Update (1427ET): Many unanswered questions are swirling around the two American assassins, part of a team of 26 heavily armed Colombians who stormed Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s private residence Wednesday and shot him dead, also critically injuring his wife.
Reuters says U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are investigating James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55. Both are from South Florida and were arrested by the Haitian National Police Thursday in connection with the president’s slaying.
Two law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters an “active investigation” is open on Solages and Vincent, and their roles in the killing. The sources said U.S. agencies have yet to assist Haitian police because officials have not requested help.
But in a new update via CNN, it appears the U.S. is sending officials to Haiti at that the request of the Caribbean government.
“The U.S. remains engaged,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials will be arriving shortly in the country’s capital of Port Au Prince. She said the agents would evaluate the situation and provide assistance.
One of the most critical questions investigators should be asking is what motivated the two Americans to commit such a heinous act on foreign soil.
Reuters points out Solages described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent” and the former “chief commander of bodyguards” for the Canadian embassy in Haiti.
Florida records show Solages has security officer and firearm licenses. He also runs a company called FWA SA A JACMEL AVAN INC, which defines itself as a charity supporting impoverished children in Haiti.
Out of the two dozen Colombians, 17 of them were ex-soldiers, police say.
So what motived the two Americans and more than two dozen Colombians to perform such a brazen assassination of the Haitian president? Was it money?
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Late Thursday evening, a news conference was held at Haitian National Police Headquarters in the capital of Port-au-Prince with the country’s interim prime minister Claude Joseph and Mathias Pierre, a minister in charge of Haitian elections. The officials announced that two South Florida men and 15 Colombian nationals had been detained in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, according to Miami Herald.
Two U.S. citizens of Haitian descent, James Solages, 35, of Fort Lauderdale and Joseph Vincent, 55, of Miami, were identified during the press conference.
Undated videos of Solages, whose primary residents is in Fort Lauderdale, described himself as a “philanthropist and child advocate who enjoyed helping schoolchildren from the area where he grew up,” according to Miami Herald.
Haitian officials identified four of the other suspects arrested so far, all from Colombia: Alejandro Girardo Zapata, 41; John Jairo Ramirez Gomez, 40; Victor Albeiro Pinera Cardona, 40; and Manuel Antonio Groso Guarin, 41. The remaining suspects have yet to be named.
In total, 17 have been arrested, including the two Americans and 15 Colombians. There seems to be a discrepancy of initial reports that police killed seven assailants but now the figure is three. The police didn’t explain the difference.
Some of the assailants were rounded up by residents in the capital and handed over to police. We shared a video of this on Thursday afternoon.
La población de Haití ayuda a la policía a la captura de otros dos sospechosos del asesinato del presidente Jovenel Moïse pic.twitter.com/LqTQVqvylC
— RT en Español (@ActualidadRT) July 8, 2021
Searches continue Friday for more suspects. Police said there could be eight more on the run.
“We are pursuing them. We are asking the public to help us,” said Haiti’s police chief, Leon Charles.
The country’s interim prime minister said a group of foreigners had entered the country to kill the president “in a cowardly fashion.”
“They forgot something,” Joseph said. “You may kill the president, but you cannot kill his dreams, you cannot kill his ideology, and you cannot kill what he was fighting for. That’s why I’m determined for President Jovenel Moïse’s family, friends and allies, and the Haitian population, to get justice.”
At Haiti’s National Police Headquarters, authorities showed images on national television of the assailants. They also displayed the weapons used in the assassination, including assault rifles, shotguns, sledgehammers, machetes, and bolt cutters.
Here’s the video of the assailants lined up at the police station.
🔻En el día que Ariel Henry tenía que jurar el cargo oficialmente como PM tras la destitución de Claude Joseph quien tras ASESINATO se “autoproclama presidente”pic.twitter.com/n34OTW2TSN
— ©halecos Amarillosᴳᴸᴼᴮᴬᴸ 🍀ʷAͤNͣOͬNͤYˡMͤOᵍUͥSͦⁿ (@ChalecosAmarill) July 9, 2021
The mysterious plot against Moise appears to reach well beyond Haiti’s borders and now involves two U.S. citizens and more than a dozen Colombian, some of which were ex-military.
The impoverished Caribbean nation’s future remains uncertain as the prime minister has taken leadership and declared a two-week state of siege in the country.
However, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has yet to announce the Biden administration supports the interim prime minister.
“It is our view, and we continue to call for elections to happen this year, and we believe they should proceed. We know that free and fair elections will facilitate a peaceful transition of power to a newly elected president and we certainly continue to support Haiti’s democratic institutions.
“We will call on all political parties, civil society and stakeholders to work together in the wake of the tragedy and echo the acting prime minister’s call for calm. We recognize the democratic institutions of Haiti, and we are going to continue to work with them directly, but we have been calling for elections this year, and we support those proceeding,” Psaki said.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council met about the country’s crisis.