moise believes. “The people they arrested are the people who pulled the trigger. They wouldn’t have pulled the trigger out of order. So the main characters we need are the people who paid for it. And the people who paid for it. gave the order. ”

She is not sure that local authorities alone are able to find out the truth. What the Haitian people need, she said, is an independent investigation led by the UN, and potentially for the case to one day reach the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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Government agents from the United States and Colombia are already supporting the ongoing murder investigation, and their involvement is widely cited in the capital Port-au-Prince as key to its credibility.

Nonetheless, the investigation is opaque, and several close sources told CNN they were uncomfortable with repeated breaches of protocol, failures to protect investigators from death threats, and battles for access. key evidence.

“Planning for months to kill a president and no one around him knowing is something terrible. It showed me that my country’s security and intelligence systems need work. If these people are there. for months and that we had an intelligence system job, the president would have known, “Moise said.

There are also more nefarious forces at play than incompetence, she believes.

“There are powerful people in Haiti. And because of their power, I’m not sure the current investigation can find answers, ”she said.

Her late husband was a controversial figure accused by civil society leaders of trying to consolidate power by refusing to hold elections, weakening democratic safeguards and turning a blind eye to gang violence .

He has also made dangerous enemies among the country’s powerful oligarchs by attempting to terminate or rewrite lucrative government contracts, his wife said.

Speaking at the president’s funeral in the northern city of Cap Haitien last week, the first lady warned that bloodthirsty “raptors” were still on the run in Haiti, hoping to scare away future reformers. .

“Is it a crime to want to free the state from the clutches of corrupt oligarchs? Is it a great crime? she said.

“Jovenel showed us the way, he opened our eyes, so let’s not let our president’s blood flow in vain,” she added, one of the many statements that fueled rumors that she could one day stand for election.

Moise dodges questions about her own presidential ambitions with the grace of a seasoned politician, but she doesn’t back down from politically charged matters. She argued, for example, that the interim government must hurry to organize new elections as well as the constitutional referendum her husband defended, which grants more powers to the presidency.

Civil society leaders counter that the polls will be neither free nor fair in the current climate of insecurity, which has seen kidnappings and rampant gang warfare in Port-au-Prince. Nevertheless, elections are currently scheduled for the end of September.

“I think that with the upcoming elections, with the constitution changing too, we will have a better country,” Moise told CNN. “Not in five years, probably not in 10. But we have hope.”

For the immediate future, she insists that she focus on her children, her recovery and ensure that the international community which has so often intervened in Haiti’s affairs now grants the Caribbean country an independent investigation. on world class murders.

Though eclipsed by her new entourage of beefy American private security guards and faced with an intimidating series of medical procedures to restore use to her damaged arm, she is ready to fight.

“That’s what hope gives you. You fight,” she said softly. “I’ll ask and ask and ask until I get it.”

Report produced by the journalist Etant Dupain.

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