As the assassins stormed the room, the first lady of Haiti lay on the floor beside her bed, her elbow shattered by gunfire and her mouth full of blood.
“The only thing that I saw before they killed him were their boots,” Martine Moïse said of the moment her husband, President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, was shot dead beside her. “Then I closed my eyes, and I didn’t see anything else.”
She listened as they ransacked the room, methodically searching for something in her husband’s files, she explained. “‘That’s not it. That’s not it,'” she remembered them saying over and over in Spanish. Then, finally: “‘That’s it.'”
The assassins filed out. One of them stepped on her toes. Another person waved a flashlight in her eyes, presumably to see if she was still alive.
“When they left, they thought I was dead,” she said.
Moïse, 47, described the agony of seeing her husband, with whom she had shared 25 years, killed in front of her in her first interview since the president’s assassination on July 7.
She didn’t want to relive the deafening gunfire, the trembling walls and windows, the terrifying certainty that her children would be killed, the horror of seeing her husband’s body, or the struggle to stand up after the killers had fled.
“All that blood,” she mumbled.
But she needed to speak up because she didn’t believe the investigation into his death had answered the central question that had plagued her and countless Haitians: who ordered and paid for her husband’s assassination?
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In connection with the killing, Haitian police have detained a diverse group of people, including 18 Colombians and several Haitians and Haitian Americans, and they are still looking for more.
Retired Colombian commandos, a former judge, a security equipment salesman, a mortgage and insurance broker in Florida, and two commanders of the president’s security team are among the suspects.
According to Haitian police, the elaborate plot revolves around Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old doctor and pastor who officials say conspired to hire Colombian mercenaries to kill the president and seize political power.
However, critics of the government’s explanation claim that none of the people named in the investigation had the financial means to carry out the plot on their own.
And, like many Haitians, Moïse believes there must have been a mastermind behind them, giving the orders and supplying the money.
She’s curious about what happened to the 30 to 50 men who were usually stationed at her house whenever her husband was at home.
She claimed that none of his bodyguards were killed or even injured. “I don’t understand how nobody was shot,” she said.
President Moïse, 53, was in the midst of a political crisis at the time of his death.
Protesters accused him of exceeding his term limit, of controlling local gangs, and of ruling by decree as the nation’s institutions crumbled.
Martine Moïse via her Facebook page was also at odds with some of the country’s wealthiest oligarchs, including the family that controlled the country’s electrical grid.
While many people have described the president as an autocratic leader, his wife believes that his fellow citizens should remember him as a man who stood up to the rich and powerful.
And now she wants to know if one of them murdered him.
“Only the oligarchs and the system could kill him,” she said.
Moïse, dressed in black and with her arm wrapped in a sling and bandages — now limp and possibly useless forever, she said — agreed to an interview in South Florida on the condition that her whereabouts were not revealed.
She barely spoke above a whisper, surrounded by her children, security guards, Haitian diplomats, and other advisers.
She and her husband had been sleeping when the sounds of gunfire jolted them awake.
Moïse stated that she ran to wake her two children, both in their early twenties, and urged them to seek refuge in a bathroom, the only room without windows.
They were huddled together with their dog.
Her husband called for help after he grabbed his phone.
“I asked, ‘Honey, who did you phone?’” she said.
“He stated, ‘I found Dimitri Hérard; I found Jean Laguel Civil,’” she said, the two top officials in charge of presidential security. “And they told me that they are coming.”
However, the assassins entered the house quickly and seemingly unhindered, she claimed.
President Moïse instructed his wife to lie down on the floor so that she would not be injured.
“‘That’s where I think you will be safe,’” she recalled him saying.
It was the final thing he said to her.
She claimed that a burst of gunfire ripped through the room, striking her first.
Struck in the hand and elbow, she lay motionless on the floor, convinced that she and her entire family had been murdered.
She claimed that none of the assassins spoke Creole or French.
The men only spoke Spanish and were on the phone with someone as they searched the room.
They appeared to find what they were looking for on a shelf where her husband kept his files.
“They were looking for something in the room, and they found it,” Moïse said.
She claimed she had no idea what it was.
“At this moment, I felt that I was suffocating because there was blood in my mouth and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “In my mind, everybody was dead, because if the president could die, everybody else could have died too.”
She claims that the men her husband had called for assistance — the officials entrusted with his security — are now in Haitian custody.
And, while she expressed relief that a number of the accused conspirators have been apprehended, she is far from satisfied.
Moïse wants international law enforcement agencies, such as the F.B.I., which searched homes in Florida this week as part of the investigation, to track down the money used to fund the murder.
She claims that the Colombian mercenaries arrested did not come to Haiti to “play hide and seek,” and she wants to know who paid for it all.
Moïse predicted that the money would be traced back to wealthy oligarchs in Haiti, whose livelihoods had been disrupted by her husband’s attacks on lucrative contracts.
Moïse named Reginald Boulos, a powerful Haitian businessman who has expressed interest in running for president, as someone who stood to benefit from her husband’s death, though she stopped short of accusing him of ordering the assassination.
Boulos and his businesses have been the subject of a slew of legal proceedings brought by the Haitian government, which is looking into allegations of a preferential loan obtained from the state pension fund.
Boulos’ bank accounts were frozen prior to President Moïse’s death, and they were released to him immediately after his death, according to his wife.
“I had absolutely, absolutely, absolutely nothing to do with his murder, even in dreams,” Boulos said. “I support a strong, independent international investigation to find who came up with the idea, who financed it and who executed it.”
Moïse is seriously considering a run for the presidency, once she undergoes more surgeries on her wounded arm.
She has already had two surgeries, and doctors now plan to implant nerves from her feet in her arm, she said. She may never regain use of her right arm, she said, and can move only two fingers.
“President Jovenel had a vision,” she said, “and we Haitians are not going to let that die.”