CARICOM leaders reacted with shock and outrage on Wednesday after news that Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his home and his wife Martine seriously injured.
Moise is the second Caricom leader to be assassinated, following the killing of Grenada's prime minister Maurice Bishop in 1983.
In an official statement, Haiti's interim Prime Minister Dr Claude Joseph said the assassination took place around 1 am on Wednesday.
He said, "A group of unidentified individuals, some of whom spoke in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the Republic, thus mortally wounding the chief of state."
Joseph condemned the "heinous, inhuman and barbaric act," and asked the country to be calm. He said the country's security is "under control" by the police and armed forces and all measures are taken to guarantee the continuity of the state and protect the nation.
The country's borders and its airport were subsequently closed and a state of siege – one tier above a state of emergency – was declared. Martine has since been taken to the US for medical treatment and is in critical condition. She arrived in Florida at approximately 3.30 pm.
There were several protests in the country's capital Port-au-Prince earlier this year calling on Moise to step down as the Opposition said his term was supposed to end on February 7. Many of these protests resulted in clashes with the police.
Moise was elected in 2016 with an AP story stating he ruled by decree for over two years after the country failed to hold elections.
In a press release, the TT government said it was shocked at the tragic developments.
"We offer our deepest condolences to the family of President Moise and to the Government and People of Haiti, our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) on this most distressing occurrence.
"TT pledges to work together with our Caricom colleagues and other hemispheric and international partners to support Haiti at this very difficult time."
Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne told Newsday the news was a tragedy for the Haitian people and all of Caricom. "I join with our Prime Minister and all Caricom leaders and nationals in expressing condolences to his family and the people of Haiti," Browne said.
Caricom chairman and Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the incident. In an official statement he said Moise was "mired in a debate as to whether his term ended months ago or continues until early next year.
"The assassination of last evening further complicates the jostling for power that has characterised the Haitian state and its future," Browne said.
"Caricom will continue to work in close co-operation with the Haitian people, the UN, the OAS and the governments of France and the US in bringing a reasonable settlement of the state of uncertainty and instability that now threaten the peace and security in Haiti and our community as a whole.
Dominican PM Roosevelt Skerrit tweeted his condolences to the Haitian population.
Barbados PM Mia Mottley said the act was an "atrocious" one which Barbados "vehemently condemns." She said, "Violence can never be a solution and must be rejected in all circumstances.
Jamaica's PM Andrew Holness said of Moise, "I found him to be a man committed to seeing Haiti take her place in the world."
St Kitts and Nevis PM Dr Timothy Harris said the news was "extremely sad" and left him with a heavy heart.
"On my own behalf, that of the Government and people of St Kitts and Nevis, I extend sincere condolences to the family and the people of Haiti and hope they find solace and comfort during this traumatic and challenging time.
Bahamas PM Dr Hubert Minnis said his government was "deeply saddened" and sent condolences.
"The Heads of Government of Caricom at its 42nd meeting, which concluded on (Tuesday), discussed the ongoing situation in Haiti and offered its assistance in finding a peaceful resolution to the political crises. We pray for the people of Haiti and for a peaceful resolution to the political crises."
Guyana's President Irfaan Ali said the "horrific act" was a tragedy for the entire Caribbean. "Those responsible must be brought swiftly to justice. Political assassinations have no place in contemporary Caribbean. It solves nothing nor resolves anything."
St Lucia PM Allen Chastanet sent condolences saying his government "prays for stability and peace as the region mourns."
Montserrat's Premier Joseph Farrell asked his country to "pray in earnest for the peace and stability of Haiti despite this very difficult and challenging situation.
"Haiti is a full member of Caricom and in that respect, the Premier promises to continue to work with the other Caricom heads of government to support the Republic of Haiti in finding a way forward that is sustainable and non-violent."
Belize PM Johnny Briceno said he hopes those responsible for the "heinous act" are held accountable. "I encourage the people of our regional neighbours, Haiti, to move forward during these uncertain times peacefully," he said.
The office of the PM in St Vincent described the act as "cowardly."
"In our Caribbean community, we settle political differences peacefully through democratic institutions. We do not use violence and thuggery which undermine democracy and the rule of law." The statement urged Haitians to refrain from "vigilante justice and retaliatory aggression."
WELL PLANNED ASSASSINATION'
The Haitian embassy in the US described the attack as "well co-ordinated by a highly trained and heavily armed group."
It said Haiti lost "a true statesman who was committed to progressing our country's democratic transition and fighting corruption."
It said Moise worked tirelessly to address "serious systemic failures" in the country as he believed it could become "a beacon of democracy.
"...including reform of the constitution," it said. "He sought to distance himself from polarised Haitian politics and deliver lasting, meaningful change for the country in the face of powerful forces of resistance."
It urged Haitians to show restraint and "maintain a peaceful environment" for the next few days. It also called for an investigation into the assassination to be launched and for the United Nations (UN) to host a security council meeting "as soon as possible.
"President Moise died in defence of democracy and we have a duty to ensure his legacy is honoured."
The Organization of American States (OAS), which Haiti is a member of, said the attack "is an affront to the entire community of democratic nations represented in the OAS."
It said it "most vehemently deplores" the attack, describing it as an attempt to "undermine the institutional stability of the country.