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Haitian Activist On President's Assassination

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

Authorities in Haiti are still investigating the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. The president was gunned down inside his own home early on Wednesday. His wife Martine was also wounded in the attack. Haitian officials say they have a group of suspects in custody, mostly Colombian nationals but also two U.S. citizens. However, members of Haiti's political opposition are casting doubt on the official version of events.

The news from Haiti this week shocked many Haitians living outside the country. That includes Jimmy Jean-Louis, an actor and activist who works to raise awareness about Haiti around the world. He told us he was devastated when he first heard the president had been killed.

JIMMY JEAN-LOUIS: I just couldn't believe that Haiti would have to go through another period like we're living right now. So I'm completely speechless. It's an act of violence that is so devastating.

KURTZLEBEN: Haiti has faced multiple challenges in its modern history. There was the earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. But also, there are hurricanes, widespread poverty and corruption and a political system that has struggled for stability ever since the country emerged from decades of dictatorship under the Duvalier family. And Jimmy Jean-Louis says you can go even further back to Haiti's independence from France in 1804.

JEAN-LOUIS: From the very beginning, from the time that Haiti got its independence, 20 years later, Haiti was forced to pay a debt to the French people, which lasted up until 60 years ago. So all the money that Haiti was making was going straight back to the French people. So when they stopped that debt, which was back in 1950, that's when we started to have problems in the country. So that's when the Duvalier came on power.

So the Duvalier stayed for about 30 years. And then we thought that maybe getting rid of the Duvalier would bring Haiti into the different era and a better era. But, no, it didn't happen. We had Aristide and Preval and then, of course, as you know, the devastated earthquake.

KURTZLEBEN: Since 2010, it's been more of the same, he says, dashed hopes and political uncertainty. Even before the president's murder this week, Haiti's various political factions were already arguing over who should be in charge and when new elections should be held. Now, Jean-Louis says he's worried about what happens next.

JEAN-LOUIS: And we still have a lot of political positions that are still fighting for the power. So in the middle of all that, we have the people who don't know what to do anymore. They are scared. They still don't want to get out. The level of insecurity is worse. So I don't know where we heading.

KURTZLEBEN: That was Haitian actor and activist Jimmy Jean-Louis talking about the uncertainty facing Haiti after this week's murder of President Jovenel Moise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.