With her elbow shattered from the gunfire and her mouth full of blood, Haiti’s First Lady was slumped on the floor next to her bed, unable to breathe as the assassins flooded the room.
“The only thing I saw before they killed him were his boots,” said Martine Moïse of the moment her husband, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, was shot dead beside her. “So I closed my eyes and saw nothing else.”
She listened as they searched the room, methodically searching for something in her husband’s files, she said. “‘That’s not it. It’s not that,” she recalled what they said in Spanish, on several occasions. So after all: “‘This is it'”.
The assassins have fled. One of them stepped on your foot. Another shone a flashlight in her eyes, apparently to verify that she was alive. “When they left they thought I was dead,” she said.
In her first interview since the assassination of the president on July 7, Martine Moïse, 47, described the excruciating pain of seeing her husband, with whom she had lived for 25 years, killed in front of her.
She didn’t want to remember the fatal shooting, the shaking walls and windows, the terrifying certainty that her children would be killed, the horror of seeing her husband’s corpse, or the way she struggled to get up. after the killers left. “All that blood,” she said in a low voice.
But she needed to talk, she said, because she didn’t believe the investigation into her husband’s death answered the main question that plagues her and many Haitians: who sponsored and paid for for his murder?
Haitian police have detained a wide range of people linked to the murder, including 18 Colombians and several Haitians and Americans of Haitian descent, and continue to search for more.
The suspects include retired Colombian military personnel, a former judge, a security equipment salesman, a Florida insurance broker and two commanders of the president’s security team.
Haitian police say the elaborate plot revolves around a doctor and pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, who allegedly plotted to hire Colombian mercenaries to kill the president and seize political power.
But critics of the government’s explanation say none of those named in the investigation could afford to fund the plot on their own. And Martine Moise, like many Haitians, thinks there must have been a brain behind them, giving the orders and providing the money.
She wants to know what happened to the 30 to 50 men who were usually stationed at her house when her husband was there. None of the guards were killed or even injured, Moise said. “I don’t understand how no one was hurt,” she said.
At the time of his death, Jovenel Moïse, 53, was in the midst of a political crisis. Protesters accused him of staying in power beyond his tenure, controlling criminal gangs and ruling by decree as the country’s institutions emptied.
Moses was also in a battle with some of the country’s wealthiest oligarchs, including the family that controls the national electricity grid.
While many described the president as an autocratic leader, Martine Moïse said his compatriots should remember him as a man who stood up to the rich and powerful.
And now she wants to know if either of them had her killed. “Only the oligarchs and the system could kill him,” she said.
Dressed in black, her arm – now paralyzed and possibly forever unfit, she says – wrapped in bandages and a scarf, Moise gave an interview in South Florida to The New York Times, on condition that it does not reveal its location.
With her children, security agents, Haitian diplomats and other advisers, she often spoke in low tones.
She and her husband were asleep when the sounds of gunshots made them start to get up, she recalls. Moise said he rushed to wake his two children, both in their twenties, and asked them to hide in a bathroom, the only room with no windows. They took refuge there with their dog. Her husband picked up the phone and called for help.
“I asked, ‘Honey, who did you call?'” She said. “He said: ‘I found Dimitri Hérard; I found Jean Laguel Civil'”, she recalls, citing the names of two officials in charge of presidential security. “And they told me they were coming.”
But the killers quickly entered the house, appearing to encounter no obstacles, she said. Jovenel Moise told his wife to lie down on the floor so as not to hurt herself.
“I think then you’ll be safe,” she remembers what he told her. A flurry of gunfire crossed the room, she said, and hit her first. Injured in the hand and in the elbow, Martine Moise lay motionless on the ground, convinced that she and all her family were dead.
None of the killers spoke Creole or French, he said. The men spoke only Spanish and communicated with someone on the phone as they searched the room. They seem to have found what they were looking for on a shelf where her husband kept files.
“They were looking for something in the room and they found it,” Moise said. She said she didn’t know what it was.
“At that point, I felt like I was suffocating because there was blood in my mouth and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “In my mind, everyone was dead, because if the president could die, everyone could have died too.”
The men her husband called for help, she said – authorities responsible for her security – are now in detention in Haiti.
And although she expressed her satisfaction that several accused of conspiracy are in custody, she is not at all happy.
Moise wants international security agencies like the FBI, which searched homes in Florida this week as part of the investigation, to track the money that funded the murder.
The Colombian mercenaries who are imprisoned, she says, did not come to Haiti to “play hide and seek,” and she wants to know who paid for it all.
Moise hopes the money will lead to Haiti’s wealthy oligarchs, whose lives have been turned upside down by her husband’s attacks on their lucrative contracts, she said.
Moses said he is seriously considering running for president after undergoing further surgery on his injured arm. She has had two and doctors are now planning to implant nerves from her feet into her arm, she said. She might never regain the use of her right arm and can only move two fingers, he explained.
“President Jovenel had a vision,” she said. “And we Haitians are not going to let her die.
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves