Two individuals, believed to be Haitian Americans, have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mose on Wednesday, an incident that shocked the Caribbean nation and fuelled further political upheaval.
Fifteen Colombian nationals were also held, according to Léon Charles, the chief of Haiti’s National Police, as authorities resumed their search for those responsible for the assassination.
James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55, were identified as the two American citizens engaged in the attack that gravely injured Haiti’s First Lady, Martine Mose, by Haitian authorities. Solages, who most recently resided in South Florida, claimed to be a former bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince on a charity website.
Colombia’s government announced late Thursday that six of the suspects in Haiti, including two of those slain, were retired Colombian army members, though it did not reveal their identities.
According to Haitian authorities, Mose was assassinated by a group of “mercenaries” at his private apartment early Wednesday morning.
What we know about the assassination and its aftermath is as follows.
Even after killing four suspects and detaining others, Haitian police said the manhunt for Mose’s murders is still ongoing.
Eight other people are being sought, and three others have been slain by police, according to Charles.
During a news conference on Thursday, the police chief said, “We are going to bring them to justice.” 17 handcuffed defendants sat on the floor.
According to a website for a charity he founded in Florida in 2019, Solages claims to be an engineer and “licenced diplomatic agent” who once worked as a top bodyguard for the Canadian embassy in Haiti.
One of the individuals held for his alleged role in the homicide had been “briefly engaged as a reserve bodyguard” at Canada’s embassy by a private contractor, according to a statement released by Canada’s foreign relations department.
Mr. Solages currently works as a corporate executive and consultant in several places throughout South Florida, according to his website bio.
Requests for comment from the Department of Justice and the FBI on the possibility of American people being involved were not returned. Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, said he couldn’t confirm the arrest of a U.S. citizen since the investigation is being undertaken by Haitian officials.
Officials from Colombia said they were aiding Haiti in its enquiry.
Also on Thursday, Haitian police apprehended 11 armed suspects who attempted to break into Taiwan’s embassy in Port-au-Prince, according to Taiwan’s foreign ministry.
“Whether the suspects were involved in the assassination of Haiti’s president would have to be probed by Haitian police,” Joanne Ou, a foreign affairs spokesperson, told the Associated Press in Taipei.
According to former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the operation featured 28 mercenaries.
In an interview with USA TODAY from Miami on Thursday, Lamothe said the presidential guard did not try to stop the assailants. According to him, the assailants shot the president 16 times and his wife three times. According to The Nouvelliste daily, Haitian government officials say the president’s attackers shot him 12 times and disfigured him, removing his left eye.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, said the assassins falsely claimed to be Drug Enforcement Agency officials in a press conference on Wednesday.
They were “well-trained professional killers,” he added, describing them as “mercenaries.”
Even as his claim to authority was called into question, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared a “state of siege” equivalent to martial law and put himself in charge of the country. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s assassination, Assad announced a 15-day “state of siege.”
He told CN News, “Everything is in control.”
But, only one day before his assassination, Mose had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry.
On Wednesday, Henry told the Nouvelliste journal, “I am a prime minister.” Henry stated that he did not want to add to the chaos and applauded Joseph’s handling of the crisis, but that he would assert his claim to the job of prime minister and include Joseph in his Cabinet.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Wednesday evening that “the next few days are vital for Haiti.” He advised people to be calm and urged the Haitian government to “do everything possible” to achieve a smooth transfer of power.
“We continue to engage with Claude Joseph as such,” said Price of the State Department, noting that Joseph was the incumbent prime minister at the time of the assassination. Officials from the State Department, however, have been in communication with Henry and other “officials and stakeholders” in Haiti, according to Price.
“On the ground, the situation is rapidly changing,” Price warned. He reaffirmed the Biden administration’s belief that Haiti’s “free and fair elections” should take place later this year.
For months, the legitimacy of Mose’s president had been questioned. Human rights advocates in the United States believe his presidency should have ended in February. However, the 53-year-old politician refused to resign, claiming that he could stay in office for another year based on a different interpretation of Haiti’s Constitution.
Rep. Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat and co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus, said Mose’s assassination is a “terrible example of the level to which Haiti’s security situation has unravelled,” and that the international community is at least partly to blame.
According to Levin, the United States and other countries have ignored Haiti’s rising violence and people’s cries for a democratic transition. He and others are urging the Biden administration to rethink US policy towards Haiti and work to strengthen the country’s shaky democracy.
Mose’s assassination, according to human rights advocates, should serve as a “wake-up call” for the United States and other foreign powers to emphasis on Haiti’s political and socioeconomic instability.
Haiti’s officials are asking U.S. cooperation in the enquiry, as well as American assistance in improving Haiti’s police force and armed forces, according to Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States.
When asked if the FBI was supporting Haitian authorities in their investigation into Mose’s assassination, an FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on Thursday.
Price said the Haitian police had filed a formal request for investigative help, and “the United States is responding,” but he couldn’t say more. Since the assassination, he claimed, American and Haitian officials have been in constant touch.