Haitian police have arrested a man believed to have helped orchestrate the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Moïse was killed last Wednesday in a nighttime attack at his Port-au-Prince residence that left his wife injured. His death has plunged the Caribbean nation into further upheaval and political turmoil. Authorities have announced that at least 28 suspects are tied to the assassination, including 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans. At least 21 Colombian suspects have been detained, in addition two Haitian-Americans, and three suspects have been killed. A massive manhunt to track down suspects who are still on the loose remains underway.
Authorities announced on Sunday the arrest of Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old Haitian national living in Florida who flew into Haiti on a private jet in early June, The Associated Press reported.
“This is an individual who entered Haiti on a private plane with political objectives,” said Haiti’s police chief Leon Charles. He also said the mission was to arrest Moïse and install Sanon as president but that “the mission changed.”
Sanon was allegedly in contact with a Florida-based Venezuelan security firm that recruited 26 Colombian mercenaries and two Haitian-Americans to provide security for Sanon although the mission evolved. Several of the suspects arrested have mentioned Sanon’s name, Haitian authorities say.
“When we, the police, blocked the progress of these bandits after they committed their crime, the first person that one of the assailants called was Christian Emmanuel Sanon,” Charles said. He said one of the arrestees also contacted two others thought to be masterminds behind the attack, but did not identify the individuals.
Haitian police report that when they raided the residence of Sanon, a self-proclaimed doctor who had lived off and on in Florida for years but had no medical license in the state, they found 20 boxes of 12 and 9 millimeter caliber ammunition, rifle and pistol holsters, 24 unused shooting targets, a cap labeled “DEA,” two vehicles, and four Dominican Republic license plates.
Police have not announced what Sanon will be charged with. The two Haitian-Americans identified as suspects in the assassination have been identified as James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both naturalized citizens.
A group of American justice and security officials arrived in Haiti on Sunday to asses the situation and will meet with three politicians there, each of whom is claiming to be the leader of the Caribbean nation. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has assumed the role of leader and declared “a state of siege.”
Moïse was ruling by decree at the time of his assassination, and his claim to a fifth turn had been disputed. Days before his death he named a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, who was set to replace Joseph but had not been sworn in yet. Henry and Joseph Lambert, leader of Haiti’s senate, have each claimed power as well.
By Monday Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, the head of the Colombian national police told reporters that Haiti’s National Palace head of general security Dimitri Hérard had traveled to Colombia’s capital city several times in the months leading up to the assassination. News of Hérard’s travels has fueled allegations that the assassins had inside help. Haitian authorities have not yet established a connection between his stays in Bogotá and the former Colombian soldiers arrested in the assassination plot, but they are seeking to interview him.
The Washington Post resurfaced a 2011 video of Sanon speaking about political corruption. In the video, he complained about corruption among Haiti’s leadership in the video, saying, “They don’t care about the country, they don’t care about the people. … They want things for themselves, to put in their pocket.” Sanon talked about how things would be different “with me in power,” adding “We can’t take it any more. We need new leadership that will change the way of life.”