A Haitian man arrested on suspicion of playing a key role in President Jovenel Mose’s assassination appears to have presented himself as a potential leader of the impoverished Caribbean nation for more than a decade.
According to police, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, planned to take over the presidency and hire some of the men involved in the Mose attack as his security team. Sanon, who has reportedly lived in Florida on and off for the past two decades, arrived in Haiti on a private plane in early June with “political objectives,” according to Haiti’s police chief Léon Charles, who spoke to reporters on Sunday. He assembled the team through a Venezuelan security firm based in the United States, but their mission was altered when one of the team members was presented with an arrest warrant for Mose.
Sanon could not be reached immediately, and it was unclear whether he had an attorney. Authorities did not present evidence of their case against Sanon right away.
Many questions remain about the bizarre plot that resulted in the president’s fatal shooting at his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, on July 7. Among them is how a man who filed for bankruptcy in Florida in 2013, listing himself as a church pastor, according to the Miami Herald, could be behind what authorities have described as a commando operation.
In a 2011 YouTube video titled “Dr. Christian Sanon — Leadership for Haiti,” Sanon, who refers to himself as a doctor, is presented as a potential leader of the country. The speaker accuses Haiti’s leaders of being corrupt plunderers of the country’s resources.
The Haitian U.N. delegation did not respond immediately to an emailed request for comment on its employee. The announcement of Sanon’s arrest came as senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials arrived in Haiti on Sunday to discuss how the US could help in the aftermath of Mose’s murder last week.
Police said two other people have been implicated in the alleged scheme as the assassination’s “intellectual authors,” but did not name them. Last week, police arrested two Haitian Americans who were allegedly working as interpreters for the team; they have now detained at least 21 people, the majority of whom are Colombians. Over the weekend, sporadic gunfire erupted in Port-au-Prince, piercing the relative calm that had followed Mose’s death, as violent gangs threatened to fill the power vacuum in a country that now has no clear leader. One powerful gang leader summoned his followers to the streets, while residents closed their doors in fear of more bloodshed in a city already terrorized by criminal violence.
The gangs gave the city a reprieve from the torrent of gunfire that has killed hundreds this year in the immediate aftermath of Mose’s assassination. But, while answers are still elusive — the motive for the president’s assassination is unknown, and at least four men have claimed control — the peace has now been broken.
Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, the city’s most powerful gang leader, has called on his followers to take to the streets in the coming days to demand “justice against this cowardly assassination carried out by foreign mercenaries in the country.” In a video message posted on Saturday, the self-proclaimed revolutionary invited other gang leaders to join him in the violence. One resident of the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant, a journalist in his twenties, expressed a desire to flee if conditions worsened.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon whom Mose appointed Prime Minister two days before his death, are among the four men claiming leadership of the government. Members of Haiti’s non-functioning Senate voted on Friday to appoint the body’s leader, Joseph Lambert, as acting president. One faction of the opposition declared Supreme Court Judge Joseph Mécène Jean-Louis interim president in February. Joseph, who has received international recognition but faces domestic opposition, has requested that the United States and the United Nations send troops to help provide security. According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, the request is being reviewed.
US officials have pressed Joseph to keep his promise to hold elections in September. Many here, however, argue that elections are impossible as long as gangs rule the streets.
Cherizier and his gang leaders, known as the G9 Family and Allies, claim to be in the midst of a revolution to liberate Haiti from a corrupt wealthy and political class. Human rights groups had accused Mose of having ties to Cherizier.