Haiti: president killed amid paramilitary strife

An apparent squad of mercenaries, arriving in nine brand-new Nissan Patrol vehicles, staged a night raid on the home of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse in the upscale Port-au-Prince suburb of of Pèlerin in the wee hours of July 7, and shot him dead. His wife, Martine, was also gravely wounded. The seemingly professional hit job followed weeks of rapidly rising violence in Haiti. On June 29, three gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 15 people in the Delmas 32 area of Port-au-Prince. Shortly later, gunmen believed to be from the same group carried out the targeted assassinations of prominent women's rights activist Marie Antoinette "Netty" Duclaire and Radio Télé Vision 2000 journalist Diego Charles, who were together at Charles' home in the Christ-Roi neighborhood.

The next day, Haitian National Police (PNH) chief Léon Charles and interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph stated that the killing spree was the work of Fantôme 509, a shadowy paramilitary organization believed to be made up of current and former police officers, which over the past months has carried out jailbreaks, burned shops and vehicles, and exchanged fire with PNH units.

However, the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) issued a press release stating that "according to certain residents of Delmas 32…the individuals implicated in...these attacks were part of the Base Krache Dife," or Spit Fire Gang. This outfit is affiliated with the Revolutionary Forces of the G-9 Family & Allies (FRG-9), a network of neighborhood vigilante militias led by Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier. RNDDH director Pierre Espérance called the PNH declaration blaming Fantôme 509 "hasty and irresponsible."

Ironically, the same day PNH chief Charles made his accusation, Cherizier gave a press conference in which he called for peace and "calm among everyone implicated in the armed confrontations" in Port-au-Prince's poor neighborhoods. In early June, a year-long truce between the city's gangs was broken when those in the neighborhoods of Grand Ravine and Village de Dieu attacked that of Ti Bois enclave, a FRG-9 stronghold. That conflict touched off neighborhood battles across the capital.

A scheduled June 27 referendum on constitutional reform, aimed at resolving Haiti's political crisis, was indefinitely postponed in response to the outbreak of violence, and the COVID-19 surge currently wracking the country. The proposed reform would have centralized more power in the hands of the president. 

The G-9 Family & Allies, founded a year ago, added the words "Revolutionary Forces" to their name and said that they would use their weapons to "deliver the country [from its travails] once and for all," in a dramatic televised ceremony on June 23 in the Port-au-Prince shantytown of La Saline. (Haiti Liberte, Haiti Liberte, WLRN, Miami)

Haiti interim government calls for US troops

Haiti's interim government said that it asked the US to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare the way for elections in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

"We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help," Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the Associated Press in an interview, declining to provide further details. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation."

Haitian National Police Chief Léon Charles said 17 suspects have been detained in the brazen killing of Moïse. Two are Haitian Americans and the remainer seem to be Colombian nationals.

Bogotá authorities said that the Colombians implicated in the assassination were recruited by four companies and traveled to the Caribbean nation in two groups via the Dominican Republic.

The wife of a former Colombian soldier arrested in the assassination says her husband was recruited by a security firm to travel to the Dominican Republic last month. The woman told Colombia's W Radio that her husband, Francisco Uribe, was hired for $2,700 a month by a company named CTU to travel to the Dominican Republic, where he was told he would be providing protection to some powerful families.

Uribe has been under investigation for his alleged role in extrajudicial killings carried out by Colombia's army more than a decade ago. Colombian court records show that he and another soldier were accused of killing a civilian in 2008 who they later tried to present as a guerilla killed in combat.

A judge investigating the assassination of Moïse says the two Haitian-Americans arrested in the case were acting as translators for a larger group of attackers that originally planned to arrest, not kill the leader, Haiti's Le Nouvelliste newspaper reported. Judge Clément Noël didn't elaborate on what grounds the group sought to arrest Moise. Noël said one of the suspects, James Solages, told him he "found this job on the internet." (APAP

Interim power contested in Haiti

Haiti's interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, says he has taken command of the police and the army, declaring a "state of siege." But constitutional experts questioned his right to impose it, and his claim to power was quickly challenged by a rival.

Two days before his death, Moïse had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who was supposed to take up the role this week and told a local newspaper that he was the rightful prime minister instead. The dueling claims have created a volatile political crisis that has diplomats worried about a broad societal collapse. (NYT)

Suspect named as mastermind of Moïse assassination

Haitian authorities say that Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian American who lives in Florida, is lead suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. In 2011, Sanon appeared to promote himself as a leader for Haiti. Police Chief Leon Charles said Sanon had arrived back in Haiti in June, and is now in police custody. In a search of Sanon's home, officers found weapons, bullets, and a hat with an emblem from the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Video shot at the scene of the crime appeared to show someone purporting to be a DEA agent.  (PBS)

Haiti gang boss calls on followers avenge Moïse death

Haiti's powerful gangs are taking advantage of the power vacuum. Notorious leader Jimmy Cherizier, AKA Barbecue, urged gangs to avenge the assassination of Moïse. "It was a national and international conspiracy against the Haitian people," he said in a video address, dressed in khaki military fatigues and sitting in front of a Haitian flag. He accused the police and opposition politicians of colluding with the "stinking bourgeoisie" to "sacrifice" Moïse. (PBS, Reuters)

Suspect in Moïse assassination was DEA informant

One of the suspects arrested in connection to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise was a former confidential source for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency has confirmed.

The DEA did not name which suspect was the informant, but noted it was one of the two arrested last week, adding that the suspects "were not acting on behalf of DEA."

"Following the assassination of President Moïse, the suspect reached out to his contacts at the DEA," the agency said in a statement. "A DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities and, along with a US State Department official, provided information to the Haitian government that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual." (Washington Examiner)

Colombia police: Haitian ex- official suspected in Moïse hit

Former Haitian justice ministry official Joseph Felix Badio may have ordered the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, a Colombian police chief said, citing a preliminary investigation into the murder. 

The group of assassins included 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, according to Haitian authorities. Eighteen of the Colombians have been captured, while five are on the run and three were killed. (Reuters)

US charges Colombia national in Haiti president assassination

The US Department of Justice issued a statement Jan. 4 outlining its charges against Colombian national Mario Antonio Palacios, including "conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States" in connection with the July assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moise. He was also charged with "providing material support resulting in death."

Palacios was arrested based on a criminal complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The complaint alleges that Palacios was one among approximately 20 other Colombian citizens and Haiti-based Haitian-American citizens participating in a conspiracy to kill or kidnap Moise. A squad of gunmen, allegedly including Palacios, stormed the president's residence in Port-au-Prince, on July 7, 2021. An apparent plot to kidnap the president resulted in his death.

Palacios evaded arrest in Haiti and traveled to Jamaica, from where he was deported. US authorities extradited Palacios during a layover in Panama on his way back to Haiti. While Haiti has arrested several people in connection to the murder, it has not charged anyone. Palacios is the first to be officially charged for the offense. If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Moise's murder resulted in greater political instability in the Caribbean nation. Ariel Henry assumed the positions of interim prime minister and president soon after the assassination, a move welcomed by the US government. On Jan. 1, during a celebration on the anniversary of Haiti's independence, gunmen attempted to assassinate Henry. The Haitian government has issued arrest warrants for those behind the attempt. (Jurist)

US sentences man for assassination of Haiti president​

Rodolfe Jaar was sentenced to life in prison June 2 by Judge José Martinez of the US Southern District of Florida for his role in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. In Jaar's March plea agreement, he admitted to "knowingly and willfully" providing weapons and personnel in furtherance of the plot.

Jaar's original indictment alleges that a group of 20 Colombian nationals with military backgrounds were recruited to "assist in the execution of a purported Haitian arrest warrant for President Moise." The indictment alleges that at least some of the conspirators thought the plan was to assassinate, rather than merely "arrest" or kidnap, Moise. 

The US has arrested several other alleged conspirators in South Florida, where the assassination plan was allegedly devised. Samir Nasri Salem Handal has also been accused of participating in the plot, but Turkey has refused to extradite him. (Jurist)

Ex-senator gets life for Haitian president's killing

A former senator in Haiti’s parliament was sentenced Dec. 19 to life in prison after he had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill his country’s leader—but at a court hearing the ex-politician told a Miami federal judge that his intention was only to arrest President Jovenel Moïse, not assassinate him.

The former senator, Joseph Joël John, who also is known as John Joël Joseph to his countrymen, is the third defendant to be given the maximum sentence by US District Judge Jose Martinez in the Haiti assassination case. (Miami Heral)

Another guilty plea in assassination of Haiti president​

A former Colombian soldier pleaded guilty in a US court Dec. 22 to conspiring in the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. Prosecutors had said 45-year-old Mario Palacios was part of a group of Colombian contractors who broke into Moise's home, where he was killed. Palacios had originally pleaded not guilty in the case. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Palacios is the fifth of 11 defendants in Miami to plead guilty in the 2021 assassination. (DW, VOA)

Haiti: ex-PM, widow of slain president indicted in assassination

The wife of Haiti's slain president Jovenel Moïse, Martine Marie Étienne Moïse, and former prime minister Claude Joseph are among 51 people indicted over the assassination, according to a 122-page document from Judge Walther Wesser Voltaire made public online by the Haitian news site AyiboPost. The document charges that Martine Marie Étienne Moïse conspired with the former prime minister to replace the then-president. (Jurist)