Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, a former banana producer and political neophyte who ruled Haiti for more than four years in which the country became increasingly unstable, was assassinated on Wednesday. He was 53 years old.

Moïse was killed in his private home in “a highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group,” said Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph. The president’s wife, Martine Moïse, was injured and is hospitalized.

“Haiti has lost a true statesman,” declared Joseph. “We will ensure that those responsible for this heinous act are brought to justice quickly.”

Moïse, a businessman from northern Haiti, lacked political experience before former President Michel Martelly chose him to be the candidate for the ruling Tet Kale party in the 2015 election.

Moïse, speaking calmly, seemed like an unusual politician, especially when compared to Martelly, a flashy and bombastic musician. Although he was not poor, he was also far from belonging to the elite. His father was a small farmer and businessman. His mother helped sell her crops and worked as a seamstress.

“I come from the field; I’m not from Port-au-Prince,” Moïse noted during a visit to South Florida to meet with the Haitian community living there early in his campaign for the presidency.

Campaigning under the nickname “Neg Bannan Nan” – “The Banana Man” in Haitian Creole – he promoted achievements that included the launch of a joint banana export venture with the help of a $ 6 million loan approved by the government.

Moïse won the 2015 presidential election, but the results were thrown out after allegations of fraud, which was followed by a period of political limbo, which included the appointment of an interim president. Subsequently, Moïse won the November 2016 elections, although voter turnout was only 21%.

He took office in February 2017 and vowed to strengthen institutions, fight corruption, and bring more investment and jobs to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

“It is really important to change the lifestyle of these people,” he said, referring to impoverished Haitians in rural areas.

He spoke frequently of his desire to improve the lot of Haiti’s many small and subsistence farmers through increased access to water for irrigation and other infrastructure.

“We have a lot of empty land, rivers that flow directly into the sea. We have the sun, and the people ”, he went on to say. “If you put these four things together – the land, the rivers, the people and the sun – you will have a rich country. That is why I am in politics”.

But his government was soon plagued by massive protests, and critics accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

At the time of his assassination, Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than a year after Parliament was dissolved and legislators failed to organize legislative elections.

He was widely criticized for passing decrees, including one that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that only answers to the president.

Political and economic instability has worsened in recent months, with widespread protests that paralyzed the country of more than 11 million people. The gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince grew more powerful. More than 14,700 people were driven from their homes in June when gangs looted and burned houses.

In addition, 15 people were killed during a June 29 shooting in the capital, including a well-known journalist and political activist. Authorities blamed a group of rebel police officers, but have not provided evidence.

Moïse is survived by his wife and three children.

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