Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Man pleads guilty to conspiracy in connection with assassination of Haitian president

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The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at a news conference to announce new arrests earlier this year. (File photo)

Associated Press

A former Colombian soldier pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy in the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse . This event subsequently plunged the Caribbean nation further into violence and political unrest.

During a brief hearing before a federal judge, Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, 45, pleaded guilty to three counts, including of conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States.

Sitting next to his lawyer, Alfredo Izaguirre, Mr. Palacios replied yes, your honor in Spanish when the judge asked him if he had any questions. he pleaded guilty.

Mr. Palacios is the fifth of 11 defendants in Miami to plead guilty to the 2021 killing. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation and plead guilty. He could face life in prison when he receives his sentence on March 1, but under the deal, prosecutors acknowledged he played a minor role in the conspiracy. /p>

He didn't know what he was getting into. He wasn't part of the plan. He didn't recruit anyone. He made no decision regarding the plot. I think the government understands.

A quote from Mr. Alfredo Izaguirre, lawyer

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According to prosecutors, the conspirators had initially planned to kidnap the Haitian president, but they then decided to kill him.

They say the conspirators then hoped to win contracts under President Moïse's successor. According to the authorities, around twenty former Colombian soldiers and several people with dual Haitian and American citizenship participated in the plot.

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Suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse are presented to the media by Haitian authorities in Port-au-Prince.

Jovenel Moïse was shot dead of 12 bullets in his private residence near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on July 7, 2021. He was 53 years old. His wife, Martine Moïse, was injured during the attack.

Three defendants have already been sentenced to life in prison in the case. A fourth, Joseph Vincent, a dual Haitian-American citizen, pleaded guilty this month and awaits sentencing in February.

The trial is scheduled for May 2024, although the date has been postponed several times.

Mr. Palacios was arrested in Jamaica in October 2021 and was flown to the United States during a stopover in Panama while on a flight from Jamaica to Colombia. Federal officials say they questioned him while he was still hiding in Jamaica.

Haitian authorities have arrested more than 40 suspects, including 18 former Colombian military personnel accused of participating in the plot and several high-ranking Haitian police officers. In the Caribbean country, at least five judges were appointed to handle the case and four of them resigned for various reasons, including fear of being killed.

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In October, the Security Council gave the green light to send a multinational force led by Kenya. (File photo)

In the two years following the assassination of President Moïse, Haiti experienced an upsurge in violence gangs which led the Prime Minister to request the immediate deployment of a foreign armed force. The UN Security Council voted in October to send a Kenyan-led multinational force to help fight armed gangs.

The deployment was delayed, however. Kenyan officials told The Associated Press that the first group of about 300 officers was expected by February, with authorities still awaiting a verdict in a case aimed at blocking the deployment. A decision is expected in January.

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