Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Assassination of Jovenel Moïse : DEA informant guilty of conspiracy

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Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in 2021.

Associated Press

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A former secret informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to assassinate Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, whose 2021 assassination sparked unprecedented unrest in this Caribbean country.

Joseph Vincent, who has Haitian and American citizenship, was living in the United States and attended meetings in South Florida and Haiti before the assassination. He is the fourth of 11 defendants in Miami to plead guilty. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for charges including conspiracy to kill and kidnap a person outside the United States, and conspiracy to provide material support and resources.

Authorities say approximately 20 Colombian citizens and several Haitian-American citizens participated in the plot. The conspirators initially planned to capture the Haitian president, but then chose to kill him. Investigators say the conspirators hoped to win contracts under Mr. Moses' successor.

Vincent, dressed in a shirt and wearing beige prison pants, pleaded guilty during a hearing before Federal Judge José E. Martínez that lasted 20 minutes. Sitting next to his lawyer, Kenneth Swartz, he was handcuffed and had shackles around his ankles.

Guilty, your honor, Vincent replied after the judge asked him how he would plead.

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Vincent said he entered into a pleading agreement with prosecutors, something defendants often do in hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Under these terms, he agreed to cooperate in the investigation and the government announced that it would withdraw two charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. The judge set his sentencing hearing for February 9, 2024.

Other defendants who pleaded guilty are retired Colombian officer German Alejandro Rivera Garcia, sentenced to life in prison in October; Haitian-Chilean businessman Rodolphe Jaar, who was also sentenced to life in prison in June; and former Haitian senator John Joël Joseph, who was detained in Jamaica before being extradited to Miami last year. The latter is expected to be sentenced on December 19.

They are all part of what U.S. prosecutors have described as an elaborate plot in Haiti and Florida that ended with the assassination of President Moïse by mercenaries at his private residence near Port-au-Prince. -Prince, the Haitian capital, July 7, 2021. He was 53 years old.

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Men flee during a demonstration denouncing gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 14, 2023.

Vincent was close to Haitian-American suspects James Solages and Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a South Florida resident and pastor whose ambition to replace Mr. Moïse as president led to the president's assassination, according to charges filed by prosecutors. Both were among the first arrested after Mr. Moïse was shot 12 times in his home.

After the killing, Vincent proclaimed his innocence and told a Haitian judge that he was the translator for Colombian soldiers accused of storming the president's residence and killing him.

More than 40 suspects have been arrested in the Haiti case, most of them shortly after Mr. Moïse was killed in the attack that also injured his wife, Martine Moïse. Those arrested include 18 former Colombian military personnel accused of participating in the plot and several senior Haitian police officers.

In Haiti, five judges were appointed to handle this case and four of them resigned for various reasons, including fear of being killed.

In the two years following the assassination, Haiti experienced a surge in gang violence that led the prime minister to call for the immediate deployment of a foreign armed force in October 2022. The UN Security Council voted to send a Kenyan-led multinational force to help fight armed gangs in October this year. p>

The deployment has, however, been delayed. Kenya said its staff needed more training and funding, and a local high court extended orders blocking the deployment, with a hearing scheduled for the end of January. No deployment date has been announced.

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