EXPLAINER: Who’s who in the probe of Haiti’s assassination
WASHINGTON (AP) — The investigation into the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has so far resulted in at least 23 arrests, with three suspects killed, but no clear picture yet of who ordered the killing and why. What has emerged from the limited disclosures from Haitian authorities, officials in Colombia and elsewhere and people who know the suspects is a growing interconnected web of players. Here’s a look at some of the key figures so far:
Moïse was an obscure businessman from northern Haiti with no political experience when he was chosen by the previous president, flamboyant musician Michel Martelly, as the Tet Kale Party candidate. Moise was declared winner of the 2015 election with a plurality of votes in a crowded field, but the results were thrown out amid suspicions of fraud. After another election, he took office in February 2017 with pledges to strengthen institutions, fight corruption and create jobs. He presided over spiraling violence, widespread power outages and food shortages made worse by the pandemic. He began ruling by decree in January 2020 after parliamentary elections were delayed, prompting increased unrest and charges that he was becoming increasingly authoritarian. In the predawn hours of July 7, gunmen, allegedly including former Colombian soldiers, shot him to death inside his home without wounding any members of the presidential security force.
The first lady was seriously wounded in the attack and evacuated to Florida, where she remains hospitalized. She released an audio statement from the hospital accusing “mercenaries” of seeking “to assassinate the president’s dream, vision and ideas for the country” but does not name any possible suspects. She says that whoever was responsible “do not want to see a transition in the country.” It’s unclear if she has been questioned by the magistrate judge in charge of the investigation.
Joseph is interim prime minister of Haiti and was about to be replaced when the assassination occurred. Joseph was named to the post in April following the resignation of Joseph Jouthe, who held the post for just over a year. Two days before the assassination, Moïse announced that he had chosen a new prime minister, neurosurgeon Ariel Henry. But the new prime minister had not yet been sworn into office as of July 7. After the assassination, Joseph announced he would be serving as acting prime minister and declared a “state of siege” in the country, similar to martial law. Henry says he should be prime minister since that was the expressed intention of Moïse. The U.S. has recognized Joseph as acting prime minister, but a U.S. delegation also met with Henry and Sen. Joseph Lambert, who is president of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, which isn’t operating because the lawmakers’ terms expired without new elections being held. Lambert also aspires to run the country. U.S. officials say they want to see elections, which had been scheduled for September.
CHRISTIAN EMMANUEL SANON
Sanon is a Haitian-born doctor, pastor and businessman and longtime U.S. resident who has been detained as a suspect in the assassination plot. He has said he has done charitable work in Haiti, where he has also owned several businesses,. In a 2011 video on YouTube, he expressed a desire to be president of the country and accused its leaders of corruption. Following his arrest, Haiti’s national police chief, Léon Charles, said Sanon flew to Haiti in June on a private jet with a private security team with the intention of taking over as Haiti’s president. Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one suspect phoned Sanon, who then contacted two people believed to be the masterminds of the plot. The chief did not identify them or say if police know who they are. Friends of Sanon have expressed skepticism that he would have been involved in a violent plot. It does not appear that Sanon, who has run a string of failed businesses in the U.S., filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and was largely unknown in Haitian political circles, would have the resources or political backing for the operation.
ANTONIO ENMANUEL INTRIAGO VALERA
Intriago Valera is a Venezuelan emigre in the Miami-area who runs Florida-based CTU Security. Colombia’s national police chief, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, said that CTU Security used its company credit card to buy 19 plane tickets from Bogota to Santo Domingo for the Colombian suspects. An associate of Sanon has said that the businessman attended a recent meeting in Florida with Intriago at which a presentation was made about developing Haiti.
Herard is head of general security at Haiti’s National Palace. The Colombian national police chief said Hérard flew to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama months before the assassination, and Colombian police are investigating whether he had any role in recruiting the mercenaries. In Haiti, prosecutors are seeking to question Hérard.
FORMER SEN. JOHN JOËL JOSEPH
Joseph is a well-known politician who is an opponent to the Tet Kale party to which Moïse belonged. He was elected under the party of René Préval and served for six years. Police say he is one of five fugitives sought in the assassination and described him as being armed and dangerous.
Police are also seeking Jaar in the killing of Moïse, saying he is one of five suspects on the run. Jaar uses the alias “Whiskey” and was indicted in 2013 with two other men in federal court in South Florida on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela through Haiti to the U.S. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 46 months in prison, according to court records. At his sentencing hearing in 2015, Jaar’s attorney told the court that Jaar had been a confidential source for the U.S. government for several years before his indictment.
JOSEPH FELIX BADIO
Badio is another of the five suspects being sought by police in the assassination. He previously worked at Haiti’s Justice Ministry and joined the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit in March 2012. The agency issued a statement saying Badio was fired in May following what it called “serious breaches” of ethical rules that it did not specify, adding that it filed a complaint against him.