PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haitian police announced on Sunday that they had arrested one of the suspected masterminds in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, a Haitian who authorities accused of hiring mercenaries to oust and replace Moise.
Moise was gunned down Wednesday morning at his home in Port-au-Prince by what Haitian authorities describe as an assassin unit made up of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, plunging the troubled Caribbean nation deeper into turmoil.
National police chief Léon Charles told a press conference that the arrested man, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, flew to Haiti on a private jet in early June accompanied by security guards hired and wished to take the presidency.
He did not explain Sanon’s motives beyond saying they were political, but added that one of the detainees contacted him upon his arrest. Sanon in turn contacted two other “intellectual authors” of the assassination, Charles added.
“The mission of these attackers was initially to ensure the safety of Emmanuel Sanon, but later the mission was changed (…) and they presented one of the attackers with an arrest warrant against the president. of the Republic, “said Charles.
Public records online show that a man by the name of Sanon worked as a doctor in Florida, but it was not immediately clear if he was the same man.
It was also unclear why Sanon would want to overthrow Moise, whose murder is the latest in a series of setbacks for the ailing country, which has asked for international help.
Washington has rejected Haiti’s request for troops, although a senior US official said on Sunday it was sending a technical team to assess the situation.
Haitian police arrested 18 Colombians and three Haitian Americans, including Sanon, for the murder, Charles said. Five Colombians are still at large and three have been killed, he added.
The suspected killers told investigators they were there to arrest him, not kill him, the Miami Herald and a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
A source close to the investigation said two Haitian Americans, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, told investigators they were translators for the Colombian commando unit which had an arrest warrant. But when they arrived, they found him dead.
The news follows reports that some of the Colombians said they had gone to work as security personnel in Haiti, including for Moise himself.
The Miami Herald reported that the detained Colombians said they were hired to work in Haiti by the Miami-based CTU Security company, run by Venezuelan emigrant Antonio Enmanuel Intriago Valera.
Charles said CTU had been used to hire at least some of the Colombian suspects, but gave no details.
Neither CTU nor Intriago could be immediately reached for comment.
A phone number associated with the company in public records sent calls to an answering machine that referred to fictional TV character Jack Bauer, who fought terrorism in the “24” series.
The recorded message read, “Thank you for calling CTU Security. For Tony Intriago, please leave a message or send an SMS. For Jack Bauer, wait until next season. Thanks for calling and have a nice day.
Via social media, Haitians in parts of the capital Port-au-Prince were planning protests this week against Acting Prime Minister and Acting Head of State Claude Joseph.
Joseph’s right to rule the country has been challenged by other senior politicians, threatening to exacerbate unrest in the poorest country in the Americas.
On Saturday, one of Haiti’s main gang leaders, Jimmy Cherizier, a former policeman known as Barbecue, said his men would take to the streets to protest the assassination.
Cherizier, boss of the so-called G9 federation of nine gangs, said police and opposition politicians conspired with the “stinking bourgeois” to “sacrifice” Moses.
Gunshots erupted overnight in the capital, which has seen an upsurge in gang violence in recent months, displacing thousands of people and hampering economic activity.