Opposition senator accuses Haiti’s interim prime minister of instigating a coup and demands he step down as a third person claims to be the country’s rightful leader following president’s murder
- Claude Joseph, the acting interim prime minister, has claimed to be in charge
- He says he should run the country until elections in September
- The president, Jovenal Moise, was murdered on Wednesday by mercenaries
- On Monday Moise named Ariel Henry prime minister, but he hasn’t taken power
- A third man, Senate chief Joseph Lambert, has claimed he should rule Haiti
- The constitution is unclear given a series of unpredictable events
- Haiti National Police said there were 28 presumed assassins responsible
- Of the 28, 17 are arrested; three dead; and eight still at large
- The 28 are comprised of 26 Colombians and two Haitian-born American citizens
Haiti was plunged further into chaos on Friday when the acting interim prime minister was accused of staging a coup, and a third person claimed to be running the country following the assassination of the president.
President Jovenal Moise’s murder on Wednesday has thrown the already-teetering country into turmoil, with democratic institutions hollowed out.
Moise had been ruling by decree since January 2020, with only 10 senators left in power and an entirely vacant lower chamber.
On Monday Moise had appointed Ariel Henry, a 71-year-old former minister of interior and respected neurosurgeon, as his latest prime minister.
Henry had not taken up the role by the time Moise was assassinated two days later, and so interim prime minister Claude Joseph has remained in power, with the support so far of the United States and UN.
POWER STRUGGLE: Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph (left) has seized power of the country, declaring a state of emergency, just days before he was due to be replaced by the country’s coronavirus tsar Ariel Henry (right), the man Moise had named as Joseph’s successor
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and First Lady Martine are pictured together in 2017. Moïse was riddled with 12 bullet holes and had his eye gouged out during Wednesday’s brutal attack, which killed him and seriously injured his wife
Joseph said that as head of the government ‘who is still in function’, he and other members of the government held a special meeting of Haiti’s security apparatus and decided to ‘declare a state of siege throughout the entire country’.
The two-week declaration of martial law permits the police and security members to enter homes, control traffic and take special security measures and ‘all general measures that permit the arrest of the assassins’.
The decree also forbids meetings meant to incite disorder.
On Friday Patrice Dumont, one of the only 10 senators left in power, accused Joseph of staging a coup, and demanded he hand over to Henry.
‘He installed himself,’ Dumont told a Haitian radio station, according to The New York Times. ‘We cannot accept this.’
Patrice Dumont, one of only 10 senators left in Haiti, said on Friday that he believes Claude Joseph is unlawfully seizing power
Elections Minister Mathias Pierre said Joseph would keep that role until presidential and legislative elections are held on September 26.
‘This is part of the chaos certain people are trying to create in the country,’ said Pierre, blaming Joseph’s opponents for destabilizing the country.
‘For us, this is a second attempt to assassinate the president. We are doing what we have to do to establish stability and prepare for elections.’
Henry’s appointment was made unilaterally by Moise, without political agreement – leading many to question its legitimacy.
To further complicate matters, a third person on Friday then claimed to be the legitimate ruler.
Joseph Lambert, head of Haiti’s senate, was on Friday nominated to be interim president.
‘I was chosen unanimously,’ he told The Miami Herald. ‘That doesn’t add to the conflict.
Joseph Lambert (second from right, pictured with Jovenal Moise and his wife Martine Moise on January 12, 2018) has said that he should be in charge of Haiti
‘There is a vacancy and the political force and class, the Organization of American States, the U.N believe there needs to a dialogue initiated with the political actors to bring the country to stability.
‘The resolution the Senate vote is clear.
‘I am provisional president until the next parliament takes its seat in January 2022.’
The constitution is unclear.
The 1987 version states that if the presidency is vacant for any reason, the country’s most senior judge should step in.
The head of Haiti’s highest court, René Sylvestre, died of COVID-19 last week.
But in 2012, the Constitution was amended, and the new one directed that the president be replaced by a council of ministers, under the guidance of the prime minister.
Except if, as was the case with Moise, the president was in the fourth year of office.
In that case, Parliament would vote for a provisional president. But there is no Parliament.
‘Things are unclear,’ said Georges Michel, a Haitian historian who helped write the 1987 Constitution.
He told The New York Times: ‘It’s a very grave situation.’
Earlier on Friday, Haitian officials pleaded with the US to send in military troops amid fears so-called ‘urban terrorists’ are planning to attack the nation’s airport, gas reserves and port.
Pierre warned that the masterminds of Wednesday’s assassination of Moise could continue their attack by targeting the nation’s critical infrastructure in the coming days.
‘The group that financed the mercenaries want to create chaos in the country. Attacking the gas reserves and airport might be part of the plan,’ he told the New York Times.
The White House confirmed Friday it was responding to the call for help, drafting in senior officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to the capital Port-au-Prince as soon as possible.
Press secretary Jen Psaki said the US would assess the situation on the ground to see how to best assist and will send in COVID-19 vaccines to the nation as soon as next week.
The US is also providing $5 million to strengthen Haiti’s law enforcement capacity to work with communities to resist gangs, Psaki said – something that was a key US priority even before Wednesday’s deadly raid.
‘The United States remains engaged and in close consultation with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination of the president,’ she said.
A crowd of residents in Port-au-Prince gathered outside the US Embassy on Friday amid rumors the US will be handing out exile and humanitarian visas to escape the country which has fallen into further turmoil following Wednesday’s assassination.
In total, Haiti National Police said there were 28 presumed assassins responsible for Wednesday’s raid, with 17 arrested, three dead and eight still at large.
Among the 28 are 26 Colombians and two Haitian-born American citizens.
On Friday a relative of one of the American citizens, James Solages, told The Daily Beast they were shocked, describing him as ‘a nice guy’.
No motive has yet been given and officials continue to hunt for the masterminds, while questions are swirling over the possibility of an inside job and the two US citizens arrested allegedly claimed to have only been hired as translators.
Police patrol outside the Embassy of Taiwan in Port-au-Prince where 11 suspected assassins were detained in connection to the murder of the president
Police patrol the Morne Calvaire district of Petion-Ville as they continue to hunt for eight suspected assassins two days on
People gathered in front of the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince Friday amid rumors the US will be handing out exile and humanitarian visas to escape the violence and mayhem in the country
Haiti officials have pleaded with the US to send in military troops amid fears so-called ‘urban terrorists’ are planning to attack the nation’s airport, gas reserves and port as the country teeters on the brink of chaos
The two US citizens among the 17 arrested over the assassination have allegedly claimed they were hired as translators in a plot to arrest the Haitian president but not to kill him.
Haitian-born American citizens Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55, are said to have confessed to being involved in Wednesday’s early morning raid that left Moise dead and his wife fighting for her life.
Vincent allegedly claimed the plot was orchestrated by a foreigner named ‘Mike’ who spoke English and Spanish, they planned to take Moise to the National Palace and the plot was devised over the course of a month in a hotel in Pétion-Ville.
Deputy justice of the peace Judge Clément Noël told Le Nouvelliste the two men, who both live in Florida, said ‘the mission was to arrest President Jovenel Moise, within the framework of the execution of a mandate of an investigating judge and not to kill him.’
Solages said he ‘found this job on the internet’, Noel told the outlet.
Authorities are now investigating if the plot was an inside job with the president’s key security personnel facing interrogation.
Jean Laguel Civil, Moise’s security coordinator and Dimitri Hérard, head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace will be questioned.
The two men were among those most responsible for the safety and security of the president.
Haitian Prosecutor Me Bed-Ford Claude said he had seen no casualties among the president’s security detail following the assassination.
‘They are responsible for the security of the president… I did not see any police victim except the president and his wife. If you are responsible for the security of the president where were you?’ he asked.
Hérard is currently under investigation by US officials over allegations he is involved in arms trafficking in Haiti, Haitian and US sources told CEPR.
Officials said they are still looking for the ‘intellectual authors’ of the plot.
National Police Director Leon Charles said ‘we have the physical perpetrators in hand and we are looking for the instigators.’
The remaining 26 suspects are all Colombians with the Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano saying preliminary information points to at least 13 of them being retired members of the country’s military.
Colombian officials said Friday the Colombian suspects travelled to the Caribbean nation in two groups by way of the Dominican Republic.
None of the other detainees or those killed have been named.
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise are shown to the media in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday
Weaponry, mobile phones, passports and other items are being shown to the media along with suspects in the assassination
Haitian-born American citizens James Solages, 35, (above) and Joseph Vincent, 55, are said to have confessed to being involved in Wednesday’s early morning raid at the president’s mansion near Port-au-Prince
The deputy justice of the peace of Pétion-Ville Judge Clément Noël told local paper Le Nouvelliste Solages (pictured) and Vincent – who both live in Florida – told authorities ‘they were translators’
Police lined up the 17 assassination suspects, including two American citizens and 15 Colombians, behind a table displaying an array of firearms, machetes, sledgehammers and several Colombian passports
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, among them Haitian-American citizens James Solages, left, and Joseph Vincent, second left, are shown to the media at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince
Sources told Reuters that US intelligence and law enforcement officials are now probing American connections to Moïse’s assassination following the arrest of the two US citizens Thursday.
Solages had been staying in Haiti for the last month while Vincent had been there for the last six months, according to Noël.
The Colombian ‘mercenaries’ had been in the Caribbean country for around three months, he said Solages claimed.
The judge said both Solages and Vincent were arrested following a shootout with police and were found to be carrying weapons, clothes and food at the time.
Solages’ now-deleted Facebook account claimed he spoke Spanish, English, French and Haitian Creole, while his shocked relatives said he had no military experience and was not known to harbor radical political beliefs.
He is the president of a charity based in south Florida whose website – which has now gone offline – claims to be focused on ending childhood hunger in Haiti.
The 35-year-old’s bio on the site boasted numerous credentials including claims he is a ‘certified diplomatic agent,’ a politician ‘promoting his country by focusing on compassion programs and counseling economic development program’ and the former chief commander of bodyguards for The Canadian embassy in Haiti.
After earlier claiming seven suspects were killed, Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, now claims that only three other suspects were killed by police, saying eight others are on the run
Soldiers frog march two of the suspects in the assassination after displaying them for the media at a press conference
Police officers guard a group of suspects accused of having participated in the assassination of the Haitian President
However, Canada’s foreign relation department released a statement that did not refer to Solages by name but said one of the men detained had been ‘briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard’ at its embassy by a private contractor.
And relatives who have spoken out since Solages arrest say he once had a failed attempt to run for mayor in his hometown of Jacmel and had no military service.
Solage’s uncle Schubert Dorisme told Seattle Times from his home in Florida that the family was shocked to hear of his alleged involvement as they learned of his arrest in the media.
Dorisme told the outlet his nephew has ‘no military training’, adding that ‘I don’t know how this thing happened.’
He told the outlet his nephew would often travel back and forth between Haiti and his home in south Florida to carry out work for his charity in Jacmel.
Solages once made an unsuccessful run for mayor in Jacmel, he said.
Dorisme insisted Solages was not known to harbor radical political beliefs, however, he said he believed his nephew’s latest trip was for the purpose of carrying out the attack.
‘I think, for me, I think he went down there just for that,’ he said.
Dorisme said he did not know how long Solages had been staying in Haiti leading up to Wednesday’s attack.
He told the outlet he was upset over Moïse’s death and likened his nephew’s alleged involvement to being like ‘my son killed my brother.’
Haitian police transport two other men in the back of a cop trailer to the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince. Police said the two men are suspects in the murder of Haiti president Jovenel Moïse
The two men were reportedly found hiding in bushes by civilians who roughed them up before turning them over to police
One of the men detained by Haitian police on suspicion of being involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse
Another male suspect is seen covered in blood as he was loaded into the back of a police car Thursday – one day on from the deadly raid on the president’s mansion
The bodies of two of the people killed by police are pictured being transported away in a police vehicle Thursday
People look in through the window of the police car at the bodies of two of the people suspected of being involved in the assassination of the president
‘First of all, I’m sorry for what happened about my president. I am deeply sorry. It feels like my son killed my brother,’ Dorisme said.
‘I love my president, and I love James Solages.’
Solages’ aunt Victorie Dorisme also spoke of her disbelief at his involvement in the president’s assassination.
She told the Miami Herald she had ‘never heard of him in any trouble like this.’
Instead, she said he spent his time working as a building maintenance man and running his charity and was going through a divorce.
Prior to his arrest as part of an international assassination plot, the 35-year-old had no criminal record.
Solages’ Facebook was taken offline Thursday following his arrest.
On his LinkedIn account, which remains active, Solages is listed as having achieved an associate’s degree in IT at FCC College in Miami and worked for a technology maintenance firm from 2016 to 2019.
He is also listed as CEO of EJS Maintenance and Repair, plant operation director at Senior Lifestyle and president at JacmelFirst.
Jacmel First’s charitable mission is to support the growth and development of underprivileged people in Haiti and specifically Jacmel – a port town on the south coast of the country, the website says.
This includes through education, health education and the implementation of sanitation systems.
Attempts by DailyMail.com to reach his charity by phone did not go through or were not answered.
Meanwhile, little is known about Vincent, other than officials saying he lives in Miami.
It is not clear if the two men were known to each other prior to their alleged involvement in the president’s assassination.
Footage from the raid reveals an attacker with an American accent shouting in English ‘this is a DEA operation’ as they arrived at the mansion before carrying out the attack.
Noël said it is Solages’ voice in the footage.
Officials paraded the suspected assassins in a press conference Thursday night but are yet to provide evidence of their involvement or details of any plot other than to say it was carried out by ‘foreign mercenaries and professional killers.’
Interim President Claude Joseph, center, looks at the suspects at the press briefing Thursday. Joseph has assumed absolute power by declaring a ‘state of siege’ despite questions over who should assume the presidency
Footage showed two Colombian suspects being hauled through the streets with ropes around their midriffs, one of the men was shirtless and covered in blood as people shoved him amid shouts and shrieks from the mob.
The suspected hired guns are dragged up steps with ropes tied around their midriffs by the mob
Crowds surround the police station where the suspects in connection to the assassination of the president are being held
A crowd of local residents took matters into their own hands Thursday, surrounding two male suspects before police officers arrived and detained them (above)
Locals surround a police car transporting two men arrested in the Jalousie township of Port-au-Prince Thursday
Speculation of a possible inside job comes as Haiti’s Ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, said ‘there is no doubt about it… there was some internal help.’
Just after 1am on Wednesday, assassins shouting in American accents ‘DEA operation, stand down’ stormed into the 53-year-old president’s private residence in the hills above the capital, ransacking bedrooms and offices, and leaving him to die an horrific death with machine gun fire riddling his body from his head down to his legs.
Magistrate Carl Henry Destin told the Nouvelliste newspaper that the president’s body had been ripped apart by 12 bullets from large caliber rifles and smaller 9mm weapons, to the forehead, chest, hips and abdomen.
Moise’s wife, Martine, 47, was shot through the legs, arm, torso and hand.
She was first treated at a local hospital then airlifted in a ‘critical condition’ to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami where officials said she is now ‘out of danger’ and in a ‘stable condition.’
Their adult daughter Jormalie was left fearing for her life as she cowered in a bedroom but was able to escape unharmed while a maid and another domestic staff member were tied up by the gunmen.
Footage circulating online purportedly taken by a neighbour of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property
Footage circulating in Haitian WhatsApp groups purports to show men with rifles arriving at the president’s home last night
A car riddled with bullet holes outside the late president’s home in the hills near Port-au-Prince on Wednesday
Members of the Haitian police and forensics mark a bullet on the street as they look for evidence outside of the presidential residence on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Investigators work near Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s home in Port-au-Prince collecting evidence after the assassination
The President of Haiti Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his home in the Pelerin 5 neighbourhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince
Police discovered a cache of guns in a vehicle used by the attackers, including a CCTV camera from Moïse’s home, axes, wire cutters, bullet proof vests and more than $40,000 in US dollar bills.
No motive has been given for the attack, which came at a time of escalating unrest in the country and as protesters called for the removal of Moïse – who has been accused of turning the country into a dictatorship.
In June, just weeks before his murder, one of the country’s most powerful gang leaders announced he was launching a revolution against Haiti’s political elites.
Jimmy Cherizier, known as ‘Barbecue’, said his G9 group of gangs could free the country from the government and its opposition.
Barbecue is an ex-police officer turned gang leader who has been linked to several massacres in the country but was also said to have ties with Moïse.
Trinity Air Ambulance touches down at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida, carrying the gravely injured Martine Moise, Haiti’s First Lady, who was shot during an assassination raid that killed her husband, Haitian President Jovenel Moise
Martine Moise, first lady of Haiti, arrives at Jackson Health System’s Ryder Trauma Center, in Miami, for treatment Wednesday after being shot multiple times at her home earlier in the day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the attack that killed her husband
The US had previously called for an election to be held in the Caribbean country by the end of 2021.
Haiti had grown increasingly unstable under Moise, who was accused of turning the country into a dictatorship and allowing armed gangsters to roam the streets to prevent new elections.
Protests had been going on for months against him as opponents and citizens said his term had ended, while he refused to hold an election.
Moise also faced accusations of financial impropriety and power-grabbing by limiting powers for auditing government contracts and creating an intelligence agency that only answers to the president.
He wanted to abolish the Senate, leaving a single legislative body, and replace the post of prime minister with a vice president who answered only to him, in a bid to streamline government.
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