PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Two men, one of whom is alleged to be former security at the Canadian Embassy in Port au Prince, have been detained in connection with the killing of Haiti’s president, according to a top Haitian Americans Official.
James Solages was among six persons detained in the 36 hours since gunmen assassinated President Jovenel Moise at his house in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, according to Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections.
Four additional alleged assailants were killed in a shootout with police, and two remain unaccounted for, according to Pierre. Authorities had previously stated that seven suspects had been murdered.
On the website for a nonprofit he founded in 2019 in south Florida to aid locals, Solages portrays himself as a “licensed diplomatic agent,” a kid advocate, and a rising politician.
Solages formerly served as security at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti, according to his profile page for the organization. Calls to the foundation and Solages’ charity colleagues either went unanswered or were not returned.
In announcing the arrests, Léon Charles, director of Haiti’s National Police, said, “The pursuit of the mercenaries continues.” “Their destiny is sealed: they will die in battle or be apprehended.”
Witnesses reported two suspects were spotted hidden in bushes near Port-au-Prince by a mob on Thursday, with some of the men being seized by their shirts and pants, pushed, and slapped.
An Associated Press correspondent on the site said the guys were sweating profusely and wearing clothing that seemed to be covered with dirt when police arrived. Officers loaded them into the back of a pickup truck and drove away, as the mob chased them down to the police station nearby.
Some in the throng yelled, “They killed the president!” as they arrived. Please hand them over to us. We’re going to set fire to them!”
One individual was observed remarking that foreigners coming to Haiti to assassinate the country’s leader was unacceptable, referring to claims from officials that the killers spoke Spanish or English.
Later, the crowd set fire to numerous abandoned cars with gunshot holes that they assumed belonged to the white suspects. There were no registration plates on the automobiles, and one of them had an empty box of ammunition and some water inside.
At a press conference on Thursday, Charles, the police chief, urged residents to be calm, go home, and allow officers to do their jobs, warning that authorities needed the evidence they were destroyed, which included the burnt automobiles.
Officials did not give a reason for the killings, simply stating that they were carried out by “a highly trained and heavily armed gang,” which was condemned by Haiti’s leading opposition parties and the international world.
With the support of the police and military, Prime Minister Claude Joseph took over as leader of Haiti on Thursday, urging citizens to reopen businesses and return to work, as well as ordering the reopening of the international airport.
Following Mose’s assassination on Wednesday, Joseph declared a two-week siege, shocking a country suffering from among of the Western Hemisphere’s worst poverty, crime, and political instability.
In a country where 60% of Haitians earn less than $2 per day, inflation and gang violence have skyrocketed as food and gasoline become scarce. The situation is becoming increasingly grave as Haiti continues to recover from the deadly 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, following a history of dictatorship and political turmoil.
“There is this gap now, and they are afraid of what will happen to their loved ones,” said Marlene Bastien, executive director of Family Action Network Movement, a Miami-based organization that assists residents of Little Haiti.
She said it was critical for US President Joe Biden’s administration to play a more active role in supporting attempts at national discourse in Haiti in order to organize free, fair, and credible elections.
“No more band-aids,” Bastien added, referring to the broad Haitian diaspora’s engagement. For far too long, the Haitian people have cried and suffered.”
Under Mose, who had been governing by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as opponents accused him of seeking to consolidate more authority and the opposition demanded he stand down, Haiti had become more unstable.
According to Haiti’s constitution, Mose should be replaced by the president of the Supreme Court, however, the chief justice died of COVID-19 recently, leaving the subject of who should succeed him open.
Meanwhile, Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who had been chosen Prime Minister by Mose the day before the killing, was set to succeed Joseph.
In a brief interview with the Associated Press, Henry confirmed that he is the prime minister, calling the scenario unusual and perplexing. He stated he had no disagreements with Joseph in another interview with Radio Zenith. “I just disagree that people have made rash judgments… when the situation calls for a bit more calmness and maturity,” he added.
In recent months, Mose has faced huge, violent protests after opposition leaders and supporters rejected his efforts to organize a constitutional referendum with measures to empower the president.
On Thursday, public transit and street sellers were limited, which was uncommon in Port-au-typically Prince’s busy streets.
Marco Destin, 39, walked to meet his family because there were no tap-taps accessible. He was bringing a loaf of bread for them because they hadn’t left their house since the president’s assassination because they were afraid for their safety.
He explained, “Everyone at home is sleeping with one eye open and one eye closed.” “If the head of state isn’t protected, then I’m not protected at all.”
Destin stated that Haiti has always been a difficult country and that he had no idea what the days ahead would bring. He stated, “Haiti doesn’t know what way it’s going in right now.” “To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is. There has always been a power struggle.”
Hours after the death, gunfire rang out periodically around the city, a somber reminder of gangs’ rising strength, which displaced more than 14,700 people last month alone as they burnt and looted homes in a territorial dispute.
According to Robert Fatton, a Haitian political specialist at the University of Virginia, gangs are a force to be reckoned with, and Haiti’s security forces may not be capable of enforcing a state of siege.
“It’s a pretty combustible situation,” he added, adding that foreign involvement with a United Nations-style military presence might be considered. “It’s a big issue if Claude Joseph can continue in power. If he does not form a government of national unity, it will be extremely difficult.”
According to the Associated Press, Joseph favors an international inquiry into the killing and feels that elections slated for later this year should take place since he vowed to work with both Mose’s supporters and opponents.
He stated, “Everything is in control.”