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The Spill: Chaos in Haiti

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U.S. Citizens Arrested Over Assassination of Haiti President

On Wednesday, July 7, the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in his home. The Caribbean nation of Haiti, located to the east of Cuba, elected Moïse in 2017. The president was shot up to 12 times, and his wife, Martine, was gravely injured. Haiti places the official time of the attack at 1:00 am, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Investigators say that witnesses saw two dozen or more mercenaries posing as United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers storm the house. Part of the team were two U.S.-Haitian citizens and several Colombians. It seemed likely this was a group of soldiers for hire with no political agenda. But now, questions have arisen about how the group could overpower the security team and staff without killing any.

Questions have also been raised on whether the assassination was an inside job. From a hospital bed in Florida where Martine Moïse is recovering, she tweeted that her husband was murdered by political enemies who opposed his proposed constitutional changes, giving the president greater power.

Haitian police have arrested 20 of the suspects. The local chief of police, Léon Charles, has publicly said they are looking into one Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian citizen whose apartment had a hat with “DEA” emblazoned on the cap, several guns, bullets, and vehicle license plates. But prosecutors also want to speak on the record with two high-profile politicians that may have something to gain by Moïse’s death: Presidential candidate Reginald Boulos and the former Haitian Senate president Youri Latortue.

As things stand, Haiti is currently in chaos as no one wants to recognize a successor at this time.

Cuba Libre? No Tenemos Miedo

Demonstrators in Cuba have taken to the streets against the government to fight for freedom. On Sunday afternoon, thousands of protestors gathered to challenge the leading party over its communist system, oppression, as well as lingering hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest spikes of the virus.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel took to state-run news radio to blame U.S. intervention, accusing the uprising of being a smear campaign designed to destabilize the communist Cuban regime. Diaz-Canel succeeded Raul Castro as president in 2018 and then rose to become the first secretary of the Communist Party earlier this year. Diaz encouraged communist believers – whom he called “revolutionary citizens” – to fight back against the protesters on his behalf. He used the state-run television to blast this message: “The order to fight has been given – into the street, revolutionaries!”

Protesters countered, chanting “No Tenemos Miedo” (We Are Not Afraid), “Freedom,” and “Down with the dictatorship.”

The United States has taken a keen interest in the uprising in the streets of Havana. Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, wrote: “The U.S. supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights.”

President Joe Biden doubled down on earlier White House remarks, saying: “The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.” Yet, the calls to “fight” in the streets of Havana have rattled the local U.S. Embassy staffers. One diplomat tweeted: “We are deeply concerned by ‘calls to combat’ in Cuba.”

Protests in the tightly controlled communist island are a rare occurrence. Cuba has been a communist country since 1959 when Fidel Castro led a revolution overthrowing the previous government. It is an island nation located 90 miles south of Florida.

To Infinity and Beyond

It appears the first leg of the billionaire space race has been won by Sir Richard Branson, who flew to the edge, took a look, and came back to Earth. The 70-year-old entrepreneur claimed it “was the trip of a lifetime” that lasted 59 minutes. The spaceplane went into flight on Sunday morning, leaving N.M. Spaceport America, reaching 55 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Sir Richard Branson

Branson flew with pilots David Mackay and Michael Masucci, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, Virgin Galactic’s lead operations engineer, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla, a research operations and government affairs vice-president. The crew can be seen on footage wearing sunglasses and grinning.

Elon Musk, a part of the “billionaire space barons” trio, which also includes Jeff Bezos, was at the launch pad and appearing nearly as giddy as his friend, Branson.

As friendly competition, Bezos’ space company Blue Origins jokingly queried if Branson was really in space or just near the edge. The boundary between the atmosphere of Earth and outer space – known as the Kármán line – is a tad contested. Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the aeronautics standard setter, says the line is 62 miles above Earth. NASA, however, says the line is 50 miles above mean sea level. According to NASA, if anyone crosses the line, as Branson did, they are called and considered astronauts.

Branson is not one to rest on his space travel laurels – his next venture will establish an orbital hotel.

But until then, space fans can sign up to fly in the future with Virgin Galactic for a cool $250,000 each. Apparently, it’s a good time, as Branson clamored upon his return to Earth: “What a day … what a day, what a day, what a day. I dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but nothing can prepare you for the view from space.”

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