Jovenel Moïse murder: US charges Colombian man over assassination

Former Colombian military officer has been charged in the US in connection with the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse last July.


Mario Antonio Palacios, 43, is accused of having “participated in a plot to kidnap or kill the Haitian president”, the US justice department said.

He appeared at a Miami court on Tuesday to hear the charges against him.

Mr Moïse was shot dead on 7 July by gunmen who stormed his residence in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.


While several arrests have been made in Haiti in connection with the killing, Mr Palacios is the first suspect to face charges.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US justice department said a complaint was filed in the state of Florida accusing Mr Palacios, along with a group of about 20 other Colombian nationals and dual Haitian-American citizens, of “conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping” outside the US.


It said the group was alleged to have “initially focused on conducting a kidnapping”, but that it “ultimately resulted in a plot to kill” Mr Moïse.

“Palacios and others entered the president’s residence in Haiti with the intent and purpose of killing President Moïse, and in fact the president was killed,” the statement said.

Mario Antonio Palacios, 43, a Colombian national, appears at a Miami court
IMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,
Mario Antonio Palacios (R) appeared in a federal court in Miami on Tuesday
Mr Palacios was recently arrested during a stopover in Panama after being deported to Colombia from Jamaica. He agreed to travel to the US, which had issued an Interpol red notice requesting his arrest.

He is now in US custody and, if convicted of the charges, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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Previous suspects detained were also former members of the Colombian military, many of whom said they were hired to provide “security services” in Haiti and were not told about a plan to kill the president.

The investigation into the murder of Mr Moïse, who was 53, has been slow and has been further set back by the resignations of key officials.

Investigators have also reported receiving death threats and being intimidated.

Separately on Saturday, gunmen tried to kill Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry during an event to mark the anniversary of the country’s independence.

The prime minister’s office said “bandits and terrorists” were behind the assassination attempt, and that arrest warrants had been issued for the suspects.

The rise in violence in Haiti and a dire economic situation in the country – made worse by several natural disasters in recent years – have led to a growing number of Haitians seeking opportunities in other countries.

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