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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is assassinated in Port-au-Prince, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffles his cabinet, and U.S. troops are targeted in Iraq and Syria .
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is assassinated in Port-au-Prince, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffles his cabinet, and U.S. troops are targeted in Iraq and Syria.
If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.
Haiti’s President Assassinated
Haitian police say they have killed four and arrested two of the suspected perpetrators of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who was killed in his home on Wednesday in the capital, Port-au-Prince, by a group of unknown assailants. Haitian First Lady Martine Moïse survived the attack, albeit with multiple bullet wounds.
The murder has thrown an already failing state into further turmoil. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has endured years of economic mismanagement, corruption, and a surge in gang violence that displaced more than 5,000 people in the first 10 days of June alone.
Few details have emerged following the assassination. Videos taken by witnesses appear to show an English-speaking member of the hit team identifying the group as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents over a loudspeaker while other witnesses said the assailants spoke Spanish. (Creole and French are Haiti’s primary languages.)
Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday the attack appeared to be carried out by “well-trained professional killers” who spoke Spanish, and he urged U.S. assistance in investigating the assassination.
Edmond, who appeared shellshocked from the news of his president’s assassination earlier in the day, appealed for calm and a halt to violence in his country. “We have to come together. There is no way we can continue down this path,” he said. He then paused and added, “This is something I would have never imagined I would have seen in my lifetime.”
In a statement, Rep. Andy Levin, the Democratic co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus, said the assassination was “a devastating if not shocking example of the extent to which the security situation in Haiti has unraveled.” Levin criticized world powers for ignoring the sharp uptick in violence. “For months, violent actors have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity while the international community—the United States included, I fear—has failed to heed their cries to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition,” Levin said.
Power vacuum. Moïse’s death has caused a constitutional crisis brought on in part by the failure of Moïse’s administration to hold parliamentary elections in 2019, leaving the country without an elected legislature as the president ruled by decree. Under Haiti’s constitution, a National Assembly is supposed to elect a provisional president in the event of the sitting president’s death—without a parliament, the question of who will ultimately lead Haiti is still up in the air.
Storms ahead. On top of Haiti’s other problems, the assassination comes at the outset of a hurricane season that could worsen the country’s humanitarian situation. “Eleven years after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake and 11 years after the international assistance that followed, Haiti continues in a downward spiral with potential regional reverberations,” said Jason Marczak, an expert on Latin America at the Atlantic Council. “Political instability requires engagement with all actors, both those with power and those in opposition, to avoid contributing to the worsening political polarization.”
What We’re Following Today
EU-China relations. EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell holds virtual talks today with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, soon after Monday’s three-way talks via video conference between Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Beijing’s readout of the meeting said both European leaders supported a revival of the EU-China investment pact that EU lawmakers refused to ratify after China issued tit-for-tat sanctions against members of the European Parliament in response to European sanctions on Chinese officials over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Modi’s new cabinet. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out his first cabinet reshuffle since winning reelection in 2019 as he battles with public discontent over his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has already led to shock losses in state elections. In the biggest revamp since he gained power in 2014, Modi dropped 12 out of 15 senior cabinet ministers, including the ministers for health, education, and information technology. One cabinet member who remains at his post is S. Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, who is in the middle of a three-day visit to Moscow. Jaishankar’s trip follows Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to New Delhi in April.
U.S. personnel targeted in Iraq and Syria. U.S. diplomats and troops in Iraq and Syria came under drone and rocket attack over a 24-hour period, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday, adding to a string of recent strikes against bases housing U.S. service members in recent weeks. U.S. officials said two service members were injured in an attack on Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq, with one suffering a concussion and the other sustaining minor cuts. The Biden administration has so far shown a low tolerance level for such attacks, bombing sites affiliated with Iran-linked militias in June after previous rocket strikes targeted U.S. personnel.
Keep an Eye On
Brazil’s presidential contest. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gave the clearest indication yet that he would not accept the results of a presidential election, scheduled for October 2022, alleging the country’s electronic vote-counting system was susceptible to fraud. “If this method continues, they’re going to have problems,” Bolsonaro said in a radio interview. “Because one side, which is our side, may not accept the result.” Bolsonaro has trailed his rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in opinion polls ever since the former president’s corruption convictions were annulled in March.
Gaza reconstruction. The longer-term effects of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in May were made clearer in a joint report from the European Union, United Nations, and World Bank released on Wednesday. The report estimated overall damages of between $290 million to $380 million while economic losses totaled between $105 million to $190 million—roughly 6 percent of Gaza’s GDP. The authors estimated Gaza’s unemployment rate would reach 50 percent in 2021—its highest since the early 1990s—and its economy would shrink by 0.3 percent.
Odds and Ends
Norwegian social media influencers who appear too good to be true will have to prove it under new laws passed by Norway’s parliament. In line with similar U.S. law, the bill calls for users to clearly disclose when they are featuring a product as part of a paid promotion—but in a novel addition, the law also calls for influencers to disclose whether they have used any body or face altering apps or software to improve their image. The latter rule is designed to reduce the pressure for social media users to live up to unrealistic beauty standards, a problem Norwegians call “kroppspress” or body pressure.
Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy’s diplomacy and national security reporter, contributed to today’s brief.