‘Big Fish’ Behind Haiti Murder Still Unidentified, Minister Says
(Bloomberg) -- A week after the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, the true masterminds behind the crime haven’t been publicly identified or detained, Election Minister Mathias Pierre said.
The country has arrested more than 20 people -- and issued arrest warrants for at least five others -- in connection with the crime, including a former Haitian senator.
“If you look at the profile of these people -- and I know some of them very well -- I don’t think they are the big fish that are responsible or behind that assassination,” Pierre said in a telephone interview. “Certainly, I think they have links to powerful people, and I think the investigation will lead us there.”
Pierre -- who was tapped to organize general elections and a constitutional referendum in September -- has emerged as a prominent voice of the administration since Moise’s brazen murder on July 7, regularly attending cabinet briefings and providing information about the probe to the press.
According to Haiti’s police, a 28-man hit team led by former Colombian soldiers raided the president’s home and shot him 12 times. Most of the alleged assassins, including two Haitian-American translators, were quickly scooped up.
On Sunday, police arrested Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian man with ties to South Florida, who they described as one of the key players in the plot.
Calls and emails to to accounts related to Sanon have gone unanswered.
Family members of some of the arrested Colombian men say they traveled to Haiti under the impression they would be working as bodyguards. But once they were in Haiti, they were told they would serve an “arrest warrant” against Moise, the police said.
Pierre said that Moise had been aware of an arrest warrant since 2018 and talked about it during cabinet meetings.
“There was a plot around that arrest warrant, and the president knew about it, talked about it, and he saw it,” Pierre said. “But he never found the judge who prepared it.”
Pierre said he believed it was that same 2018 warrant that was used to justify the raid.
Given the circumstances, Pierre also said it’s likely that some of the Colombians were unaware of their true mission that night.
Additionally, the president had been tortured before he was killed, Pierre said.
“They broke his arm, they broke his leg, they broke his eyes,” he said, confirming reports that one of Moise’s eyes had been gouged out. “They had a plan to kill him.”
On Tuesday, Haiti’s police issued arrest warrants for three Haitian men: Former Haitian Senator Jean Joel Joseph, a longtime government employee, Joseph Felix Badio, and a convicted drug trafficker named Rodolphe Jaar. Attempts to locate the men for comment were unsuccessful.
Moise’s murder has left a power vacuum in the country, and interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has taken the reins. Even so, remnants of Haiti’s Senate said they would like to install their leader, Joseph Lambert, as temporary president.
Pierre said that would be a mistake that could lead to a drawn out transition, when what is needed most urgently are new elections.
The country plans to hold the first round of presidential and legislative elections Sept. 26, the same day it will ask Haitians to vote on a new constitution. The second-round vote will be held in November and the new leaders will be sworn into office February, under the new constitution if it passes.
Pierre said that violence and insecurity are the largest obstacles to free and fair elections, and one of the reasons the country is asking for U.S. military troops.
“Haiti needs to take the path of prosperity, economic development and peace, and the only way for this to happen is for elections to happen,” he said. “To honor the memory of President Moise, the country has a responsibility to hold elections.”
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