2 Haitian Americans arrested in President Jovenel Moïse assassination, officials say

At least two Haitian Americans are among six men who have been arrested in the assassination of Haiti’s president early Wednesday, officials said. 

Haiti’s minister of elections Mathias Pierre identified James Solages, as one of the two Haitian Americans. He did not provide additional details about Solages’ background, nor provide the name of the second Haitian American.

James Solages

James Solages (Facebook)

Pierre told The Associated Press said that the four other men are from Colombia. The oldest suspect is 55 and the youngest, Solages, is 35, he said.

Seven other suspected assailants were killed in a gunfight with police, according to Haiti’s director of National Police Léon Charles.  

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Solages described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent,” an advocate for children and budding politician on a website for a south Florida charity he established in 2019 to assist residents.

On his bio page for the charity, Solages said he previously worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Port au Prince. On a LinkedIn page with his name and photo, it says Solages graduated with a bachelor’s degree in IT and lists his skills as: military police, mechanical electrical, and plumbing (MEP), and electrical troubleshooting.

Police walk among protesters during a protest against the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse near the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. 

Police walk among protesters during a protest against the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse near the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021.  (AP)

Witnesses said a crowd discovered two suspects hiding in bushes Thursday in Port-au-Prince. Some people grabbed the men by their shirts and pants, pushing them and occasionally slapping them. Police arrested the men and put them in the back of a pickup truck and drove away to a nearby police station as the crowd ran after them.

The crowd later set fire to several abandoned cars riddled with bullet holes that they believed belonged to the suspects. 

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At a news conference Thursday, Charles urged people to stay calm and let police do their work as he warned that authorities needed evidence they were destroying.

Officials did not address a motive for the slaying, saying only that the attack, condemned by Haiti’s main opposition parties and the international community, was carried out by “a highly trained and heavily armed group.”

Suspects in the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise sit on the floor handcuffed after being detained, at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. 

Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise sit on the floor handcuffed after being detained, at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021.  (AP)

A Haitian judge involved in the investigation said that President Moïse was shot a dozen times and his office and bedroom were ransacked, the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported. The paper quoted Judge Carl Henry Destin as saying investigators found 5.56 and 7.62 mm cartridges between the gatehouse and inside the house.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed leadership of Haiti with the backing of police and the military, asked people to reopen businesses and go back to work as he ordered the reopening of the international airport. 

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Haiti had grown increasingly unstable under Moïse, who had been ruling by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as critics accused him of trying to consolidate power while the opposition demanded he step down.

According to Haiti’s constitution, Moïse should be replaced by the president of Haiti’s Supreme Court, but the chief justice died in recent days from COVID-19, leaving open the question of who might rightfully succeed to the office.

Joseph, meanwhile, was supposed to be replaced by Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who had been named prime minister by Moïse a day before the assassination.

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Henry told the AP that he is the prime minister, calling it an exceptional and confusing situation. “I am the prime minister in office,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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