Shocking photos show Haitian migrants swimming across the Rio Grand into Mexico and being confronted by Border Patrol agents on horses

CIUDAD ACUNA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 20: Haitian immigrants cross the Rio Grande back into Mexico from Del Rio, Texas on September 20, 2021 to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. As U.S. immigration authorities began deporting immigrants back to Haiti from Del Rio, thousands more waited in a camp under an international bridge in Del Rio while others crossed the river back into Mexico to avoid deportation.
CIUDAD ACUNA, MEXICO – SEPTEMBER 20: Haitian immigrants cross the Rio Grande back into Mexico from Del Rio, Texas on September 20, 2021 to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. As U.S. immigration authorities began deporting immigrants back to Haiti from Del Rio, thousands more waited in a camp under an international bridge in Del Rio while others crossed the river back into Mexico to avoid deportation.

  • Some 14,000 mostly-Haitian migrants settled under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on Friday.
  • The Biden administration is using Title 42 to deport the migrants and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Photos show the migrants’ journey as they seek asylum.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Photos captured between Friday, September 17, and Monday, September 20 show Haitian migrants trying to navigate the humanitarian crisis at the US and Mexico border.

Some of the estimated 14,000 mainly Haitian migrants that ended up in Del Rio, Texas, seeking asylum following a massive earthquake and the assassination of the Haitian president, began heading back to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, on Monday, to avoid being deported by the US.

Thousands of migrants had settled underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, in the heat where essentials such as food, water, and restrooms were scarce.

President Joe Biden, who had discontinued some of Trump’s immigration policies, leading migrants to believe the US was more open to migrants, has begun deporting migrants back to Haiti, The New York Times reported.

The mayor of Del Rio, Texas declared a state of emergency on September 17 following the settlement of thousands of mostly Haitian migrants underneath a bridge in Del Rio.

Haitian migrants use a dam to cross to and from the United States from Mexico, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas.
Haitian migrants use a dam to cross to and from the United States from Mexico, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas.

Del Rio Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano is working alongside Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Chief of the US Border Patrol Raul Ortiz to find a solution at the border and to deport migrants, the mayor said in a tweet on Sunday.

Some Haitian migrants were spotted moving back towards Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, on September 20, to prevent being deported back to Haiti.

Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande river from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, to avoid deportation from the U.S. The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico.
Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande river from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. The US is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico.

Desperate to not return back to Haiti, some migrants have begun moving from Texas back into Mexico. CNBC reported that at least 100 migrants were heading back to Mexico.

As of Sunday, September 19, the US had flown 3,300 Haitians back to Haiti. 

Haitian migrants were captured on photo wading through the Rio Grande.

CIUDAD ACUNA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 20: Haitian immigrants cross the Rio Grande back into Mexico from Del Rio, Texas on September 20, 2021 to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. As U.S. immigration authorities began deporting immigrants back to Haiti from Del Rio, thousands more waited in a camp under an international bridge in Del Rio while others crossed the river back into Mexico to avoid deportation.
Haitian immigrants cross the Rio Grande back into Mexico from Del Rio, Texas on September 20, 2021 to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. As US immigration authorities began deporting immigrants back to Haiti from Del Rio, thousands more waited in a camp under an international bridge in Del Rio while others crossed the river back into Mexico to avoid deportation.

Some migrants also crossed the Rio Grande in search of food and other resources.

Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande to get food and supplies near the Del Rio-Acun?a Port of Entry in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila state, Mexico on September 18, 2021. - The mayor of Del Rio, Texas declared a state of emergency on September 17, 2021 after more than 10,000 undocumented migrants, many of them Haitians, poured into the border city in a fresh test of President Joe Biden's immigration policy. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said that the migrants were crowded in an area controlled by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) beneath the Del Rio International Bridge, which carries traffic across the Rio Grande river into Mexico.
Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande to get food and supplies near the Del Rio-Acuna Port of Entry in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila state, Mexico on September 18, 2021.

US Customs and Border Patrol agents were photographed using whips to prevent Haitian migrants from joining the other Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.

United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - US law enforcement are attempting to close off crossing points along the Rio Grande river where migrants cross to get food and water, which is scarce in the encampment. The United States said Saturday it would ramp up deportation flights for thousands of migrants who flooded into the Texas border city of Del Rio, as authorities scramble to alleviate a burgeoning crisis for President Joe Biden's administration.
United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.

Those who tried to return with resources on Sunday were met by US Customs and Border Patrol agents on horseback who were armed with whips.

“I have seen some of the footage,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said to reporters during a news briefing on Monday, referring to video of the CBP agents scattering migrants. “I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don’t have additional details. … I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”

According to The Washington Post, the Border Patrol agents eventually let the migrants in through the border. 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet on Monday that the current “immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants.” 

“This is a stain on our country,” she continued.

“Video and photos coming out of Del Rio showing US Border Patrol’s mistreatment of Haitian migrants along the border are horrific and disturbing,” Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, told The Post.

“This mistreatment runs counter to our American values and cannot be tolerated,” he added.

The Department of Homeland Security responded to the footage on Monday.

United States Border Patrol agents on horseback tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - The United States said Saturday it would ramp up deportation flights for thousands of migrants who flooded into the Texas border city of Del Rio, as authorities scramble to alleviate a burgeoning crisis for President Joe Biden's administration.
United States Border Patrol agents on horseback tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.

The Department of Homeland Security said that CBP is currently investigating the crisis, according to PBS anchor Yamiche Alcindor.

“Secretary Mayorkas visited Del Rio today and witnessed the extraordinary work of DHS personnel,” DHS spokesperson said in the statement. “The footage is extremely troubling and the facts learned from the full investigation, which will be conducted swiftly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken.”

“We are committed to processing migrants in a safe, orderly, and humane way. We can and must do this in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of migrants,” the statement concluded.

DHS and CBP did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

The Biden-Harris Administration will continue invoking Title 42 – an order issued by Trump.

Migrants, many from Haiti, board a bus after they were processed and released after spending time at a makeshift camp near the International Bridge, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. The U.S. is flying Haitians camped at Texas border town back to their homeland and trying to block others from crossing the border from Mexico.
Migrants, many from Haiti, board a bus after they were processed and released after spending time at a makeshift camp near the International Bridge, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. The US is flying Haitians camped at Texas border town back to their homeland and trying to block others from crossing the border from Mexico.

The Biden-Harris administration has challenged courts for the ability to invoke Title 42 and despite activists’ cries to end it.

“If you come to the US illegally, you will be returned,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at a Monday news conference. “Your journey will not succeed.”

Title 42 is an immigration policy issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention during Trump’s presidency that allows the swift deportation of migrants as a measure to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

Steven Forester, an immigration policy coordinator at the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, told Al Jazeera that the order is entirely “unconscionable.”

“There’s no way Haiti can handle the people that are in Haiti now given the conditions there. It can’t provide for these people,” he added.

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Gunfire prompts Biden’s UN ambassador to abruptly leave Haitian president’s funeral

Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti guard carry the casket of slain President Jovenel Moïse before his funeral on July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti guard carry the casket of slain President Jovenel Moïse before his funeral on July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

  • Biden’s UN ambassador abruptly left the funeral for Haiti’s president amid unrest surrounding the ceremony.
  • There was reportedly gunfire heard, prompting the US delegation to leave within 30 minutes.
  • The assassination of Jovenel Moïse has pushed Haiti into a deeper crisis after years of struggles.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, abruptly departed a funeral for Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on Friday after gunfire was reportedly heard.

Thomas-Greenfield and the rest of the US delegation left the funeral after less than 30 minutes, per the New York Times.

“The presidential delegation is safe and accounted for in light of the reported shootings outside of the funeral,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday.

“We are deeply concerned about unrest in Haiti,” Psaki said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Protestors clashed with police outside of the ceremony on Friday, per Reuters, prompting riot gas to be deployed.

Moïse was assassinated by a hit squad of foreign mercenaries in early July, pushing an already embattled, struggling nation into an even deeper crisis. There are still many open questions surrounding his shocking killing, though Haitian authorities have arrested over two dozen people in connection to the assassination – including two US citizens.

The situation in Haiti has presented a new foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration, which has so far rebuffed a request from the Haitian government for US troops to be sent in to help quell the unrest. The administration did, however, bolster security at the US embassy after Moïse’s killing.

“We’re only sending American Marines to our embassy,” President Joe Biden said earlier this month. “The idea of sending American forces to Haiti is not on the agenda.”

A new prime minister, Ariel Henry, was sworn-in on Tuesday. Henry had been tapped to be the new prime minister only days before Moïse was killed. In the initial aftermath of the killing, Henry and then-Prime Minister Claude Joseph both claimed to be the legitimate prime minister. Joseph ultimately agreed to step down, and the US has applauded Haiti over the transition.

“Our delegation is here to bring a message to the Haitian people: You deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity, and we stand with you in this time of crisis,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement on Friday. “The formation of a new government is a positive step, and it is a necessary first step as part of a broad and inclusive dialogue that responds to the needs of the Haitian people and begins the work of restoring Haiti’s democratic institutions.”

Thomas-Greenfield went on to emphasize that one key task before the new government “will be to create the conditions for free and fair legislative and presidential elections as soon as feasible.”

National security advisor Jake Sullivan in a statement on Friday urged Haiti’s leaders to “be clear that their supporters must refrain from violence.”

“The United States will continue to provide requested assistance, including equipment and training, to the Haitian National Police and the Government of Haiti amid ongoing security challenges,” Sullivan added, going on to say that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are assisting Haitian authorities in the investigation into Moïse’s killing and that the US will continue to collaborate with international partners to bring those responsible to justice.

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An assassination in Haiti shows how Colombia’s war machine has gone global

Palmira, Colombia
A Colombian soldier guards explosives confiscated by during a raid in Palmira, Colombia.

  • Haiti says 21 Colombian military veterans were involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise earlier this month.
  • The former troops were working as private contractors, and their involvement reflects Colombia’s prominence in the mercenary industry.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

BOGOTA, Colombia – Carlos Martinez joined the Colombian military at the age of 17, a minor who had to obtain his parents’ written permission to enlist.

“I didn’t have many options. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in this country for someone like me who grew up poor,” he said, “but war will always be profitable.”

Martinez spent almost 10 years on active duty in the army, eventually joining an elite special forces unit that fought armed groups and drug traffickers in the Andean countryside.

Colombia, which currently boasts some 250,000 active-duty armed forces personnel, produced millions of soldiers like Martínez during its five-decade conflict with guerilla groups, as well as its ongoing campaign on the front lines of the so-called War on Drugs – both efforts heavily subsidized by the United States.

“We are trained to kill,” Martinez told WPR. “There is no other way to describe it.”

The problem for Colombia, though, is where do these trained killers go when they leave the military? Lacking the skills necessary to readapt to civilian life, many become private security contractors, a euphemism for mercenaries that became widely used during the US war in Iraq.

And now, the government of Haiti says 21 Colombian military veterans working as private contractors were involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in a nighttime assault earlier this month that also left his wife seriously wounded.

17 arrested in haiti assassination sitting in a line
Suspects in the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Price, July 8, 2021.

Colombian mercenaries have been spotted in nearly every conflict-stricken corner of the world, working legally as contractors in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, or training cartels in Mexico. They are in high demand because of their reputation as well-trained and battle-tested fighters, with considerable combat experience in guerrilla warfare and other complex security environments.

In addition to its large and capable military, Colombia has a long history with more informal paramilitary groups from across the political spectrum. Rebel groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – better known as the FARC – and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, battled not only against the Colombian armed forces, but against private militia groups organized by government supporters as well.

All of these entities have been guilty of grave human rights violations, but that has not stopped some of them from marketing their battlefield experience. Some paramilitary veterans drawn from groups that supported the Colombian government during the civil war were even hired to help defend Honduran landowners in the aftermath of the country’s 2009 coup.

US military involvement in Colombia has only enabled the growth of its private security contractors. Under a joint operation known as Plan Colombia, which began in 2000, the American and Colombian governments funded and trained both the Colombian military and paramilitary groups to fight drug traffickers and rebel groups like the FARC.

From 2000 until 2017, the US provided more than $10 billion in aid to Colombia, more than 70% of which went directly to the military and police. To avoid getting its own troops directly involved in the fighting, the US hired private contractors such as DynCorp, which earned hundreds of millions of dollars from Colombian contracts under Plan Colombia, to bridge the gap.

“The US military pioneered this trend [of using private contractors] in Colombia even before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars made the issue well-known globally,” said Adam Isacson, director of the Defense Oversight Program at the Washington Office on Latin America, an NGO that specializes in human rights issues in the region. “As part of the drug wars in Colombia, they began hiring outsiders and private companies to fulfill military roles.”

US troops Colombia explosive ordnance disposal
US Navy explosive-ordnance-disposal technicians and Colombian troops discuss EOD disposal techniques in Coveñas Colombia, August 21, 2018.

The private security industry took a big reputational hit in 2007, when armed guards working for Blackwater, founded by Erik Prince, massacred 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in Baghdad. But Prince continued to expand his empire, reaching an agreement to build a private standing army in partnership with Saudi Arabia in 2011.

The corporate mercenary industry had gone global, and some of its most attractive recruits were Colombian veterans and ex-paramilitary members.

“The selling point was not only that Colombian soldiers were ‘battle tested,'” said Sergio Guzman, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a research and consultancy firm in Bogota. “They had worked with US special forces. They had been trained by US advisers.”

As if to underscore his point, the Pentagon announced Thursday that at least some of the 21 former Colombian soldiers arrested in connection with Moise’s assassination in Haiti had been trained by US advisers during their time in the Colombian military.

Another factor adding to the appeal of Colombian veterans to the private security industry, Guzman added, was that “they were cheaper than their North American counterparts.”

And that attraction was mutual. Colombians with battlefield experience found that as foreign security contractors, they were able to earn 10 times what they could at home, and former fighters flocked to the industry.

The economic draw of private contractors created a “brain drain” for the Colombian military, with Washington footing the sizeable bill.

“The US was effectively paying three times to train these contractors,” said Guzman. “They paid to train someone, who would then leave to work for a US company in the private sector, also paid for by the US, and the absence of the soldier meant [the Colombian military] had to immediately train someone else.”

Armed police officers stand in front of a mural of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse
Armed police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The turnover became so bad that the US insisted the Colombian military modify its contract, so that soldiers had to fulfill a minimum period of service before leaving for the private sector.

Not all soldiers dream of becoming mercenaries, however. “I would never work as a contractor,” said Martinez. “To me that’s just more paramilitarism, which is something that has torn my country apart. But many of my colleagues couldn’t retire fast enough to take military jobs abroad in the private sector.”

According to one Colombian veteran, who worked for years as a security contractor in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, there is a culture surrounding paramilitary fighters in Colombia – known locally as paracos – that enables the growth of the private security industry.

Paraco culture, sadly, has become a national culture,” he told WPR. The veteran asked that his name be withheld to avoid potential issues with his current employer.

“We all grew up in it. After more than half a century of conflict, it has become normalized,” he continued. “And unfortunately, some of those who are part of that culture have less scruples than others when it comes to deciding which jobs to take.”

The phenomenon is likely to continue. With Washington’s backing, the current Colombian government led by President Ivan Duque has ramped up the military’s anti-drug trafficking efforts.

Duque has also slow-rolled the implementation of the government’s landmark 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, which was signed by his predecessor, and the promise of peace remains a mirage for large parts of the country.

Colombia soldier border Venezuela
A Colombian soldier guards the border with Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia, February 9, 2018.

In the FARC’s absence, other armed factions, including offshoots of some of the same paramilitary groups that received US funding in the past, simply moved into the vacuum.

“There will always be an economic impetus for more Colombian fighters,” said the Colombian veteran who currently works as a contractor. “We have become very good at what we do.”

And due to an extreme lack of transparency in the industry, as well as varying legal frameworks in the countries in which they operate, there will always be a gray area where unethical private entities hire these soldiers of fortune.

They include the shadowy firm that calls itself the Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy. Run by a Venezuelan exile from a small warehouse in Miami, it hired the Colombians awaiting trial in Haiti for allegedly killing the president.

“The armed forces in Colombia are made up of people who didn’t start with advantages,” said Martinez, who is now a reservist. He said his current salary from the government is about twice the minimum wage, which is roughly $264 a month.

“Some of us feel we have no choice [but to work as mercenaries], but we do,” he added. “There are other options.”

However, the continued expansion of the private sector seems to confirm Martinez’s sentiment. War is profitable.

Joshua Collins is a freelance journalist based in Bogota, focused on migration and violence. Follow him on Twitter @InvisiblesMuros.

Parker Asmann is a journalist who writes about human rights, security policy and organized crime across Latin America and the Caribbean. Follow him on Twitter @PJAsmann.

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Haiti’s interim prime minister is stepping down and the man the assassinated president named as his successor is taking over

nterim Prime Minister Claude Joseph gives a press conference almost a week after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2021.
interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph gives a press conference almost a week after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2021.

Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is stepping down from his role so his successor, who President Jovenel Moïse named one day before his assassination earlier this month, can take over, the nation’s minister for elections told The New York Times.

Minister of Elections Mathias Pierre told The Times that Joseph is stepping down “in favor of Ariel Henry.”

Henry was scheduled to replace Joseph, but was not sworn in before Moïse was killed.

Following Moïse’s death, however, both Joseph and Henry claimed the official title of Prime Minister and gave disputing interviews to the press.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Colombians accused in Haiti assassination were once trained by the US military, Pentagon says

Armed police officers stand in front of a mural of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse
Armed police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

  • A “small number” of Colombians detained in the assassination of Haiti’s president received US military training, the Pentagon told The Washington Post.
  • They received the training while they were active members of the Colombian Military Forces, the Pentagon said.
  • It’s unclear when the training took place or how many of the suspects took part in it.
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A “small number” of Colombians detained in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse had previously received US military training, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

“A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past U.S. military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian Military Forces,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman told The Washington Post.

It’s unclear how many Colombians had the training as well as when the training to place, though Colombia is a US military partner and its military members have received training and education for decades, The Post reported.

Hoffman told The Post that the Pentagon is reviewing its training databases.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Haitian police have said that 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans are among the suspects in Moïse’s assassination.

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Judges’ clerks assisting in the Haiti assassination investigation have reportedly received ‘serious death threats’

President of the Republic of Haiti H.E. Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 25, 2018 in New York City.
President of the Republic of Haiti H.E. Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit – Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 25, 2018 in New York City.

  • Judge’s clerks assisting in the investigation into the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse have gotten death threats.
  • The National Association of Haitian Clerks said Monday that two of its members received the threats, Le Nouvelliste reported.
  • Moïse was assassinated by a group of armed assailants who stormed into his home at around 1 a.m. on July 7.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Judge’s clerks who have been assisting in the investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse have recieved “serious death threats,” a local report said.

The National Association of Haitian Clerks said Monday that two of its members, Marcelin Valentin and Waky Philostène, clerks of the Pétion-Ville peace court, have gotten the threats, according to French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

In a note Monday, the president of the association called on Haiti’s Justice and Public Security Minister Rockefeller Vincent to “pass the necessary instructions in order to guarantee the security of these aforementioned clerks, so that they can carry out their task in peace,” the news outlet reported.

Moïse was assassinated by a group of armed assailants who stormed into his home at around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Haitian first lady Martine Moïse was also critically injured in the attack.

Authorities in Haiti have said 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans have been linked to the president’s killing.

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Ex-solider colleague of accused Haiti assassins: ‘There has to have been a conspiracy’

Haiti Jovenel Moise and wife Martine Moise
Jovenel Moïse and his wife Martine Moïse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on November 28, 2016, after he won the country’s 2016 presidential election.

  • A former solider who was a colleague of the Colombian mercenaries suspected of assassinating the Haitian President says he doesn’t believe the men he knew were the killers.
  • He told Reuters that he and the other Colombian men were hired as bodyguards.
  • He said there “has to have been a conspiracy.”
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A former solider who was a colleague of the Colombian mercenaries suspected of assassinating Haitian President Jovenel Moise says he doesn’t believe that the men he knows were the killers.

Haitian authorities have said 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans were behind Moise’s killing, but Matias Gutierrez, a retired special forces sniper who now works in security, told Reuters that he and the other Colombian men were hired as bodyguards.

“It wasn’t our commandos. There has to have been a conspiracy,” Gutierrez told Reuters. “Their extraction was total chaos. Why? Because they weren’t going on an assault, they went in support of a request by the security forces of the president.”

Gutierrez said he was not with the group last week because he tested positive for COVID-19.

Moise was killed in his home in the early morning of July 7. A motive for the president’s killing remains unclear.

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3 men suspected of assassinating Haiti’s president were killed in a bloody shootout, holed up in a concrete building, report says

A Haitian policeman in mask and helmet holding a firearm as he searches for suspects in the killing of Jovenel Moïse.
Police search for suspects who remain at large in the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, July 9, 2021.

  • Suspects in the killing of Haiti’s president were pinned down in a shootout, CNN reported.
  • The network retraced the aftermath, where 25 men were pinned down in a concrete building.
  • Some died, while some escaped to hide in the conveniently empty Taiwanese embassy, CNN said.
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The suspects in the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse got into an protracted and bloody siege in the aftermath of the assassination, according to a CNN report.

Much is still unclear about the July 7 attack, which left the president dead, riddled with bullets, and Haitian security forces scrambling to catch the perpetrators.

Citing a source with knowledge of the operation, CNN reported on the multi-day chase between security forces and at least 25 suspects.

Among them were two Haitian-American suspects, taken alive, and two hostages who were members of the presidential guard, CNN reported.

In the early hours, after Moïse had been shot in his home outside Port-au-Prince, police set up a blockade on a narrow route and intercepted a convoy of five cars, the source said.

Trapped, the suspected assailants fled, abandoning guns and water supplies in their vehicles, per CNN.

The group headed up a steep hill, some scattering but most taking shelter along with the hostages in a two-story concrete building, which CNN visited.

“We could hear them talking and shouting in Spanish,” the source told the network. “They were talking, and they knew exactly what they were facing.” Fifteen of the suspects eventually captured were Colombian.

In the afternoon heat, the standoff lasted until 4 p.m. local time, when Haitian forces threw tear gas into the building, prompting a negotiation, CNN reported.

A close-up of a uniformed Haitian police officer holding a firearm, prior to planned protests at the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Haitian police stand guard as protests were planned five days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, July 12 2021.

Two Haitian-Americans were the first to surrender, saying they were interpreters, CNN reported.

The network did not name James Solages and Joseph Vincent, two Haitian-American suspects who have made this claim. The hostages also left the building, CNN reported.

A shootout began, with Haitian security forces advancing and the heavily-armed suspects throwing a grenade out towards them – which didn’t explode, per CNN.

Three suspects were killed in the exchange of fire, which went on for two hours, CNN’s source said. But when the security forces reached the building, most of their assailants had fled, having quietly escaped uphill during the shooting, CNN reported.

Two bodies, one shrouded and the other just out of view, in the back of a van. Haitian police say they are suspects in the killing of Jovenel Moïse.
A police vehicle carrying the bodies of two people killed in a shootout with police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. According to Police Chief Leon Charles, the two dead are suspects in Moïse’s killing.

The group ended up at the Taiwanese embassy, which was left empty. CNN noted that Haitian forces were suspicious that the men knew how to reach such a perfect hideaway nearby,

Diplomatic properties have special rules and are not easily accessible by the police, buying the men some time.

A spokeswoman for the embassy said staff were kept home after hearing of the previous day’s assassination. She confirmed that the grounds were breached by armed men, and said that Taiwan gave Haitian security forces permission to enter as soon as they were asked.

Eleven suspects were eventually captured there, according to CNN’s source, with others swept up from the surrounding area.

Exactly what the assailants hoped to do is still unclear. A Haitian-American, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, is suspected of masterminding the attack, which he didn’t join in person.

Solages and Vincent, the other two Haitian-Americans under suspicion who claim to be translators, believed that the plan was to arrest, not kill Moïse, a judge said.

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Several of the men arrested in Haitian president’s assassination had ties to US law enforcement: reports

17 arrested in haiti assassination sitting in a line
Suspects in the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise seen s in Port-au-Price on July 8, 2021.

  • Several of the men arrested in connection to the president’s assassination, had ties to US law enforcement, according to CNN.
  • Haitian authorities arrested two Haitian American men and 26 Colombian men last week.
  • On Sunday, police arrested another Florida-based Haitian American who is accused of being the mastermind behind the attack.
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Several of the men arrested in connection to last week’s assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, had ties to US law enforcement, according to Reuters and CNN.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed to Insider that at least one of the men arrested by Haitian authorities previously worked as an informant for the DEA.

“At times, one of the suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was a confidential source to the DEA,” the DEA said in a statement to Insider. “Following the assassination of President Moïse, the suspect reached out to his contacts at the DEA. A DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities and, along with a US State Department official, provided information to the Haitian government that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual.”

Video footage of the moments leading up to the assassination show someone saying “this is a DEA operation” multiple times through a megaphone. The agency told Insider that none of the attackers were working on behalf of the DEA.

People familiar with the matter told CNN that others involved in the assassination also had US ties, including working as informants for the FBI.

The FBI did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Reuters reported that one of the two Haitian-American men arrested last week had ties to US law enforcement.

Haitian authorities arrested Joseph Vincent and James Solages last Thursday in connection to the shocking murder of Moïse early Wednesday morning. The two American men were described as being of Haitian descent.

Vincent and Solages, both from Florida, were charged, along with 26 Colombians in the attack that left Moïse dead and his wife, Martine Moïse, in critical condition.

A Haitian judge said on Friday that Vincent and Solages claimed they were only serving as translators for the hit squad and were not in the room when the shooting took place.

Solages said he found a job listing online to translate for the commandos.

According to Reuters, Solages described himself in past online statements as a “certified diplomatic agent” and the former “chief commander of bodyguards” for Haiti’s Canadian embassy.

The US government source that told Reuters about the law enforcement connection did not specify which of the two men had ties to an American agency and did not provide any details about the nature of the relationship, the outlet reported.

The news comes one day after a third Haitian-American, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, was arrested on Sunday and accused of being the mastermind behind the attack. Sanon, 63, is a Florida-based doctor, who Haitian officials say recruited assailants to aid his “political motives.”

The attack has led to a power vacuum in the already struggling country, where at least four men have since claimed to be the leader of Haiti.

On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents would be sent to Haiti as soon as possible to help provide security and investigative assistance.

The motive for the brazen assassination remains unclear.

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