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HomeCaribbeanHaitiWhat do we know about the assassination of Haiti's president?

What do we know about the assassination of Haiti’s president?

Despite a series of arrests by Haitian police, confusion still reigns about the assassination of President Jovenel Moise a week ago.

Here is what we know so far about the investigation.

Haitian doctor living in the US

Police have set their focus on a Haitian national they arrested on Sunday, saying he had “political objectives” and accusing him of having recruited the gunmen who shot and killed Moise in the early hours of Wednesday.

Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, is a Haitian doctor who lives in Florida. He arrived in the country via private jet last month with a group of Colombian nationals with the initial goal of “arresting the president,” according to Haitian national police director Leon Charles.

The Colombian men were originally going to provide security for Sanon, but “then the mission changed,” Charles said.

Little information was available about Sanon, who describes himself as a doctor who “plays a role in leading Haiti through a life of positive action and absolute integrity” on a Twitter account with his name.

In several videos posted to a YouTube channel under his name in 2011, Sanon presents himself as a potential leader, critiquing poverty and corruption in Haiti.

“Where are the leaders of Haiti?” He asks. “Nowhere. Do you know why? Because they are corrupt.”

Foreign ties

Between a doctor living in the United States and a group of majority-Colombian “mercenaries,” links with foreign actors are everywhere in the investigation.

Haitian police said Sunday they had arrested 21 people — 18 Colombians and three Haitians, two of whom also hold dual American citizenship.

Bogota confirmed that most of those arrested were former members of the Colombian military who would likely have been highly trained and experienced after decades fighting against the country’s guerilla insurgents and drug traffickers.

Haitian police accused Sanon of recruiting his 26-member support team through a Florida-based Venezuelan security company called CTU.

One woman who said she was the partner of one of the men arrested said her husband had been approached by a company offering a $2,700 monthly salary for joining the force.

Haiti, which was occupied by the United States between 1915 and 1934, has asked for the help of American troops in securing strategic sites, though Washington has declined.

Unclear motive

Following the flurry of arrests, Haitian police must still find a motive for the attack — and prove it.

If Sanon’s involvement is confirmed, authorities must then determine if the doctor was the mastermind behind the plot or if there is another person playing a more decisive role.

Bogota is also investigating several trips to Colombia made by head of Moise’s security Dimitri Herard.

He also visited Ecuador, Panama and the Dominican Republic via Colombia several times between January and May 2021 — trips which are also being investigated by Colombian police.

And Haiti’s extreme poverty and history of corruption raises yet another question: Who financed this operation?

A government in shambles

Already facing political, economic and security crises, the violent death of its president is only complicating matters in Haiti, which has been plunged into confusion about who is now in charge of the country.

Moise’s assassination came only two days after the president had named a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, to replace Claude Joseph.

There are only 10 elected representatives in office in the whole country, with Moise having failed to call parliamentary elections since he came to power in 2017.

Joseph declared himself in charge just hours after Moise’s death, instituting a so-called “state of siege.”  But he has seen his legitimacy quickly questioned.

Eight of the 10 senators still in office signed a resolution Friday proposing that president of the Senate Joseph Lambert take on the title of interim president.

“The nature and manner of the assassination of the president have brought further urgency on the need for genuine reconstruction and support for democratic transition in Haiti,” said Horace Campbell, a professor of political science at Syracuse University.

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