BOGOTA (REUTERS) – Several Colombians who were part of a heavily armed commando unit that assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise this week have entered Haiti from neighboring Dominican Republic, sources from the Colombian military and the United States said. national police, Friday July 9, and spent more than a month before the murder.
Mr Moise, 53, was shot dead at his home on Wednesday morning by what authorities called a group of trained foreign killers.
The assassination plunged Haiti deeper into turmoil amid political divisions, hunger and widespread gang violence.
Haitian authorities said Thursday that the assassin group included 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans.
Seventeen of the men were captured after a shootout with Haitian authorities in Pétionville, a hillside suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince, while three were killed and eight are still at large, Haitian police say. .
Authorities have not given a reason for Mr. Moise’s murder. He had faced mass protests against his regime since taking office in 2017 – first over allegations of corruption and his management of the economy, and then over his growing grip on power.
Colombian authorities have confirmed receiving requests for information from Haiti on six suspects, two of whom were reportedly killed and four who are under arrest.
Initial investigations showed the men were retired members of the Colombian armed forces, the defense minister said.
Four of the men took an Avianca flight on June 4 to the Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana resort, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, police and military sources told Reuters. Two days later, they crossed the border into Haiti.
One of the men – who, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, was previously part of the Colombian military’s urban counterterrorism special forces unit – has 16 photos on his Facebook account that appear to have been taken in the Dominican Republic.
The newspaper reported that another of the men, who it said took the same flight and posted photos of the same locations, was a nurse at the Naval Hospital in Cartagena.
Confusion over political control
In Haiti, the government declared a 15-day state of emergency on Wednesday to help authorities apprehend the killers. Although police said the public helped locate the suspects, they urged residents of the capital not to take justice.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph said on Thursday it was time for the economy to reopen and the airport to resume operations.
Mr. Moise’s murder has created confusion as to who is now the rightful ruler of the country of 11 million people, the poorest in the Americas.
The 1987 constitution stipulates that the president of the Supreme Court is to take over. But amendments that are not unanimously recognized in the country state that it should be the prime minister, or, in the last year of a president’s term – Mr Moise’s case – that parliament should elect a president. .
The President of the Supreme Court died last month from Covid-19 amid an upsurge in infections in Haiti, which is one of the few countries in the world that has yet to launch a vaccination campaign.
There is no sitting parliament as parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of 2019 had already been postponed due to political unrest.
Just this week, Mr Moise appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, to succeed Mr Joseph, although he was yet to be sworn in when the president was killed.
Mr. Joseph appeared on Wednesday to take charge of the situation, but Mr. Henry – who is viewed more favorably by the opposition – told Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste that he did not consider Mr. Joseph to be the legitimate prime minister.