AP NEWS

Official: 8 armed men detained in Haiti could be sent to US

February 20, 2019
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National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — An official with Haiti’s communications ministry said Wednesday that eight men, including five U.S. citizens, who authorities say were detained over the weekend with automatic weapons and other arms could be transferred soon to the United States.

Yves Paul Leandre issued the brief statement but provided no other details. The men were being held in jail after police arrested them Sunday in Port-au-Prince while allegedly traveling with the weapons in cars without license plates. It is unclear whether they have attorneys.

Police spokesman Michel-Ange Louis-Jeune has said the men told police they were on a “mission,” but they refused to say anything else except that they would call their unidentified bosses. Louis-Jeune said in a phone interview Wednesday that he had no further information and that the investigation continued.

The U.S. State Department has said it was seeking consular access but declined further comment.

Pierre Esperance, director of the National Human Rights Defense Network, said in a phone interview Wednesday that a former Haitian government official was demanding that police release the men shortly after their arrest. He added that he does not believe what the government has said about the situation so far and that an in-depth investigation is needed.

“I wish the Haiti justice system and the police would do their work without any pressure, and that they make the right decision to protect the citizens,” he said.

Jean Clarens Renois, a former journalist and presidential candidate, also called for a transparent investigation.

“When you have many armed people coming into the country so easily, you should be concerned,” he said in a phone interview, adding that the arrests came as top government officials are fighting among themselves over power. “When you have a country that’s not really leading, when you don’t have cohesion between powers, that can happen.”

The arrests followed more than a week of violent demonstrations by Haitians demanding that President Jovenel Moise resign amid rising inflation and allegations of corruption. The streets were calm again Wednesday, and schools, businesses and government offices have slowly been reopening this week.

Renois urged government officials from the ruling party and the opposition to find a solution together.

“After each election, we are deeper and deeper in a crisis,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe the protests are over. “People are living day-by-day. ... If you don’t resolve the situation, you’ll have another uprising.”

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Associated Press writer Evens Sanon reported this story in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and AP writer Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)