Authorities said they detained a Haitian man, living in the US state of Florida, on Sunday.
Haitian police have arrested one of the suspected masterminds behind the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
Authorities said they detained a Haitian man, living in the US state of Florida, whom they accuse of hiring mercenaries to remove and replace the president.
Moise was shot dead early on Wednesday at his Port-au-Prince home by what Haitian authorities describe as a unit of assassins comprised of 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans.
National Police Chief Leon Charles told a news conference on Sunday that the arrested man, 63-year-old Christian Emmanuel Sanon, flew to Haiti accompanied by hired security guards on a private jet in early June, and wanted to take over as president.
He allegedly hired Colombian mercenaries through a private Venezuelan security firm based in Florida.
The doctor is the third United States resident of Haitian origin – and the 21st person overall – to be detained as a suspect in the case.
Charles did not explain Sanon’s motives beyond saying they were political.
“The mission of these attackers was initially to ensure the safety of Emmanuel Sanon, but later the mission was changed,” Charles said.
Charles added that among items found by officers at Sanon’s house in Haiti were a hat emblazoned with the logo of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile licence plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people.
Haitian police have arrested 18 Colombians and three Haitian-Americans, including Sanon, over the murder, Charles said. Five Colombians are still at large and three were killed, he added.
The suspected assassins told investigators they were there to arrest him, not kill him, the Miami Herald and a person familiar with the matter said earlier on Sunday.
A heavily armed commando unit that assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise was composed of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, authorities said on Thursday, as the hunt went on for the masterminds of the killing, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Moise, 53, was fatally shot early on Wednesday at his home by what officials said was a group of foreign, trained killers, pitching the poorest country in the Americas deeper into turmoil amid political divisions, hunger and widespread gang violence.
Authorities tracked the suspected assassins on Wednesday to a house near the scene of the crime in Petionville, a northern, hillside suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince. A firefight lasted late into the night and authorities detained a number of suspects on Thursday.
Police Chief Charles Leon paraded 17 men before journalists at a news conference late on Thursday, showing a number of Colombian passports, plus assault rifles, machetes, walkie-talkies and materials including bolt cutters and hammers.
“Foreigners came to our country to kill the president,” Charles said. “There were … 26 Colombians, identified by their passports … and two Haitian Americans as well.”
He said 15 Colombians were captured, as well as two Haitian Americans. Three of the assailants were killed and eight remained on the run, Charles said.
Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said in a statement that preliminary information indicated that Colombians involved in the attack were retired members of the country’s military. He said Bogota would cooperate in the investigation.
Haiti’s minister of elections and interparty relations, Mathias Pierre, identified the Haitian-American suspects as James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55.
A State Department spokesman could not confirm if any U.S. citizens were among those detained, but U.S. authorities were in regular contact with Haitian officials, including investigative authorities, to discuss how the United States could provide assistance.
Officials in the mostly French- and Creole-speaking Caribbean nation had said on Wednesday the assassins appeared to have spoken in English and Spanish.
“It was a full, well-equipped commando, with more than six cars and a lot of equipment,” Pierre said.
Officials have not yet given a motive for the killing. Since taking office in 2017, Moise had faced mass protests against his rule – first over corruption allegations and his management of the economy, then over his increasing grip on power.
An angry crowd gathered on Thursday morning to watch the police operation unfold, with some setting fire to the suspects’ cars and to the house where they had hunkered down. Bullets were strewn in the street.
“Burn them!” shouted some of the hundreds of people outside the police station where the suspects were being held.
Charles said the local population had helped police track down the suspects, but he implored residents in the sprawling seafront city of 1 million people not to take justice into their own hands.
A 15-day state of emergency was declared on Wednesday to help authorities apprehend the killers. But interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said on Thursday it was time for the economy to reopen and that he had given instructions for the airport to restart operations.
Police chief Leon Charles said officers shot four people over the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in his home on Wednesday. In a televised briefing, the chief said: “The police is still in combat with the assailants. They will be killed or captured.”
Mr Charles said three officers held hostage by the suspected gunmen were freed late.
Interim prime minister Claude Joseph said the police and military were in control of security.
In a televised national address, Mr Joseph declared a state of emergency across the country, and made a call for calm.
He said: “The situation is under control.”
Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the US, said the attack on the 53-year-old President Moïse “was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers — well-orchestrated’.
Mr Edmond added they were masquerading as agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The DEA has an office in the Haitian capital to assist the government in counternarcotics programs, according to the US Embassy.
Joe Biden said of the incident in a written statement: “We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for first lady Moïse’s recovery.
“The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
Security forces in Haiti have shot dead four suspected killers of President Jovenel Moise and captured two others, the country’s police chief said on Wednesday, as the brazen assassination threatened to plunge the already impoverished, crisis-hit Caribbean nation deeper into chaos.
Police General Director Leon Charles described the four people killed as “mercenaries” and said that security forces were locked in a fierce gun battle with the men who assassinated the president at his home overnight.
“We blocked them en route as they left the scene of the crime,” Charles said in televised comments. “Since then, we have been battling with them.”
“They will be killed or apprehended.”
Moise, a 53-year-old former businessman who took office in 2017, was shot dead and his wife, Martine Moise, was seriously wounded when heavily armed assassins stormed the couple’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince at around 1am local time on Wednesday (05:00 GMT).
Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, said the gunmen were well-trained “foreign mercenaries” and said they had masqueraded as US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents as they entered Moise’s guarded home under cover of darkness.
The DEA has an office in the Haitian capital to assist the government in counternarcotics programs, according to the US Embassy.
Moise’s wife, Martine, was in a stable but critical condition and had been evacuated to Miami for treatment, the ambassador added.
The assassination, which drew condemnation from Washington and neighbouring Latin American countries, came amid political unrest, a surge in gang violence, and a growing humanitarian crisis in the poorest nation in the Americas.
Joseph Claude, the interim prime minister who has assumed leadership of the country, said the assassins spoke English and Spanish – the majority in Haiti either speak French and Haitian Creole.
“I am calling for calm. Everything is under control,” Joseph said on television alongside Charles. “This barbaric act will not remain unpunished.”
The Haitian government has declared a two-week state of emergency to help it find the assassins.
In an earlier interview with The Associated Press news agency, Joseph called for an international investigation into the assassination and said elections scheduled for later this year should be held. He also pledged to work with Moise’s allies and opponents alike.
“We need every single one to move the country forward,” Joseph said. He described the president as “a man of courage” who had opposed “some oligarchs in the country” and said, “We believe those things are not without consequences.”
Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, and has grappled with a series of coups and foreign interventions. During the past year, Moise had been governing by decree after failing to hold elections, and in recent months, the opposition demanded he step down, saying he was leading it toward yet another grim period of authoritarianism.
Ever since he took over in 2017, Moise has faced calls to resign and mass protests – first for corruption allegations and his management of the economy, then for his increasing grip on power.
Lately, he presided over a worsening state of gang violence that rights activists said is linked to politics and business leaders using armed groups for their own ends.
In the US, President Joe Biden condemned Moise’s killing as “heinous” and called the situation in Haiti – which lies some 700 miles (1,125km) off the Florida coast – worrisome. “We stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” he said.
The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border and reinforcing security in the area, but described the frontier as ″completely calm”.
“This crime is an attack against the democratic order of Haiti and the region,” Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader said.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, also condemned the assassination and stressed that “the perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice,” according to a spokesman. The UN Security Council meanwhile expressed deep shock and sympathy over Moise’s death before a closed-door meeting on Thursday, requested by the US and Mexico, to evaluate the situation.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expressed concern on Wednesday that the violence could deal a setback to efforts to fight COVID-19 in Haiti – one of only a handful of countries worldwide that has yet to administer a single shot of coronavirus vaccine.
In Port-au-Prince, the usually bustling streets were mostly deserted on Wednesday and the airport was closed although gunshots rang through the air.
A caravan of vehicles including the ambulance carrying Moise’s corpse to the morgue had to change route because of gunfire and roadblocks, according to local reports.
With Haiti politically polarised and facing growing hunger, fears of a breakdown in order are spreading – particularly as Moise’s murder took place amid a power vacuum.
Just this week, he nominated a prime minister to replace Joseph – who was only meant to be an interim leader – but the official, Ariel Henry, has yet to be sworn in. And the Supreme Court’s chief justice, who might be expected to help provide stability in a crisis, died recently of COVID-19.
In the AP interview, Joseph said he had spoken three times with Henry and that there was agreement that he was in charge for now.
“He was actually designated but never took office,” Joseph said of Henry. “I was the one who was a prime minister, who was in office. This is what the law and the constitution says.”
However, in a separate AP interview, Henry appeared to contradict Joseph. “It’s an exceptional situation. There is a bit of confusion,” he said. “I am the prime minister in office.”
Late on Wednesday, an extraordinary issue of the official gazette said the prime minister and his cabinet – meaning Joseph’s government – would assume executive powers until a new president could be elected, as per Haiti’s constitution.
Presidential, legislative and local elections are due to be held in September, alongside a controversial referendum on a new constitution that Moise had said would help finally bring political stability to the country.
Alex Dupuy, a Haiti-born sociologist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, said the best scenario would be for the acting prime minister and opposition parties to come together and hold elections.
“But, in Haiti, nothing can be taken for granted. It depends how the current balance of forces in Haiti plays out,” he said, describing the situation as dangerous and volatile.
The main opposition parties said they were greatly dismayed about the killing.
“In this painful circumstance, the political forces of the opposition condemn with utmost rigor this heinous crime that is at odds with democratic principles,” their statement said.
The parties added that they hope the National Police will take all necessary measures to protect lives and property, and they called on Haitians to be “extremely vigilant.”
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Hatii — Haitian President Jovenel Mose was assassinated in an attack on his private residence, the country’s interim prime minister said in a statement Wednesday, calling it a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
First Lady Martine Mose was hospitalized following the overnight attack, interim Premier Claude Joseph said. The nation of more than 11 million people had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Mose.
“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph said in a statement from his office. “Democracy and the republic will win.”
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, the streets were largely empty in the Caribbean nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, but some people ransacked businesses in one area.
Joseph said police have been deployed to the National Palace and the upscale community of Pétionville and will be sent to other areas.
Joseph condemned the assassination as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.” He said some of the attackers spoke in Spanish but offered no further explanation.
Haiti’s economic, political and social woes have deepened recently, with gang violence spiking heavily in the capital of Port-au-Prince, inflation spiraling and food and fuel becoming scarcer at times in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $ 2 a day. These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.
Mose, who was 53, had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections, which led to Parliament being dissolved. Opposition leaders have accused him of seeking to increase his power, including approving a decree that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.
In recent months, opposition leaders demanded the he step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February 2021. Mose and supporters maintained that his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a year-long gap.
Haiti was scheduled to hold general elections later this year.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hurricane Elsa raced toward Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, where it threatened to unleash flooding and landslides before taking aim at Cuba and Florida.
The Category 1 storm was located about 110 miles (175 kilometers) east-southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic and was moving west-northwest at 31 mph (50 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), with the hurricane expected to become a tropical storm after hitting Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The long-term forecast track showed it heading toward Florida as a tropical storm by Tuesday morning, but some models would carry it into the Gulf or up the Atlantic Coast.
In Haiti, authorities used social media to alert people about the hurricane and urged them to evacuate if they lived near water or mountain flanks.
“The whole country is threatened by this hurricane,” the Civil Protection Agency said in a statement. “Make every effort to escape before it’s too late.”
WATCH: Big changes made to the hurricane season this year
Haiti is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation.
People were still buying water and food as the storm approached, with many wary about its immediate and long-term impact in a country struggling with an increase in gang violence and deep political unrest.
“I’m protecting myself the best that I can. Civil protection is not going to do that for me,” said Darlene Jean-Pierre, 35, as she bought six jugs of water along with vegetables and fruit. “I have other worries about the street … I have to worry about gangs fighting. In addition to this, we have a hurricane. I don’t know what kind of catastrophe this is going to cause.”
A hurricane warning was issued for Jamaica and from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic. A hurricane watch was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Santiago de Cuba. Some of those provinces have reported a high number of COVID-19 infections, raising concerns that the storm could force large groups of people to seek shelter together.
“Anticipating is the key word,” said Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, adding that vaccination efforts would continue. “Let’s take care of lives and property.”
In the neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, authorities opened more than 2,400 shelters as forecasters warned of heavy rains starting Saturday before dawn.
Elsa is forecast to brush past the southernmost point of Hispaniola by Saturday afternoon and then take aim at communities in southern Haiti.
The storm already had ripped off roofs, destroyed crops and downed trees and power lines in the eastern Caribbean on Friday, with damage reported in Barbados, St. Lucia and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which also suffered massive volcanic eruptions that began in April.
At least 43 homes and three police stations were damaged, said St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
“We expect that this number will increase as reports keep coming in,” he said. “We have some damage, but it could have been far worse.”
In St. Lucia, the wind damaged a secondary school, pummeling desks, overturning chairs and sending papers flying after blowing off the roof and siding.
Elsa is the first hurricane of the Atlantic season and the earliest fifth-named storm on record. It is forecast to drop 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters) across portions of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica.
The Belize national football squad have been left “shaken” after having their team bus stopped by an armed gang of motorbike riders in Haiti.
The incident occurred when the squad were being taken to their hotel ahead of Belize’s World Cup qualifier.
“Despite the four-man police escort, the team bus was stopped by an uproar of insurgents with assault rifles on motorcycles and police escorts were forced to negotiate with them for the team bus to continue its journey to the hotel,” the Belize football federation (FFB) said in their statement.
Belize’s federation releases a statement after the national team ran into “an unfortunate incident” upon arriving in Haiti for Wednesday’s World Cup qualification match. pic.twitter.com/LkGlSDSngT
— Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) March 22, 2021
The have FFB also expressed their “disappointment and disgust” in a firmly worded media release published on Monday. The post was also quick to point out, the “Jaguars’, although shaken by the terrible experience, are safely at their hotel.”
The incident, which has been described as “a moment of intense fear” by team captain Deon McCauley, was reportedly led by members of a criminal group named Fantom 509.
The players involved have told the Belize News 5 TV station that they now hope to leave Haiti – a country which has been placed in a state of emergency since March 18, due to the growing power of gangs willing to challenge police.
Upon Belize’s 🇧🇿 arrival to Haiti 🇭🇹 for their World Cup Qualifier, their police escort was stopped by armed “insurgents”This is the video going around on social media.Match is set for March 25. Belize has put out an official statement. pic.twitter.com/B3Z0gTfW16
— Nico Cantor (@Nicocantor1) March 23, 2021
The World Cup qualifier between the sides was supposed to take place in Port-Au-Prince this Thursday. It remains to be seen if the event will still go on, with the FFB stressing that “the safety of the team is our top priority.”
The FFB has also spoken to FIFA and CONCACAF, though neither federation has released an official statement yet.