Two Haitian American men — one of them purportedly a former bodyguard at the Canadian embassy in the capital of Port-au-Prince — have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mo se, a senior Haitian official said Thursday.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti's minister of elections, told The Associated Press that James Solages was among six people arrested in the 36 hours since the killing of Mo se and the wounding of his wife at their home in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday. Pierre wouldn't provide details about Silage's background or the name of the second Haitian American who he said was arrested.
The Miami Herald and The Washington Post identified the second man as Joseph Vincent from the Miami area. He is of Haitian descent and about 56 years old, according to a source familiar with the ongoing investigation, the Herald reported. It said Solages lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Officials presented no evidence of their alleged involvement in Mo se's assassination.
Solages describes himself as a "certified diplomatic agent", an advocate for children and budding politician on a website for a charity he established in 2019 in South Florida to assist residents, according to the Herald. On his bio page for the charity, Solages said he previously worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian embassy in Haiti.
In an undated video interview in Creole, Solages said he is from Jacmel in southeast Haiti, the Herald reported.
Police Chief Leon Charles said in a televised briefing Thursday that authorities had tracked down the suspected assassins to a house near the scene of the crime in Petionville, a northern suburb of Port-au-Prince, according to Reuters.
A firefight lasted late into the night; six suspects were taken in custody, and three corpses were retrieved, Charles said. "We have the physical authors, now we are looking for the intellectual authors," he said.
A crowd gathered on Thursday morning to watch the police operation unfold.
"Burn them!", shouted hundreds of people gathered outside the police station where the suspects were taken.
Some people set fire to the suspects' cars and to the house where they had bunkered down. The cars didn't have license plates, and inside one of them was an empty box of bullets and some water, according to The Associated Press.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti's ambassador to the US, said that the suspects who were killed and captured were foreigners and that they had been assisted by Haitian nationals in carrying out the assassination. He has described the assailants as "well-trained professionals, killers, commandos".
At a news conference Thursday, Léon Charles, director of Haiti's National Police, asked people to stay calm, go home and let police do their work as he warned that authorities needed evidence that the crowd was destroying, including the burned cars.
Prime Minister Claude Joseph assumed leadership of Haiti with the backing of police and the military and on Thursday asked people to reopen businesses and go back to work as he ordered the reopening of the international airport.
Joseph decreed a two-week state of siege following Mo se's killing in a country that is grappling with some of the Western Hemisphere's highest poverty — 60 percent of Haitians earn less than $2 a day — gang violence and continuing political instability.