Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday)

Haiti’s interim leader requests aid of US troops

- BY DANICA COTO AND JOSHUA GOODMAN

Haiti’s interim government has asked the U.S. and U.N. to deploy troops to protect key infrastruc­ture as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare for elections in the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassinat­ion.

The stunning request for U.S. military support recalled the tumult following Haiti’s last presidenti­al assassinat­ion, in 1915, when an angry mob dragged President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam out of the French Embassy and beat him to death. In response, President Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines into Haiti, justifying the American military occupation – which lasted nearly two decades – as a way to avert anarchy.

Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s elections minister, defended the government’s request military assistance, saying in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press that the local police force is weak and lacks resources.

“What do we do? Do we let the country fall into chaos? Private properties destroyed? People killed after the assassinat­ion of the president? Or, as a government, do we prevent?” he said. “We’re not asking for the occupation of the country. We’re asking for small troops to assist and help us. … As long as we are weak, I think we will need our neighbors.”

The request was received but there has been no decision, according to a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Biden administra­tion has so far given no indication it will send troops.

For now, it only plans to send FBI officials to help investigat­e a crime that has plunged Haiti, a country already wracked by poverty and gang violence, into a destabiliz­ing battle for power and constituti­onal standoff.

Haiti also sent a letter to the United Nations requesting assistance, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Saturday. The letter asked for troops and security at key installati­ons, according to a U.N. source speaking on condition of anonymity because details of the letter are private.

“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our internatio­nal partners for help,” interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the AP in a phone interview late Friday. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”

On Friday, a group of lawmakers announced they had recognized Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, as provisiona­l president in a direct challenge to the interim government’s authority. They also recognized as prime minister Ariel Henry, whom Moïse had selected to replace Joseph a day before he was killed but who had not yet taken office or formed a government.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about what increasing­ly resembled a murky, internatio­nal conspiracy: a shootout with gunmen holed up in a foreign embassy, a private security firm operating out of a warehouse in Miami and a cameo sighting of a Hollywood star.

Among the arrested are two Haitian Americans, including one who worked alongside Sean Penn following the nation’s devastatin­g 2010 earthquake. Police have also detained or killed more than a dozen former members of Colombia’s military.

Some of the suspects were seized in a raid on Taiwan’s Embassy where they are believed to have sought refuge. National Police Chief Leon Charles said another eight suspects were still at large and being sought.

The attack at Moïse’s home before dawn Wednesday also seriously wounded his wife, who was flown to Miami for surgery. She issued a statement Saturday implying the president was killed for trying to develop the country. “The mercenarie­s who assassinat­ed the president are currently behind bars,” she said in Creole, “but other mercenarie­s currently want to kill his dream, his vision, his ideology.”

Colombian officials said the men were recruited by four companies and traveled to Haiti via the Dominican Republic. U.S.trained Colombian soldiers are often recruited by security firms and mercenary armies in conflict zones because of their experience in a decadeslon­g war against leftist rebels and drug cartels.

The sister of one of the dead suspects, Duberney Capador, told the AP that she last spoke to her brother late Wednesday – hours after Moïse’s murder – when the men, holed up in a home and surrounded, were desperatel­y trying to negotiate their way out of a shootout.

“He told me not to tell our mother, so she wouldn’t worry,” said Yenny Capador, fighting back tears.

It’s not known whoplanned the attack. And questions remain about how the perpetrato­rs were able to penetrate the president’s residence posing as U.S. Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion agents, meeting little resistance from those charged with protecting the president.

Capador said her brother, who retired from the Colombian army in 2019 with the rank of sergeant, was hired by a private security firm with the understand­ing he would be providing protection for powerful individual­s in Haiti.

Capador said she knew almost nothing about the employer but shared a picture of her brother in a uniform emblazoned with the logo of CTU Security – a company based in Doral, a Miami suburb popular with Colombian migrants.

The wife of Francisco Uribe, who was among those arrested, told Colombia’s W Radio that

CTU offered to pay the men about $2,700 a month – a paltry sum for a dangerous internatio­nal mission but far more than what most of the men, noncommiss­ioned officers and profession­al soldiers, earned from their pensions.

CTU Security was registered in 2008 and lists as its president Antonio Intriago, who is also affiliated with several other Florida-registered entities, some since dissolved, including the Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy, the Venezuelan American National Council and Doral Food Corp.

CTU’s website lists two addresses, one of which is a gray-colored warehouse that was shuttered Friday with no sign indicating who it belonged to. The other is a small suite under a different company’s name in a modern office building a few blocks away.

Besides the Colombians, those detained by police included two Haitian Americans.

Investigat­ive Judge Clement Noel told Le Nouvellist­e that the arrested Americans, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, said the attackers planned only to arrest Moïse, not kill him. Noel said Solages and Vincent were acting as translator­s for the attackers, the newspaper reported Friday.

Solages, 35, described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent,” an advocate for children and budding politician on a now-removed website for a charity he started in

2019 in south Florida to assist resident of his Haitian hometown of Jacmel.

He worked briefly as a driver and bodyguard for a relief organizati­on set up by Penn following a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed 300,000 Haitians and left tens of thousands homeless. He also lists as past employers the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. His now-deactivate­d Facebook page features photos of armored military vehicles and an image of himself in front of an American flag.

 ?? JEAN MARC HERVE ABELARD AP ?? Police on Thursday guard detained suspects in the assassinat­ion of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The manhunt for additional suspects continued Saturday.
JEAN MARC HERVE ABELARD AP Police on Thursday guard detained suspects in the assassinat­ion of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The manhunt for additional suspects continued Saturday.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States