At least two Haitian-Americans are among six men who were arrested in the assassination of the Haitian president early Wednesday, officials said.
Haitian Minister of Elections Mathias Pierre identified James Solages as one of two Haitian Americans. He did not provide further details about Solages’ background, nor did he provide the name of the second Haitian American.
Pierre told The Associated Press that the other four men were from Colombia. The oldest suspect is 55 and the youngest, Solages, is 35, he said.
Seven other suspected attackers were killed in a shootout with the police, according to the director of the Haitian National Police, Léon Charles.
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Solages described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent”, children’s advocate and aspiring politician on a website for a South Florida charity he established in 2019 to help residents.
On his bio page for the charity, Solages said he previously worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. On a LinkedIn page with his name and photo, it is stated that Solages obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science and lists his skills as: military police, mechanical electrical and plumbing (MEP), and electrical troubleshooting.
According to witnesses, a crowd on Thursday discovered two suspects hiding in bushes in Port-au-Prince. Some people grabbed the men by their shirts and pants, pushing and slapping them every now and then. Police arrested the men and put them in the back of a van and went to a nearby police station as the crowd chased after them.
The crowd then set fire to several abandoned cars riddled with bullet holes which they said belonged to the suspects.
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At a press conference Thursday, Charles urged people to stay calm and let the police do their job by warning that authorities need evidence they are destroying.
Officials did not mention the motive for the murder, saying only that the attack, condemned by Haiti’s main opposition parties and the international community, was carried out by “a highly trained and heavily armed group.”
A Haitian judge involved in the investigation said that President Moïse had been gunned down a dozen times and that his office and room had been ransacked, Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported. The newspaper quoted Judge Carl Henry Destin as saying that investigators had found 5.56 and 7.62mm rounds between the gatehouse and inside the house.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who took over the leadership of Haiti with support from the police and military, called on people to reopen businesses and return to work as he ordered the reopening of the international airport.
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Haiti had become increasingly unstable under Moïse, who had ruled by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as critics accused him of trying to consolidate power as the opposition demanded that he resigns.
According to Haiti’s constitution, Moïse should be replaced by the president of the Supreme Court of Haiti, but the chief justice has died in recent days of COVID-19, leaving open the question of who could legitimately succeed the office.
Joseph, meanwhile, was supposed to be replaced by Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who had been appointed prime minister by Moses the day before the assassination.
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Henry told the PA he was the prime minister, calling it an exceptional and confusing situation. “I am the sitting Prime Minister,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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