Haiti’s interim government has asked the US to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilise the country and prepare the way for elections in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help,” Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the Associated Press. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”
Joseph said he was dismayed by opponents who had tried to take advantage of Moise’s murder to seize political power.
It was an indirect reference to a group of MPs who have declared their loyalty and recognised Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled senate, as provisional president and Ariel Henry, whom Moise designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, as prime minister.
“I’m not interested in a power struggle,” Joseph said, without mentioning Lambert by name. “There’s only one way people can become president in Haiti. And that’s through elections.”
Joseph spoke just hours after the head of Colombia’s police said that the Colombians implicated in Moise’s assassination were recruited by four companies and travelled to the Caribbean nation in two groups via the Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, the US said it would send senior FBI and Homeland Security officials to help in the investigation.
Haitian National Police Chief Leon Charles said 17 suspects have been detained in the brazen killing of Moise that stunned a nation already reeling from poverty, widespread violence and political instability.
As the investigation moved forward, the killing took on the air of a complicated international conspiracy. Besides the Colombians, among those detained by police were two Haitian Americans, who have been described as translators for the attackers. Some of the suspects were seized in a raid on Taiwan’s embassy where they are believed to have sought refuge.
At a news conference in Colombia’s capital of Bogota, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia said four companies had been involved in the “recruitment, the gathering of these people” implicated in the assassination, although he did not identify the companies because their names were still being verified.
Two of the suspects travelled to Haiti via Panama and the Dominican Republic, Vargas said, while a second group of 11 arrived in Haiti on July 4 from the Dominican Republic.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials will be sent to Haiti “as soon as possible to assess the situation and how we may be able to assist”.
Following Haiti’s request for US troops, a senior administration official said there were no plans to provide military assistance at this time.
In Haiti, National Police Chief Leon Charles said another eight suspects were still at large and being sought for
Investigative Judge Clement Noel told the French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste that the Haitian Americans arrested, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, said the attackers originally planned only to arrest Moise, not kill him. Noel said Solages and Vincent were acting as translators for the attackers.
The attack, which took place at Moise’s home before dawn Wednesday, also seriously wounded his wife Martine, who was flown to Miami for treatment.
Joseph assumed leadership with the backing of police and the military and declared a two-week “state of siege”. Port-au-Prince already has been on edge amid the growing power of gangs that displaced more than 14,700 people last month alone as they torched and ransacked homes in a fight over territory.
The killing brought the usually bustling capital to a standstill, but Joseph urged the public to return to work.
Vargas has pledged Colombia’s full cooperation, and authorities there identified 13 of the 15 Colombians implicated in the attack as retired members of the military, 11 captured and two killed.