Questions have been raised about Haiti’s official account of the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, who was shot down at his mansion in Port-au-Prince last Wednesday.
Haitian police and politicians entering the political vacuum created by Moise’s killing have claimed he was shot around noon. 1 of members of a predominantly Colombian hit group that had stormed the president’s mountainside. “Foreigners came to our country to kill the president,” police chief Léon Charles claimed after the shooting.
However, opposition politicians and media reports in Haiti and Colombia are now questioning that version, as insecurity invades the Caribbean country and the streets of the capital remain eerily quiet for fear that Haiti is swinging into a new phase of political and social upheaval.
On Friday, Steven Benoit, a prominent opposition politician and former senator, told local radio station Magik9: “The president was assassinated by his own guards, not by the Colombians.”
A report in the Colombian magazine Semana, citing an anonymous source, suggested that the former Colombian soldiers had traveled to Haiti after being hired to protect Moïse, who had allegedly received death threats rather than kill him.
Further adding to the mystery, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo claimed that a source had told it that security footage from the presidential compound showed that the Colombian agents arrived there between 2.30 and 2.40 on Wednesday. “That means they arrived an hour and a half after the crime against the president,” the source was quoted as saying.
Earlier on Friday, Colombian authorities named 13 of the alleged Colombian mercenaries captured by Haitian security officials and claim to have been involved. They included Manuel Antonio Grosso Guarín, a former member of an elite unit of the Colombian army called the Urban Terrorism Combat Group, which specializes in handling hostages and protecting VIPs.
Grosso, 41, is said to have arrived in Haiti with 10 former soldiers on June 6 after traveling through the resort town of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Another group of ex-soldiers arrived in Haiti about a month earlier via Panama.
Haiti’s police chief told reporters that 15 Colombians had been arrested in the wake of the president’s assassination, as well as two U.S. citizens of Haitian descent who have been named as 35-year-old James Solages and 55-year-old Joseph Vincent. Three Colombians were killed while eight suspects remained at large, Charles said, adding: “We urge citizens not to take justice into their own hands.”
The presence of such a large number of foreigners among the alleged killers of the Haitian leader has shocked many, especially in Haiti itself. But Colombian cannons that can be rented have appeared in war zones around the world, including Yemen, Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan, for years. Many were once trained by U.S. soldiers, and after spending years fighting rebel groups or drug dealers in Colombia, they continued to find work with U.S.-based private military contractors.
“After so many years of warfare, Colombia has just a surplus of people trained in lethal tactics,” Adam Isacson, director of defense oversight at the Washington Office in Latin America, said in a thought. “Many of them are employed by private companies, often in the Middle East, where they make much more money than they did in Colombia’s armed forces. Others have ended up being hired weapons for drug dealers and landowners as paramilitary. And now, for the one who planned this operation, in Haiti. ”
A headline in El Tiempo on Friday said: “Colombian mercenaries: trained, cheap and accessible.”
The wife of one of the arrested Colombians told local radio that her husband, Francisco Eladio Uribe, was employed by an agency to travel to the Dominican Republic to provide security to wealthy families, but had not been given specific details about his mission. “He was a very good soldier, husband and partner,” she said, admitting, however, that her husband had been investigated for his role in the forced disappearance and murder of civilians, who were later cast as guerrillas to blow up martial arts and receive bonuses.
Conflicting allegations about the assassination of the president and controversial calls by Haiti’s election minister, Mathias Pierre, for US military intervention to protect important infrastructure have left many of Haiti’s 11 million citizens suspicious and at the forefront.
Paul Raymond, a 41-year-old schoolteacher from Port-au-Prince, said he was convinced the president had been betrayed by members of his own security team who have reportedly been called in to explain why they failed to protect him. “This was planned by people who know him and people who know the house,” Raymond claimed, expressing confusion that none of Moses’ bodyguards were allegedly injured during the attack. “Not even his dogs!” Added Raymond.
Alfredo Antoine, a former congressman, said he suspected the assassination was the work of powerful Haitian oligarchs. “They killed him because they did not want their interests [harmed]He claimed.
Jake Johnston, a Haiti specialist from the Center for Economic and Policy Research think tank, said sending U.S. troops was not the solution to the political upheaval. “To think that foreign intervention is a solution to this is inconceivable,” Johnson said, pointing to a centuries-long history of foreign interference in Haiti, including a nearly two-year US occupation that followed the assassination of its president Jean in 1915 Vilbrun Guillaume Sam.
“The latest UN intervention brought cholera and killed thousands of people,” said Kinsley Jean, a youth leader and political activist. “This is not what we need right now.”