Gunmen in Haiti slay leader of major political party

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The leader of one of the main political parties of Haiti was assassinated in a suburb of the capital, a spokesman for the party said Saturday, in the latest such attack in the crisis-hit Caribbean nation.

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Eric Jean Baptiste, secretary-general of the Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP) and a former presidential candidate, was shot dead Friday evening, party spokesman Ricardo Nordin told AFP.

“His vehicle was riddled with bullets. His security guard died on the spot. Eric Jean Baptiste died in the hospital,” Nordin said.

It was not clear who was behind the slaying, which occurred in Laboule, in the hills above the capital Port-au-Prince.

The RDNP was founded in 1979 by Christian Democrat Leslie Manigat, who was briefly president of Haiti in 1988 before the military ousted him in a coup.

Less than a week ago, 52-year-old Jean Baptiste joined leaders of other political parties in demanding a historic compromise to bring Haiti out of its political and security crises.

Heavily armed gangs sow terror in much of Haiti, blocking distribution of goods from a main port, as a resurgence of cholera threatens public health in the impoverished nation.

The assassination comes just days after the attempted murder of an investigative journalist for the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste Roberson Alphonse, who was shot in the morning of October 25.

On October 24, the body of another journalist, Garry Tess, who was also a radio host, was found under a bridge in the southern city of Les Cayes. The UN cultural agency UNESCO demanded that "light be shed" on the death.

The Haitian government has appealed for the aid of an international intervention force, but neither the Haitian public nor the UN Security Council have fully supported the request, and no country has yet offered to lead the effort.

The Security Council did, however, impose a series of sanctions last week on the criminal gangs causing chaos in Haiti.

Gangs have taken an increasingly strong hold in Haiti since the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in 2021, which exacerbated instability in the country.

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