Florida resident detained as part of Haiti investigation: What we know


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  • US law enforcement officials traveled to Haiti Sunday to assess how they could help in the investigation.
  • Haitian police said a Haitian man who has lived in Florida played a key role in the assassination plot.
  • The White House says Haiti’s request for US troops to help with security is still under review.

A team of U.S. law enforcement officials traveled to Haiti on Sunday to assess what help is needed in the sweeping investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, as police in the Caribbean country identified a new suspect: a 63-year-old Haitian man who lived in Florida.

Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who has lived in Broward County and in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast of Florida, was detained by police on Sunday evening.  

Officials said Moïse’s alleged killers were protecting Sanon and that he wanted to be president of Haiti. Sanon identifies himself as a doctor and has accused Haitian leaders of corruption.

“We continue to make strides,” Léon Charles, the head of Haiti’s police, said of the efforts to solve the brazen attack early Wednesday at Moïse’s private home, which left the president dead and his wife, Martine Moïse, critically wounded. She remains hospitalized in Miami.

Even as Haitian authorities arrested Sanon and other suspects, key questions about the killing remain unresolved, including who bankrolled the operation and why the president’s security guards did not stop the assailants.

And the political turmoil in Haiti spiraled amid multiple claims to the presidency and a plea from Haitian authorities for the Biden administration to send U.S. troops to help maintain security. The acting prime minister, Claude Joseph, faces sharp questions about his legitimacy, and Haiti’s Senate and Supreme Court both lack a majority of seated members. 

Here is what we know: 

Police identify possible motive in killing

Charles, the police chief, said Sanon was a key player in the plot to kill Moïse. Sanon arrived in Haiti in June with political designs on the presidency, he said..

Among the items found by Haitian officials at Sanon’s house in Haiti were a hat emblazoned with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people, Charles said.

He said Sanon was in contact with a firm that provides security for politicians and recruited the suspects in the killing. He said Sanon flew into Haiti on a private jet accompanied by several of the alleged gunmen. 

The gunmen’s initial mission was to protect Sanon, but they later received a new order: arrest the president, Charles said.

“The operation started from there,” he said, adding that an additional 22 suspects joined the group and that contact was made with Haitian citizens.

A total of 26 Colombians are suspected in the killing of the president. Eighteen of them have been arrested, along with three Haitians. Charles said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.

“They are dangerous individuals,” Charles said. “I’m talking commando, specialized commando.”

Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one of the suspects phoned Sanon, who then got in touch with two people believed to be the masterminds of the plot. He did not identify them or say if police know who they are.

He added that police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets.

Who is Christian Emmanuel Sanon?

Sanon has lived in Florida as well as Kansas City, Missouri. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013, and identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled “Leadership for Haiti.”

In the video, he denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt, accusing them of stripping the country of its resources, saying that “they don’t care about the country, they don’t care about the people.”

He claims Haiti has uranium, oil and other resources that have been taken by government officials.

“This is a country with resources,” he said. “Nine million people can’t be in poverty when we have so much resources in the country. It’s impossible. … The world has to stop doing what they are doing right now. We can’t take it anymore. We need new leadership that will change the way of life.”

U.S. law enforcement delegation traveled to Haiti

On Monday, President Joe Biden said he’s watching the situation in Haiti closely, and the U.S. continues to evaluate how it can help.

“The people of Haiti deserve peace and security, and Haiti’s political leaders need to come together for the good of their country,” the president said.

The Biden administration sent a team of law enforcement and national security officials to Haiti to help with the investigation. Officials from the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State, as well as the White House National Security Council, arrived in the country on Sunday and returned the same day. 

“The delegation reviewed the security of critical infrastructure with Haitian government officials and met with the Haitian National Police, who are leading the investigation into the assassination,” said NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the team briefed President Joe Biden Monday on their trip. 

“This is just the beginning of our conversations,” Psaki said. “We will remain in close touch about how we can assist.”

Haitian officials asked for U.S. help with the investigation in the hours after Moïse’s killing. They have also asked for U.S. troops to help maintain security and guard Haiti’s key infrastructure sites, including its port, a controversial request given Haiti’s troubled history of foreign intervention.

Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s elections minister, told the Associated Press the request was necessary because the country’s police force and other institutions are too weak to handle the current upheaval. Haiti is plagued by criminal gangs who have threatened to step into the power vacuum. 

“What do we do? Do we let the country fall into chaos? Private properties destroyed? People killed after the assassination of the president? Or, as a government, do we prevent?” Pierre said to the AP. ”We’re not asking for the occupation of the country. We’re asking for small troops to assist and help us. … As long as we are weak, I think we will need our neighbors.”

Joseph has assumed leadership of Haiti in the aftermath of last week’s assassination. But Moïse had named a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, just one day before his murder. Henry has said he is the legitimate prime minister.

Horne said the U.S. delegation met with both Joseph and Henry, who she referred to respectively as the “acting prime minister” and the “prime minister-designate.” They met jointly, she said, in a session that also included the Senate President Joseph Lambert, “to encourage open and constructive dialogue.”

The White House has signaled a deep reluctance to send military personnel to the country. 

“We are aware of the request by the Haitian government,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Fox News Sunday. “We’re analyzing it, just like we would any other request for assistance.” 

But he said the U.S. was more focused on helping with the investigation. “I think that’s really where our energies are best applied right now, in helping them get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who’s culpable.”  

In a statement on Monday, Department of Justice spokesman Anthony Coley said: “The department will also investigate whether there were any violations of U.S. criminal law in connection with this matter.”

On Monday, Psaki said the request for troops was still under review and had not been ruled out. But she expressed concern about the competing claims to power by various Haitian officials.

“There is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,” Psaki said. She said Haiti’s leaders need to “work together to determine a united path forward.” 

Contributing: The Associated Press



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