July 7, 2021 – July 7, 2023, already two years since the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in his private residence, by mercenaries composed of Colombian, American and Haitian. He was executed on the scene of the attack and his wife Martine Moise came out injured in that unprecedented attack.
It was reported that there was a troop of 28 men including three Haitian police agents and at least 21 Colombian mercenaries and two Haitian-Americans, who showed up around 1 a.m. at the home of president Jovenel Moïse, in six rental vehicles. Each vehicle and its occupants had a specific mission. The head of the Colombian national police, Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia, had confided that four companies are involved in the recruitment of those suspected of the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise.
In observance of the second year of the commemoration of the assassination of former president Jovenel Moise, we spoke with Rosemond Hernest (pseudonym), one of the security agents of the presidential family who was on duty the night of the attack.
What went wrong a certain parts at the residence
“As soon as the security agents in charge of the residence took over in 2017, they signed legal papers that they were not allowed access to the interior part of the apartment. Consequently, none of us knew the decor, or even in which room the president’s room is located“, the former police officer. “Out of suspicion, only a few agents close to the presidential family had permission to enter the residence, but these police officers are not part of the night shift.”
Head of security never gave the night shift security agents access to the house’s surveillance cameras, from the time the president took office until the events leading up to his death. It was only after the attack that I heard about the cameras. The criminals had an advantage that night because of that, but more precisely the geographical location of the residence was unfortunately played into giving the upper hands to the mercenaries and reduced the advantage from the members of the security team of that night, says one source.
According to Rosemond, the main road of Pèlerin 5 gives a complete view of the entire space of the residence including the parking lot where the armored vehicles are located. The house is at the end of the domain and the road in the heights. Additionally, the square is surrounded by houses and other important points that were known to the public. “We still remember that during the anti-government demonstrations of 2018-2019”, “it was for the first time in the history of Haiti that a president was in a private residence in a ravine”, says an additional source.
“In previous occasions, security officials were made aware of the immense security danger posed by the geographical configuration of the residence. They took no concrete measures to facilitate our task in the event of an attack. The attackers used these geographical defaults to overcome our team and repel the intervention of reinforcements at the entrance to the road“, says Rosemond.
A faulty security system
Just 22 agents from three specialized units were part of the team in charge of the former president’s security team that evening at Pèlerin 5 (Pétion-Ville, West). There were nine agents from the General Security Unit of the National Palace (USGPN), six agents from the Counter Ambush Team (CAT Team) and seven police officers from the Presidential Security Unit (USP). While the USGPN alone has around 500 police officers. According to protocol, in the event of an attack, USP officers are tasked with evacuating the VIP in the opposite direction of the attack to a safe location, while the CAT Team and USGPN fend off the attack, says Rosemond.
However, there was a problem. Could it have been even possible to evacuate the presidential family if none of the 22 bodyguards present that evening had absolutely no access to the interior of the house? According to a confession of the former policeman who worked at the former president’s residence, “all the doors are always locked from the inside by the VIPs. Officers had no keys to rescue the president and his family in an emergency. “I don’t even know the decor inside the president’s house“, says Rosemond.
Each agent occupied a specific space outside, no agent was stationed inside to evacuate the VIP using the evacuation corridor as required by security protocol. Usually the are USGPN officers that occupied the outside of the parking lot, the CAT team in a corner of the house and the USP that is stationed in a small area in front of the residence more than 15 meters away.
Since December 2020, some vehicles of the Police Nationale d’Haïti that used to be parked inside the residence have been moved outside by order of the security coordinator. In each of these vehicles was usually at least one agent, especially in the evening. Which explains why three officers were outside the main gate, in the outdoor parking lot.
The armored vehicles of the two VIPs are still kept inside the parking lot of the apartment, closed by an electronic pin secured door for which no night security agent knows the access pin. The keys to these vehicles are also kept inside the house, under the control of a keykeeper named Vilson, who also sleeps inside, in one of the apartments of the residence.
According to Rosemond, any attempt by any of the officers to force open the locked doors during the attack would have been a suicidal scene. It was apparent that the mercenaries had the upper hand and had besieged the house.A surprise attack, the strike force and the geographical flaws of the house, the poor strategy in terms of security coordination facilitated the assassination of former president Jovenel Moise.
Five months before that tragic event, on February 7, 2021, the former president announced to the nation that an assassination attempt against him had been foiled by the National Police of Haiti. The Prime Minister at the time, Joseph Jouthe, had spoken of a plot to stage a coup. 23 people were arrested, including police inspector Marie Louise Gauthier, a judge at the Court of Cassation in office Yvickel Dabrezil, one of the three magistrates whom the opposition would appoint president in the event of transition, as well as the agronomist renowned Louis Buteau and his partner.
The scenario of the attack on the residence of Jovenel Moise
According to Rosemond, on the day of the 6th of July, it was ordinary like all the other days. Only three visitors crossed the space with the authorization of the VIPs by telephone, they were Line Balthazar and Jean Gay at around 1:00 p.m.; they had an appointment with the former president. Another visitor by the name of Wilmik Gérôme had come to see the first lady at around 7:00 p.m.
“On July 7, 2021, around 1:30 a.mSuddenly, we were invaded by the enemy who were shooting in all directions with automatic weapons as if it was a battlefield. Of course, we were well armed to respond to an attack, but we were in the open”. “The mercenaries had the advantage on the heights and with all the elements of surprise. Any attempt to move to force the doors of the house was suicidal. We had no surveillance camera to observe the position of the mercenaries” says Rosemond.
The former police agent explains that as the mercenaries advanced, they riddled the patrol vehicles of the bodyguards posted outside with bullets, forcing the occupants to retreat. “Throughout the duration of the operation between 20 to 30 minutes, they used two drones which patrol the entire perimeter and a tape recorder to indicate that it was a DEA operation and that it was not necessary to intervene“.
Reports have not been cleared concerning the three explosions that have neutralized our units. The mercenaries used stun grenades three times to destabilize us. This is how they disarmed us and tied us to the ground. It was a well calculated strike force!
An article in the online investigative journal Enquet’Action points out that the head of state’s driver, named Jude Laurent, is in fact a mole. “It is his driver who informs, in due time, that the mercenaries assassinated the former president Jovenel Moïse“. The main barrier of the presidential residence was left open by the driver, who was in communication with Félix Joseph Badio, a suspect wanted by the police since the assassination of the former president.
According to Rosemond, each car posted outside had an officer to secure the scene. “When the attack started, the cars were the first targets of the mercenaries. A torrent of bullets hit the cars, it was as if it was raining. Our cars are not armored, and the VIP vehicles are always locked. We had no choice but to retreat before being completely neutralized”.
After having neutralized the team, the mercenaries who spoke to each other in Spanish, English and Creole, progressed towards the house to assassinate the former president. Then later, proceeding handcuffed to the members of the security team, we weren’t even allowed to move our heads, says Rosemond.
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“Immediately after the mercenaries left, officers assigned to the security of the first lady arrived on the scene and confirmed to us that the president had been killed and that the first lady was gravely injured. They were the ones who escorted Martine Moise to the hospital“, says Rosemond, who preferred to avoid a few direct questions, for security reasons.
When asked about any illicit activity in the corridors of the National Palace or in the President’s house, Rosemond stated to not having noticed anything suspicious or compromising. Recall that several mercenaries claimed that they were on a mission to arrest the former president Jovenel, and that several million dollars were well kept in his apartment in Pèlerin 5. According to an investigation by the American Newspaper Miami Herald, citing several sources, the mission of the former Colombian mercenaries was to recover between 45 and 53 million dollars. This money would be a bribe paid to Moise to allow drug trafficking in Haiti. After two years of investigation, defamation and fake news around this case, yet no one can prove if this sum was seized from the former president’s home.
Where is the investigation concerning the assassination of Jovenel Moise?
Two years after this tragic event, the investigation concerning the assassination of former president Jovenel Moise is dragging on like all the other files at the court of justice. Four judges have already tried to due process this case, but all ended in the abandonment of the case. Those judges are Mathieu Chanlatte, Gary Orélien, Chavannes Etienne and Merlan Belabre. A fifth judge named Walter Wesser Voltaire was appointed on May 30, 2022. He had until August 30, 2022 to investigate the case of the assassination, but he had made it known that the deadline given to him was too short. In March 2023, the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights (CARDH) asked the Dean of the Civil Court of Port-au-Prince, Judge Chavannes Etienne, to appoint another investigating judge in part of this investigation, but the request was denied.
In Port-au Prince, the capital of Haiti, the judicial system is paralyzed by the action of the armed gangs which control the six largest municipalities of the department of the West: including Delmas, Pétion-ville, Cité Soleil, Tabarre and Carrefour. The judges are constantly threatened by bandits who control 80% of the metropolitan area according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The Haitian government has arrested more than 40 people for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Jovenel, including 18 former Colombian soldiers, 12 security agents who were on duty the night of the attack and the two responsible guards. The 18 Colombian mercenaries involved in the assassination of former president Jovenel are in prison like all the other suspects pending the outcome of the investigation.
Pursue the structuring of a legal file before the court for the Moise case, the divisional commissioner Jean Laguel Civil, security coordinator of former president Jovenel Moïse and Dimitri Hérard, head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace (USGPN) prior of their incarcerations, were testified in front of the Haitian court of justice and are still incarcerated due pending legal action.
Of the 22 security guards who were stationed at the former president’s home on the night of the attack, 12 remained in jail for almost two years, while the other 10 were librarated. “But the court of justice retains these agents without any legal basis” says Rosemond. “The seven USP agents are in locked cells, four out of six of the CAT Team are also detained while just one USGPN agent suffers from the same fate”.
Rosemond adds that by examining the politics surrounding this file. “Why did the then Government Commissioner, Bedford Claude, decide to release the other eight USGPN officers and the other two of the CAT team officers, when they were all from the same mercenary team? There is something suspicious! Justice could free a person on certain rare precautionary measures, says Rosemond.
On January 31, 2023, the three Haitian-Americans incarcerated in Haiti and a Colombian mercenary were transferred to the United States for their alleged role in the assassination of Moise. They are the doctor and pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon (presumed mastermind of the plot) who intended to replace Moise after the assassination, James Solages (interpreter), Joseph Vincent (a former DEA informant), as well as the Colombian colonel at the retired German Rivera Garcia.
Haitian-Chilean businessman Rodolphe Jaar (50) was sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday, June 2, 2023 by Federal Judge José E. Martínez for financially assisting the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse. For his part, former senator John Joël Joseph pleaded not guilty on October 19, 2022 in federal court in Florida. Arrested in Jamaica in January 2022, the former parliamentarian was the subject of a warrant assigned to the Haitian National Police in connection with this case.
However, Joseph Felix Badio, the number one suspect who is also considered to be one of the financial providers of that event, has been on the run since the night of July 7, 2021. A few hours before the former president’s assassination, he was in communication with the current de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry as well as the current head of the National Police of Haiti, Frantz Helbé.
FBI agents carried out several raids on the house where the president was assassinated, in order to deepen their investigation, in parallel with that of the Haitian justice system. On June 20, 2023, Martine Moise, widow of Moise and key witness in this case, declared on France24 that she more or less has an idea of who is responsible for the assassination, but that she leaves it to the hands of the investigators to find out the truth. “The current government seems involved, and in fact the investigation is not making much progress” says Martine Moise.
Since these terrible events, Haiti has faced a multifaceted crisis that threatens political stability and promotes the violation of human rights. The country is ruled by de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry, appointed by a simple tweet from Jovenel Moise himself, sometime before his assassination. Supported by the West and part of the political class, Henry and his team are still unable to put the country back on track more than twenty 20 months after his ascent to power. On the contrary, Haiti has entered an endless circle of violence where insecurity, corruption, unemployment and inflation dominate and are making headlines in the news.
By Franciyou Germain
Translated by Moise Lena Jean Louis
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