Haiti president’s assassination: what we know so far

Only a few things are known for sure about the killing of Jovenel Moïse, with many unanswered questions

What is known for certain?

There are few things that can be said with absolute certainty about the assassination save for the fact that at some point during the night of Wednesday 7 July, the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, was shot and killed at his private residence in the hills above the capital, Port-au-Prince, during an attack in which his wife, Martine, was also severely injured. Although the official account of the attack places it at about 1am, even that timeline has been questioned.

The official version

According to Haitian investigators a group of two dozen mercenaries, including two US-Haitian citizens and a number of Colombians, several of whom were former soldiers, stormed Moïse’s villa, pretending to be a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid, overpowering staff and security.

During the raid, Moïse was shot up to 12 times and his house ransacked. In the hours that followed, a number of the alleged attackers were either killed in shootouts or captured, some at Haiti’s Taiwanese embassy where they had sought refuge.

There are a large number of unanswered questions, not least concerning how Moïse’s security team conducted itself during the attack in which only Moïse and his wife were killed or injured.

So was it a coup attempt?

Although Moïse’s death has plunged Haiti into turmoil, the power plays have been messy with no figure stepping forcefully into the vacuum.

Various political figures are locked in a struggle over who is actually running the country (including two interim prime ministers, Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry), while a group of legislators has also recognised Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled senate, as provisional president.

Moïse was accused by critics of corruption, autocratic tendencies and implicated in political violence involving the country’s gangs. He was neither popular nor seen as legitimate and had ruled by decree for the last year.

He complained earlier this year of an attempted coup that planned to murder him, and there is evidence that some in opposition circles had planned previously to use violence to undermine him.

In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, various names of public figures in Haiti who were opposed to Moïse circulated as potentially being behind the attack.

In her first public comments, Martine Moïse tweeted from Florida, where she is being treated, that he had been killed by political enemies who were opposed to constitutional changes Moïse had proposed to give him more power.

So who was behind it, then?

Martine Moïse did not name names but in the latest twist, the head of Haiti’s national police announced on Sunday that officers arrested a Haitian man accused of flying into the country on a private jet and working with the masterminds and alleged assassins.

The police chief, Léon Charles, identified the suspect as Christian Emmanuel Sanon, without giving any personal information about him. Charles also gave no information on the purported masterminds.

He said officers found several items at Sanon’s house, including a hat emblazoned with the logo of the DEA, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four vehicle licence plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars, and correspondence with unidentified people.

Prosecutors have also requested that high-profile politicians including the presidential candidate Reginald Boulos and the former Haitian senate president Youri Latortue meet officials for questioning.

Authorities also plan to interview at least two members of Moïse’s security detail.

Haitian police said two other people had been implicated in the alleged scheme as “intellectual authors” of the assassination, but did not name them.

What about all the others who have been arrested?

Here is where it gets really murky. A number of members of the alleged hit team, comprising 28 known individuals, have reportedly offered their own often contradictory explanations of what they were involved with.

James Solages, one of two US-Haitian citizens arrested, has told investigators that he and Joseph Vincent thought they had been hired as translators for a job found on the internet which they believed involved the arrest of Moïse, not his killing.

The sister of Duberney Capador, 40, a Colombian killed by security forces after Moïse’s assassination, also said he told her he had gone to Haiti after receiving a job offer to protect a “very important person” and had sent her pictures of himself training at a country house.


Peter Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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