Ex-Colombian Troops Implicated in Murder of Haiti President

Retired Colombian soldiers are suspected of participating in the hit squad that murdered Haitian President Jovenel Moise, while investigators try to find who ordered the killing that plunged one of the world’s most turbulent nations deeper into chaos.

Colombia received an official request Thursday from the international police agency Interpol for information about the suspected perpetrators of the slaying, and pledged to cooperate, Defense Minister Diego Molano said late Thursday.

Haitian police said 28 people carried out the attack against the president, 26 of them Colombians and two U.S. citizens of Haitian descent. The group stormed Moise’s official residence early Wednesday in the first killing of a Haitian head of state in more than a century.

On Thursday, Haiti Police Chief Leon Charles said they had captured “the physical culprits” of the crime, and “we are now hunting down the intellectual culprits.”

Haiti’s National Police said they had arrested 15 men including 13 Colombians and the two Haitian-Americans. They also confirmed that they had killed four Colombian suspects and asked for public support in finding nine others.

Police presented the men, sitting on the floor with their hands bound behind their backs to reporters. They also showed a cache of automatic weapons, machetes, sledgehammers, radios and what appeared to be Colombian passports that they said they had captured from the group. The local Le Nouvellitste newspaper said officials had also recovered the hard drive that stored security footage at Moise’s residence and his checkbook.

Taiwanese Embassy

Eleven of the armed suspects were caught on the grounds of the Taiwanese Embassy in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-Ville, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday. The ministry said the embassy suffered no property loss and urged diplomatic staff to increase security in Haiti, which is one of 15 states that maintain relations with Taipei rather than Beijing.

Colombian troops are considered among the world’s toughest after having fought against local guerrillas in jungles and mountains for more than five decades. Soldiers are sometimes tempted to quit the army for the prospect of earning more money working as contractors in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Who’s in Charge?

Since the assassination, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph -- who had been on the job for less than three months -- is seen to be in charge of the nation of 11 million, and he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken by phone Wednesday.

Ex-Colombian Troops Implicated in Murder of Haiti President

But Joseph’s hold on power is being challenged. Earlier this week, Moise had named Ariel Henry to fill the prime minister’s post. While he was never sworn in, Henry told a local newspaper that he -- not Joseph -- is the prime minister, but said he favored dialog to keep from “igniting” the country.

In the meantime, the special representative of the secretary-general for Haiti, Helen La Lime, told reporters at the UN on Thursday that Joseph is the Prime Minister, and that the nation planned to go ahead with the first-round election in September, with a second round in November.

Moise had plenty of enemies and had faced growing discontent in the months before his murder. Part of the anger was fueled by the fact that he’d been ruling by decree since January 2020, after parliamentary terms expired and legislative elections were not held.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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