Haitian officials arrest doctor as doubts grow over murder story
Haitian police have arrested a Florida-based doctor in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who they say was now part of a plot to install the doctor as the country’s head of state.
Authorities have also summoned several of Haiti’s top business tycoons and opposition politicians for questioning as they search for the masterminds and financiers of last week’s attack.
Doubts are mounting in the country over the official account of events, which maintains that 28 mercenaries invaded Mr. Moïse’s home without any apparent resistance from his bodyguards.
Léon Charles, head of the Haitian National Police, announced the arrest of Christian Emmanuel Sanon during a press conference on Sunday evening. He said Mr. Sanon, a 63-year-old Haitian who has lived in Florida for the past two decades, is a doctor.
“He arrived by private plane in June with political objectives,” said Charles, standing outside the residence of Prime Minister Claude Joseph in Port-au-Prince.
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Mr. Sanon hired the mercenaries – 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans – through a security company called CTU, Mr. Charles said. At first, he told them that they had to provide him with protection. Then he instructed them to remove Mr. Moïse so that Mr. Sanon could seize the presidency.
Business records in Florida show that Mr. Sanon had registered more than 20 companies, dealing with everything from medicine to real estate to natural gas.
Police said Mr Moïse was shot 12 times in his bedroom by the hitmen at 1 a.m. last Wednesday. His wife, Martine, was injured but survived. Officers arrested at least 20 of the accused gunmen and killed several more.
Mr. Charles said on Sunday that Mr. Sanon would not be the sole leader of the conspiracy.
Court documents, obtained by The Globe and Mail, summon businessmen Jean Marie Vorbe, Dimitri Vorbe and Réginald Boulos, and former Senators Steven Benoît and Youri Latortue to provide evidence as part of the investigation. The summons, signed by prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude, ask the men to appear before a court in Port-au-Prince on Monday.
The Vorbes own an electricity company called Sogener, whose contracts were canceled and the power stations nationalized by the administration of Mr. Moïse. Mr. Latortue is a former head of the Haitian Senate and political opponent of the late president.
Mr. Boulos’ business interests include grocery stores and car dealerships. He has hired three US lobbyists over the past two years to rally US opposition to Mr. Moïse. The hires were disclosed in documents that U.S. citizens who represent foreign interests must file with the U.S. federal government. A letter sent on behalf of Mr. Boulos to members of Congress in January 2020 accused Mr. Moïse of ushering in “a new era of dictatorship.”
His last hire, Washington lobbyist Art Estopinan, was made last week. In his documents, Mr. Estopinan said Mr. Boulos was considering running for President of Haiti.
Mr. Benoît openly accused Mr. Moïse’s security guard of having killed him. “The president was assassinated by his own guards, not by the Colombians,” he told Magik9 radio last week.
A number of Haitian political, economic and academic figures who spoke to The Globe over the weekend said that Mr. Moïse had made many enemies during his tenure.
These people, most of whom wished to remain anonymous, said the late president had quarreled with business conglomerates whose government contracts he threatened and rivals in his own political party over elections scheduled for later this year. . Some have indicated that drug traffickers were potentially involved in the murder. The Globe and Mail does not reveal the identity of these sources because they say they fear reprisals.
Mr. Moïse also faced repeated accusations of autocracy. After canceling legislative elections in 2019, he ruled by decree, created an intelligence agency reporting directly to him, and proposed constitutional amendments to increase the power of the presidency.
People The Globe spoke to raised questions about the story of the attack that has emerged so far. They were particularly in disbelief that the gunmen were skillful enough to enter the president’s house without shooting his bodyguards, but apparently had no plans to escape. Mercenaries tried to hide in the Taiwanese embassy and behind bushes near the house, where they were surrounded and arrested by police.
“No one knows exactly what happened, but it looks like an inside job. How did they get to the former president’s room so easily? He was Haiti’s best-kept human being, ”said Chantal Merzier Elie, a women’s rights activist who served as a foreign policy advisor to several former Haitian leaders. “It does not mean anything.”
Mr. Claude, the prosecutor of Port-au-Prince, told Le Nouvelliste newspaper that he was considering questioning Dimitri Hérard and Jean Laguel Civil, two police commanders in charge of Mr. Moïse’s security arrangements.
Colombian newspapers reported that the men arrested in Haiti were in fact in the country legally, working for Mr. Moïse. They said security footage showed them arriving at Mr. Moïse’s home at around 2:30 a.m., after the time of the murder. Reports like this have fueled a series of theories among Haitians who view Colombians as downfall guys for whoever actually killed the president.
Adding to the confusion, a voicemail message allegedly from Martine Moïse, recovering in a Miami hospital, was posted on her Twitter account over the weekend. The recording cryptically accuses anonymous people of ordering the murder “because of the roads, the water, the electricity” and refers to the scheduled elections. It is not clear if the message is genuine. A source who knew Ms Moïse told The Globe it was unlike her.
Despite the uproar of Mr. Moïse’s regime, which included street clashes between protesters, police and military, everyone who spoke to the Globe expressed shock at the escalation of political violence his assassination represented.
“Haitians say ‘we look bad in the eyes of the world – what kind of country is this where the president can be killed in his own room with his wife?’ Said Ms. Elie, who expressed the hope that all political parties can unite to find a way forward. “We have to pull ourselves together and put our differences aside. “
Many have also painted a more nuanced picture of the late president than that of the universal unpopularity often projected internationally.
Georges Michel, a Haitian historian who knew Mr. Moïse, credited him with building roads, bridges and dams across the countryside. And he gave him high marks for trying, before politics, to develop the country’s economy by resuming his long-lost role as a banana exporter.
But Dr. Michel denounced the authoritarian inclinations of Mr. Moïse. And he said the late president harmed his own cause by refusing to back down on controversial measures such as amending the constitution.
“He was a hard worker, a businessman, a patriot, a man of progress with a vision for this country,” said Dr Michel. “But these qualities were rendered obsolete by two major flaws: his tendency to be a dictator and his stubbornness.”
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