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Haiti’s interim government asks the U.S. to send troops

Handcuffed men lie on the floor surrounded by uniformed law enforcement.
Suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise lie on the floor in handcuffs after being detained Thursday in Port-au-Prince.
(Jean Marc Hervé Abélard / Associated Press)

Haiti’s interim government has asked the U.S. to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare the way for elections in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help,” interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the Associated Press in an interview, declining to provide further details. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”

Joseph said that he was dismayed by opponents who’ve tried to take advantage of Moise’s killing to seize political power — an indirect reference to a group of lawmakers who have declared their loyalty and recognized Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, as provisional president and Ariel Henry, whom Moise designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, as prime minister.

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“I’m not interested in a power struggle,” Joseph said in the brief phone interview, without mentioning Lambert by name. “There’s only one way people can become president in Haiti. And that’s through elections. So I’m asking everyone to work together so the country can have an elected president.”

Several Colombians have been implicated in Moise’s assassination. They were recruited by four companies and traveled to the Caribbean nation in two groups via the Dominican Republic, the head of Colombia’s police said Friday.

Haitian National Police Chief Léon Charles said 17 suspects have been detained in the brazen killing of Moise that stunned a nation already reeling from poverty, widespread violence and political instability.

As the investigation moved forward, the killing took on the air of a complicated international conspiracy. Besides the Colombians, among those detained by police were two Haitian Americans, who have been described as translators for the attackers. Some of the suspects were seized in a raid on the Taiwanese Embassy, where they are believed to have sought refuge.

At a news conference in Colombia’s capital of Bogota, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia said four companies had been involved in the “recruitment, the gathering of these people” implicated in the assassination, although he did not identify the companies because their names were still being verified.

Two of the suspects traveled to Haiti via Panama and the Dominican Republic, Vargas said, while a second group of 11 arrived in Haiti on July 4 from the Dominican Republic.

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials will be sent to Haiti “as soon as possible to assess the situation and how we may be able to assist.”

“The United States remains engaged and in close consultations with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination of the president,” Psaki said.

Eight other suspects are still at large, Charles said.

“We are going to bring them to justice,” the police chief said, as the 17 handcuffed suspects sat on the floor during a news conference Thursday.

Investigative Judge Clément Noël told the French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste that the Haitian Americans arrested, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, said the attackers originally planned only to arrest Moise, not kill him.

The attack, which took place at Moise’s home before dawn Wednesday, also seriously wounded his wife, who was flown to Miami for treatment.

Joseph, who assumed leadership with the backing of police and the military, declared a two-week “state of siege” in Haiti. The capital city of Port-au-Prince already had been on edge amid the growing power of gangs that have displaced more than 14,700 people last month alone as they torched and ransacked homes in a fight over territory.

Controversial Haitian President Jovenel Moise was killed early Wednesday by unknown assailants. Who will take control of the country now?

The killing brought the usually bustling capital to a standstill, but Joseph urged the public to return to work. Street markets, supermarkets, banks and gas stations reopened Friday, and people lined up to buy fuel again.

Vargas has pledged Colombia’s full cooperation after Haiti said about six of the suspects, including two of the three killed, were retired members of Colombia’s army. U.S.-trained Colombian soldiers are heavily recruited by private security firms in global conflict zones because of their experience in fighting leftist rebels and powerful drug cartels.

The wife of one former Colombian soldier in custody said he was recruited by a security firm to travel to the Dominican Republic last month.

The woman, who identified herself only as Yuli, told Colombia’s W Radio that her husband, Francisco Uribe, was hired for $2,700 a month by a company named CTU to travel to the Dominican Republic, where he was told he would provide protection to some powerful families. She says she last spoke to him at 10 p.m. Wednesday — almost a day after Moise’s killing — and he said he was on guard duty at a house where he and others were staying.

“The next day he wrote me a message that sounded like a farewell,” the woman said. “They were running, they had been attacked. ... That was the last contact I had.”

The woman said she knew little about her husband’s activities and was unaware he had even traveled to Haiti.

Uribe is under investigation for his alleged role in extrajudicial killings by Colombia’s U.S.-trained army more than a decade ago. Colombian court records show that he and another soldier were accused of killing a civilian in 2008 whom they later tried to present as a criminal slain in combat.

The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports that Haitian Americans were in custody but would not comment further.

Solages, 35, described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent,” an advocate for children and a budding politician on a now-removed website for a charity he started in 2019 in south Florida to assist residents of his home town of Jacmel, on Haiti’s southern coast.

Solages also said he had worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti, and on his Facebook page, which was also taken down after news of his arrest, he showcased photos of armored military vehicles and a shot of himself standing in front of an American flag.

Canada’s foreign relations department released a statement that did not refer to Solages by name but said one of the men detained in the killing had been “briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard” at its embassy by a private contractor.

Calls to the charity and Solages’ associates went unanswered. However, a relative in south Florida said Solages doesn’t have any military training. The relative said he didn’t believe Solages was involved in the assassination.

“I feel like my son killed my brother because I love my president and I love James Solages,” Schubert Dorisme, whose wife is Solages’ aunt, told WPLG-TV in Miami.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s embassy in Port-au-Prince said Haitian police had arrested 11 people who tried to break into the embassy early Thursday. It gave no details of their identities or a reason for the break-in but in a statement referred to the men as “mercenaries” and strongly condemned the “cruel and barbaric assassination” of Moise.

Police were alerted by embassy security guards while Taiwanese diplomats were working from home. Haiti is one of the few countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan instead of the rival mainland Chinese government in Beijing.

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is the Caribbean nation’s latest tumultuous chapter.

Officials have given out little information on the killing, other than to say the attack was carried out by “a highly trained and heavily armed group.”

Not everyone believed government’s account of the attack. When Haitian journalist Robenson Geffrard tweeted a report on comments by the police chief, he drew a flood of skeptical responses. Many wondered how what authorities described as sophisticated attackers could be caught so easily.

Haiti had grown increasingly unstable under Moise, who had been ruling by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as critics accused him of trying to amass more power while the opposition demanded he step down.

The U.N. Security Council met privately Thursday to discuss the situation in Haiti, and U.N. special envoy Helen La Lime said afterward that Haitian officials had asked for additional security assistance.

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Goodman from Miami. AP videographer Pierre-Richard Luxama in Port-au-Prince and Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.


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