Posted by Joseph Fitsanakis
NEARLY ALL MEMBERS OF the heavily armed commando team that killed Haiti’s President on July 7 were Colombian citizens, while several served in the military, according to the Haitian National Police. The attack on the president’s residence, located in the Pétion-Ville suburb of Port-au-Prince, began after midnight local time on Wednesday, when a convoy of at least five vehicles carrying dozens of men arrived at the scene.
The men, described as “highly trained and heavily armed”, quickly exited the vehicles and opened fire on the security detail of President Jovenel Moïse. Many witnesses described the assailants as foreign in appearance and speaking either English or Spanish —languages that are not widely spoken in Haiti, where the local languages are Creole and French. These reports were eventually confirmed when the Haitian National Police identified two of the assailants as Joseph Vincent, 55, and James Solages, 35, both American citizens and residents of Miami’s Little Haiti community. Interestingly, Solages describes himself as a “certified diplomatic [security] agent” and is believed to have served as head of bodyguards at the Embassy of Canada in the Haitian capital.
Late on Thursday, Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, announced that 17 suspected assailants had been captured alive, seven killed during the raid, while at least eight others remained on the run. He added that all of captured assailants are foreign and all but two are Colombian citizens. Of those, several are retired members of the Military Forces of Colombia. Overall, 26 members of the commando team were Colombian citizens, said Charles. He did not provide further information. Later that same evening, the Associated Press reported that Colombian President Ivan Duque instructed his country’s military leadership to “cooperate in the investigation” by the Haitian authorities.
Importantly, the precise motive of the assailants remains unclear. The attack was almost certainly planned well in advance, and was part of a broader plan to eliminate Moïse, who is championed and reviled by Haitians in equal measure. But the attack also appears to have been combined with an effort to justify the killing, possibly by exposing negative information about the late president following the attack. This would explain why the assailants did not leave Moïse’s residency immediately after assassinating him, but instead ransacked nearly every room of the premises, apparently looking for documents and computer drives.
It is also puzzling how such a heavily armed team, whose members were described by Haitian authorities as “well-trained professionals” did not appear to have an exit plan following the raid on the president’s residence. Their attack was sophisticated enough to penetrate Moïse’s heavy security detail, and even reach its target in a safe room inside the building, reportedly without suffering any losses. However, several assailants were shot dead or injured in firefights that erupted long after the attack. Eventually all but eight members of a 28-member commando team were either killed or captured.
In the hours after the president’s assassination, Haiti was placed under martial law by the Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, a Moïse ally who appears to have the backing of the military. This means little, however, in a country where rival armed gangs control numerous neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince and other major cities and towns. Some of these gangs are affiliated with the country’s two main political parties, the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (which supported Moïse) and the Alternative League for Haitian Progress and Emancipation, which refused to acknowledge Moïse as the legitimate head of state following the national election of 2016.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 July 2021
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- Anonymous on No exit plan would indicate that someone was expected to take over after the assassination. It will be interesting to know who was behind it.
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