U.S. mulls Haiti’s request for troops following president’s assassination

The United States is still reviewing a request for troops made by Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph to help secure key infrastructure after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, a White House spokesperson said Monday.

Jen Psaki said Haiti’s political leadership remains unclear and that it was vital for the country’s leaders to come together to chart a united path forward.

Moïse was shot dead early on Wednesday at his Port-au-Prince home by what Haitian authorities describe as a unit of assassins formed of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans. Haitian police said on Sunday they had arrested another key suspect.

The death of the president has plunged the troubled country into deeper turmoil, and U.S. officials travelled there on Sunday to assess the situation and meet three politicians who have staked competing claims to take charge.

“What was clear about their trip is that there is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,” Psaki said at a news briefing.

Haitians in parts of Port-au-Prince were planning protests this week against the interim prime minister and acting head of state, according to social media posts.

Joseph’s right to lead the country has been challenged by two other senior politicians: Prime Minister-Designate Ariel Henry and Senate President Joseph Lambert.

Police stand guard under an overpass in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Monday. Interim Haitian authorities have requested U.S. military help following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7. (Fernando Llano/The Associated Press)

Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, said the U.S. delegation held a joint meeting with the three men.

During the talks, the U.S. representatives encouraged open and constructive dialogue to reach an agreement to enable Haiti to hold free and fair elections, Horne said.

Colombian connections 

On Sunday, Haitian police said they had detained one of the suspected plot masterminds, 63-year-old Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian man whom authorities accuse of hiring mercenaries to oust and replace Moïse. They did not explain Sanon’s motives, beyond saying they were political.

On Monday, Haitian police issued an arrest warrant for another Colombian, apparently in connection with the alleged plot. Colombian media said the man was a retired soldier.

WATCH | Hunt continues for more suspects in Haitian president’s assassination: 

Haitian officials say at least six suspects have been arrested a day after the assassination of President Jovenal Moïse and the hunt for more suspects continues. 2:09

Colombian police said Monday they could not share any hypothesis about the death of Moïse and that they respect the Haitian state’s autonomy. So far 18 Colombians tied to the case have been arrested and three more killed.

“We cannot construct any hypothesis,” Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, head of the Colombian national police, told journalists in Bogota. “We respect the judicial autonomy of the Haitian state and its authorities.”

Broader connections

Families of some of the Colombians, many ex-soldiers, have said their relatives were hired as bodyguards, not as mercenaries, and that they did not kill Moïse.

The men were initially contracted to protect Sanon, and were later presented with a warrant to arrest Moïse, Haiti’s National Police Chief Leon Charles said Sunday.

Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano, centre, Colombia’s National Police Director Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, right, and Colombian armed forces commander Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro, left, leave a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, on Monday. The officials announced the government will continue to help with the investigation of alleged participation of former Colombian soldiers in the assassination of Moïse. (Fernando Vergara/The Associated Press)

Photos said to show Sanon meeting with a group of men — including another suspect in the case, Haitian-American James Solages — began circulating on social media late Sunday. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the images.

A man by Sanon’s name is listed online as a doctor who has worked in Florida, where a security company that Haitian authorities say hired suspects in the case is based.

Most of the detainees were held after an overnight shootout on Wednesday in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, and three killed.

Nineteen tickets to Haiti were bought for the men via the Miami-based security company CTU, Vargas added.

Run by Venezuelan émigré Antonio Enmanuel Intriago Valera, CTU has not responded to requests for comment from Reuters.

Interim Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks during a news conference at his residence in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

According to Colombian police, a man named Dimitri Herard, who served as Moïse’s head of security, transited through Colombia multiple times earlier this year, during trips to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic between January and May.

Colombian authorities are investigating Herard’s activities during his visits, police chief Vargas said.

High-ranking Colombian intelligence officials have been in Haiti since Friday to assist with the investigation.

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