The wife of Haiti's murdered president, seriously wounded in the very attack that killed her husband, listened in terror as the gunmen ransacked their home, she said in her first interview since the assassination.
The killers eventually found what they were looking for in president Jovenel Moise's residence, and made cursory efforts on their way out to see if first lady Martine Moise was still alive.
"When they left, they thought I was dead," she told the New York Times in an interview published Friday, weeks after the July 7 assassination that heaped a fresh crisis on the fragile Caribbean nation.
She survived and was rushed for emergency treatment to the United States, where she spoke to the newspaper while flanked by security guards, diplomats and family.
Martine is left wondering what happened to the 30 to 50 men usually posted to guard her husband at the house. None of those guards were killed, or even wounded.
"Only the oligarchs and the system could kill him," she said.
Haitian police have arrested the head of Jovenel Moise's security, as well as some 20 Colombian mercenaries, over the plot they say was organized by a group of Haitians with foreign ties.
Jovenel Moise had been ruling the impoverished and disaster-plagued nation by decree, as gang violence spiked and Covid-19 spread.
His widow told the New York Times that the couple had been asleep when the sound of gunfire woke them.
He called his security team for help, but soon the killers were shooting in the bedroom. She was struck in the hand and elbow.
As she lay bleeding, her husband dead or dying in the same room, she felt like she was suffocating because her mouth was so full of blood.
The killers spoke only Spanish -- Haiti's languages are Creole and French -- and were communicating by phone with someone while they carried out the attack.
She said she doesn't know what the assassins took, but that it came from a shelf where her husband kept his files.
Martine Moise wants the killers to know she is not afraid and is seriously considering a run for the presidency once she is healthy.
"I would like people who did this to be caught, otherwise they will kill every single president who takes power," she said. "They did it once. They will do it again."
© 2021 AFP
The US State Department said Friday that Moscow is forcing it to lay off nearly 200 Russian employees in its Russia diplomatic missions, saying the move will constrict diplomatic efforts and embassy operations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said 182 Russian employees and dozens of contractors in Moscow, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg would be let go after a Russian government order in April in retaliation for US actions against Russia.
"Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force," Blinken said in a statement.
"These unfortunate measures will severely impact the US mission to Russia's operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government," he said.
In April, Washington expelled 10 Russian diplomats, expanded restrictions on Russian banks and blacklisted 32 Russians over the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
In retaliation, Russia expelled 10 US diplomats and forbid the US mission from hiring non-US nationals, starting on August 1.
The moves intensified the chill between the two powers that was not improved after President Joe Biden's summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in June in Geneva.
"Although we regret the actions of the Russian government forcing a reduction in our services and operations, the United States will follow through on our commitments while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia," Blinken said.
Millions of Americans could find themselves homeless starting Sunday when a nationwide ban on evictions expires, even as billions in government funds meant to help them go untapped.
The wave of evictions would come as the fast-spreading Delta variant has taken hold in the country and rental housing is in high demand in the hot real estate market.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old eviction moratorium, after a recent Supreme Court ruling meant the White House could not extend the measure through September as intended.
Democratic leaders in Congress were pushing for an extension, but it was unclear if they had the votes, even among moderates in their own party, to prevent the ban from expiring.
Efforts stalled on Friday in the House after a move to pass the extension was unsuccessful, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a statement, that "not a single Republican would support this measure."
The day before, she had said called the extension "a moral imperative."
She also called on governors and local officials "to take whatever steps are necessary to distribute the rental assistance that Congress already allocated."
Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programs from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.
The Treasury Department said that as of June, only $3 billion in aid had reached households out of the $25 billion sent to states and localities in early February, less than three weeks after Biden took office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the eviction moratorium in September 2020, as the world's largest economy lost over 20 million jobs amid the pandemic shutdowns. The CDC feared increasing homelessness would boost coronavirus infections.
Although more than half of those lost jobs were recovered as businesses were able to reopen, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.
The Census Bureau's latest Household Pulse survey through the first week of July showed that of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on their rent and nearly half of those said they were at risk of being evicted in the next two months.
- Where is the help? -
Through the end of June, only about 450,000 households had received aid through the Emergency Rental Assistance program, and some states and localities have yet to pay out any funds, according to Treasury data.
The Treasury launched a campaign this week to spread the word about the program and help authorities get their systems up and running, modeling those in Virginia and Houston, which have been successful in helping struggling families.
Immediately after taking over, the Biden administration had eased paperwork and eligibility requirements for the program, but the Treasury says management remains in the hands of state and local officials.
The White House also shifted responsibility to states.
Biden said "there can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic."
"Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can," he said in a statement Friday.
And while the White House cannot act, there is nothing preventing state and local authorities from instituting their own protections, Biden added.
- 'Pulling out all the stops' -
Pelosi called the delays an unjust "bureaucratic situation."
California Democrat Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced the bill to extend the prohibition of evictions.
"I'm pulling out all the stops right now," she tweeted Friday.
But some Democrats oppose the move, and a congressional source confirmed to AFP that several were planning to leave town rather than participate in a vote, making it hard for the party to use their slim majority to push through a bill.
A handful of states and Washington, DC have imposed their own temporary eviction protections, and the White House also asked government departments involved in housing to extend eviction bans for federally-insured properties they control.
Another $21.5 billion is available in a second round of funding, but it will not go out until the first tranche is spent.
© 2021 AFP
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