Colombian ex-soldiers traveled to Haiti for security reasons, not assassination, colleague says

Colombian ex-soldiers traveled to Haiti for security reasons, not assassination, colleague says

BOGOTA – An ex-soldier recruited to join a group of Colombians accused of being involved in the assassination of the Haitian president last week added his voice to a choir of family and colleagues who say the men were hired to ensure security, not to kill.

Haitian authorities said President Jovenel Moise was assassinated Wednesday morning by trained foreign assassins: 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans. Eighteen of the men were captured, while three others were killed.

Matias Gutierrez, a retired special forces sniper and father of four, reportedly visited Haiti with the group last month had he not tested positive for COVID-19.

“If I had traveled I might have been involved in the same thing as the commandos there, unfortunately,” Gutierrez told Reuters on Monday evening.

Former Colombian soldiers, accused of involvement in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, stand in a courtyard in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.Jenny Carolina Capador Giraldo / via Reuters

Gutierrez, who now works as a security guard, said he knew the men were not involved in Moise’s murder because they are honorable and well trained in assaulting a target and then withdrawing if that had was their real mission.

“It wasn’t our commandos. There must have been a conspiracy, ”Gutierrez said. “Their extraction was utter chaos. Why? Because they weren’t going to assault, they went to support a request from the president’s security forces.

Several Colombian relatives and colleagues have expressed doubts about the Haitian authorities’ report, saying the men had been hired as bodyguards.

Gutierrez showed Reuters the Whatsapp chat where he says discussions about the work have taken place.

The men were to earn $ 2,700 a month to help protect Moise, he said, and they were assured they would work in concert with the Haitian authorities.

It is a princely sum for former soldiers like Gutierrez, who spent 21 years in the army, including 14 in the special forces, before retiring in 2015. His retirement allowances are only 960,000 pesos. (about $ 250) per month, he said.

“You are leaving with the hope of being retired and being able to live on the pension, to enjoy your family as you could not do for 20 years,” said Gutierrez.

He and his wife had their fourth child just nine months ago, hoping Gutierrez could finally be the father he dreamed of being to his older children.

“I haven’t seen my children grow up,” he added. “They never saw me at home because I was always in the countryside, in the combat zone.”

Gutierrez said he spoke with some of the men when they arrived in Haiti. They told him that things were going well and that they were staying in a house near the presidential palace.

To pursue NBC Latino at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.