The Pentagon has admitted some of the Colombians arrested for assassinating Haiti President Jovenel Moïse were once trained by the US military – marking yet another link between the American government and the alleged hit squad.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman confirmed Thursday a ‘small number’ of the suspects had participated in US military training and education programs while serving in the Colombian military.
Officials have not revealed how many ex-soldiers were trained by the US, their identities or what the training involved.
However, Colombian officials have confirmed at least 20 Colombians accused of being involved in the deadly July 7 raid are former soldiers in the country’s military.
The latest ties between Moïse’s alleged killers and the US comes days after it emerged that DEA and FBI informants were among the suspects, three US citizens with ties to Florida were arrested over the plot and a Miami-based security firm is accused of hiring the hit squad.
Colombian ex-soldiers, accused of involvement in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, stand in a courtyard in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, days before the deadly July 7 raid
The Pentagon has admitted some of the Colombians arrested for assassinating Haiti President Jovenel Moïse were once trained by the US military. Pictured some of the suspects are paraded in front of the media last Thursday
Hoffman said in a statement to The Washington Post that the Pentagon learned of the ties to the US military after reviewing its training databases.
‘A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past US military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian Military Forces,’ he said.
Hoffman said its review of the matter is ongoing but added that the US provides military training for foreign countries to promote ‘respect for human rights, compliance with the rule of law, and militaries subordinate to democratically elected civilian leadership.’
Colombia has long been a close partner of the US military, meaning soldiers often receive the same training given to American soldiers.
However, this means that US military expertise can sometimes be used for ill means, Senator Patrick J. Leahy told the Post.
‘This illustrates that while we want our training of foreign armies to build professionalism and respect for human rights, the training is only as good as the institution itself,’ he said.
‘The Colombian army, which we have supported for 20 years, has a long history of targeting civilians, violating the laws of war and not being accountable.
‘There has been a cultural problem within that institution.
The US has found itself increasingly dragged into last weeks’ assassination of the Haitian president.
Three US citizens have been arrested over the plot, all with ties to Florida. They are Joseph Vincent, 55, James Solages, 35, and Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63.
On Tuesday, the DEA admitted one Haitian-American man arrested was a former DEA informant.
A US Special Forces soldier observes elite Colombian troops during training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in 2015. The two militaries have a partnership dating back decades
The agency was forced to reveal one of its ‘confidential sources’ was involved because the informant had called his contact after the killing, exposing the link.
The DEA said it advised the source to hand himself in and helped arrange his surrender to Haitian authorities.
While the DEA did not disclose the identity of the informant, sources named him to the Miami Herald as Vincent.
Vincent helped the DEA in 2017 to arrest Guy Philippe, who led a 2004 coup against Haiti’s then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide, on drugs trafficking charges, the sources said.
Vincent was with Haitian Police when Philippe was handed over to the DEA at an airport.
Philippe is now serving nine years in a US federal prison after he was sentenced in 2017 to nine years for money laundering in connection to an international narcotics scheme that involved smuggling drugs into Miami and other parts of the US in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Philippe was a close ally of Moïse.
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and First Lady Martine are pictured together in 2017
James Solages, 35, (left) and Joseph Vincent, 55, (right) are seen Thursday following their arrests. It has emerged Vincent was a DEA informant who handed over the warlord responsible for leading the last coup in the Caribbean nation
The DEA has denied any involvement in Moïse’s assassination plot and said its informant was no longer working for the agency at the time.
A number of the arrested suspects are FBI informants, CNN reported.
Footage from the early Wednesday assassination shows an attacker with an American accent shouting in English ‘this is a DEA operation’ as the hit squad arrived at the president’s mansion.
Both US and Haitian authorities insisted in the hours after the assassination that the DEA was not involved.
Haitian police also said they uncovered a hat with DEA emblazoned across it in the home of another suspect arrested last week – Florida doctor and pastor Sanon.
Alleged mastermind Christian Emmanuel Sanon (above) is said to have claimed the mission had the support of the US government
A stash of weapons was also uncovered at his home, police said.
Sanon is accused of being the mastermind of the plot in a quest to become the next leader of the Caribbean country.
An associate of Sanon has suggested the US supported the plot for him to assume control of Haiti, saying the mission was supposed to ‘save Haiti from hell, with support from the US government’.
The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns, said Sanon told him he was approached by people claiming to represent the US State and Justice departments who told him they wanted to install him as president.
The plan was only for Moïse to be arrested, the associate said, insisting Sanon would not have participated if he knew Moïse would be killed.
Haitian police said Sanon entered Haiti last month on a private plane ‘with the intention of taking the Haitian presidency’.
Sanon allegedly recruited the Miami-based CTU Security, which is registered in Florida as the Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy LCC.
CTU Security, which is owned by Venezuelan businessman Antonio Intriago, has been accused of recruiting the Colombian ex-soldiers.
Léon Charles, head of the Haiti’s National Police, on Wednesday accused Intriago of traveling to Haiti numerous times as part of the assassination plot and of signing a contract while there, but provided no other details and offered no evidence.
Dimitri Hérard (pictured), who is the head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, was questioned at the Inspector General’s office on Wednesday. It is unclear what, if any, charges he is facing
Charles has said that CTU Security used its company credit card to buy 19 plane tickets from Bogota to Santo Domingo for the Colombian suspects.
One of the Colombians who was killed, Duberney Capador, photographed himself wearing a black CTU Security polo shirt.
Haitian-Americans Vincent and Solages, meanwhile, allegedly claimed they were only hired as translators in a plot to arrest the Haitian president but not to kill him.
They said the Colombian commando unit had an arrest warrant for the president, but that when they arrived, they found him dead.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are assisting the Haitian government in its investigation into the assassination.
Now more than one week on from the assassination, at least 23 suspects have been arrested and three killed while questions continue to mount over who ordered the president’s assassination.
Haitian authorities believe central figures and suspects in the investigation met in Florida and the Dominican Republic in the months before the assassination to discuss how they could rebuild the country after Moïse was out of power, the New York Times reports.
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse are shown to the media in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 8
Weaponry, mobile phones, passports and other items are being shown to the media along with suspects in the assassination
The latest suspects identified in the sweeping investigation included a former Haitian senator and a fired government official.
The head of security at Haiti’s presidential palace is among the latest to be taken into custody as authorities are now investigating if the plot was an inside job.
Dimitri Hérard, who is the head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, was questioned at the Inspector General’s office on Wednesday before being taken to a police station, his associate Carl Martin told CNN.
Martin said he is coordinating Hérard’s legal defense team but it is unclear what, if any, charges he is facing.
Hérard flew to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama in the months before the assassination, and Colombian police are investigating whether he had any role in recruiting the mercenaries, authorities said.
He is currently under investigation by US officials over allegations he is involved in arms trafficking in Haiti, Haitian and US sources told CEPR.
Martine Moïse tweeted two photos of herself in her Miami hospital bed on Thursday
The 47-year-old, who had bandages covering her entire right arm, wrote alongside the photos that the pain of losing her husband of 25 years ‘will never pass’
Haitian police said four high-ranking members of the president’s security detail are being held in isolation but did not confirm if Herard was one of them.
Haitian Prosecutor Me Bed-Ford Claude last week raised questions about the president’s security detail on the night of the assassination.
‘They are responsible for the security of the president… I did not see any police victim except the president and his wife. If you are responsible for the security of the president where were you?’ he said.
The Haitian National Police announced the arrest of two more people in connection with the assassination: Gilbert Dragon, a former police superintendent, and Reynaldo Corvington, who is accused of providing shelter to the assassins.
Corvington owns a private security company called Corvington Courier & Security Service, which he established in 1982, according to its website, which provides tips on how to survive a kidnapping.
Footage circulating online purportedly taken by a neighbor of the president shows men with rifles arriving outside the property
During their arrests, police said they found several bullet cartridges, an AR-15, two handguns and bulletproof vests in Dragon’s home.
The president’s wife Martine Moïse shared photos of herself in her Miami hospital bed Thursday, where she is recovering after sustaining critical injuries in the raid that killed her husband.
Martine, 47, tweeted two photos of herself showing bandages covering her entire right arm and wrote that the pain of losing her husband of 25 years ‘will never pass’.
‘I still don’t believe that my husband has gone like this before my eyes without saying a last word to me. This pain will never pass,’ she said in a translated post.
In a follow up post written in English, Martine said: ‘Thank you for the team of guardian angels who helped me through this terrible time. With your gentle touch, kindness and care, I was able to hold on.’
The assassination of the president has left the country in turmoil with three men all claiming to be his rightful successor.