17 arrested in the murder of the Haitian president, including 2 Haitian Americans

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Seventeen people have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, including two men suspected of being Haitian Americans, officials said Thursday.

Moïse was shot dead early Wednesday morning by gunmen who stormed his home near Port-au-Prince. In a press conference Thursday evening, Léon Charles, head of Haiti’s national police force, said 15 of the suspects detained were from Colombia. The suspects were in the room with him, handcuffed and seated on the floor. Charles also said three suspects were killed by police and eight were still at large.

One of the suspects has been identified as James Solages, 35, The Associated Press reports. Solages is the founder of a South Florida charity who describes him as a “certified diplomatic agent” who previously worked as a bodyguard for the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. The embassy did not respond to PArequest for comments.

Witnesses said PA that two of the suspects were captured in Port-au-Prince on Thursday by passers-by who saw them hiding in bushes. The crowd then set fire to two bullet-riddled cars, and Charles called on the public Thursday night to remain calm during the turmoil and not destroy the evidence.

Authorities blamed the assassination on “a highly trained and heavily armed group.” Haitian newspaper The Nouvelliste reports that Moses was shot 12 times and his room ransacked, citing a judge involved in the investigation, Carl Henry Destin. Two household workers were tied up and Moses’ daughter, Jomarlie, went into hiding during the attack in her brother’s bedroom.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and since the assassination the streets of Port-au-Prince have been largely empty. Residents who are hiding in their homes say they believe that if the president cannot be protected, neither can they.

Moses dissolved parliament in January 2020 and ruled by decree, and the opposition called on him to step down. Under the Haitian constitution, the head of the Supreme Court would have replaced Moïse, but the chief justice recently died of COVID-19. Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph took over after Moïse’s death, but he was due to be replaced on Wednesday by neurosurgeon Ariel Henry, who was appointed prime minister by Moïse on Tuesday. In an interview with PAHenry said the situation was muddled but he was “the sitting Prime Minister”.


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