Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Colombian man is among dozens of suspects arrested in connection with July murder of Jovenel Moise in Haitian capital.

Authorities in the United States have arrested a suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, US media and the Reuters news agency reported, citing unidentified law enforcement and government sources.

Mario Antonio Palacios will make his first appearance in the US Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon, the Miami Herald newspaper and McClatchy reported Tuesday, citing several U.S. government sources.

Palacios is a former member of the Colombian army who Haitian authorities said was part of a mercenary group that killed Moise in July.

The Miami Herald said Palacios – also known as “Floro” – would be the first suspect to be charged with involvement in Moise’s assassination on formal charges.

Moise (53) was killed in the early morning hours of July 7, 2021, when a team of armed men stormed his home in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

The then Prime Minister Claude Joseph said at the time that the assassination was “a highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group”.

The assassination pushes Haiti, who has already struggled a political crisis and widespread gang violence during Moise’s years in office, in deeper instability and fears arise among residents of further attacks.

Haitian authorities have arrested dozens of people, including 18 Colombians and two americans of Haitian descent, in connection with the assassination. But their investigation yielded few concrete answers so far about why Moise was killed.

Critics in Haiti also complained of slow progress, intimidation and witness tampering in the investigation.

Palacios, 43, was arrested in Panama on Monday while being deported from Jamaica to Colombia, according to two people familiar with the case.

Palacios was detained during a stopover in Panama and asked to “voluntarily” board a flight to the US, a Colombian immigration source told Reuters. Haiti also issued an Interpol red notice for Palacios.

The Caribbean nation confronted a boom in gang violence and kidnappings for ransom since Moise’s assassination. Haiti also struggled to rebuild in the wake of a devastating earthquake in August, while residents faced paralyzing fuel shortages and rising prices.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he was forced to cancel a speech on the country’s independence day on Saturday after gunfire broke out in the northern city of Gonaives, about 150 km (90 miles) from Port-au-Prince.

Local media reported that one person died and two were injured in the gunfire that forced Henry and others to dive and seek shelter as they walked out of a cathedral, where Henry attended a mass.

“We can not allow bandits of any background, driven by the lowest financial interests, to blackmail the state,” said Henry, who held the post of Prime Minister less than two weeks after Moise was killed.

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