A breakthrough in probe of Haitian president’s assassination: Key suspect arrested

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22

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A key suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has been arrested in Jamaica.

Mario Palacios Palacios, a former Colombian military officer, was arrested in Kingston earlier this month. The arrest had remained secret. Palacios’ arrest was confirmed by multiple Haitian and Jamaica sources speaking to the Miami Herald on the condition of anonymity.

Haiti police say former Colombian soldiers made up the hit squad that stormed Moïse’s private residence in the middle of the night on July 7. Yelling that their presence was part of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation, they gained access to the home. Moïse was tortured and shot multiple times, while his wife, Martine, was seriously injured, according to 124-page Haitian police investigative report. None of the president’s security detail was killed or injured.

In total, 44 people have been arrested in connection with the crime, including 18 Colombians and three Haitian Americans who lived in South Florida. Arrest warrants, including Interpol red notices authorizing an individual to be detained internationally, were issued for a number of suspects, including Palacios, who is known as “Floro.” Palacios is accused of being one of the main executors of the plan leading to the president’s assassination, according to the 124-page Haitian police report obtained by the Herald.

Palacios entered Haiti on June 4, 2021, according to the police investigation and was part of the four-member Delta team that allegedly penetrated the president’s bedroom. Two of the team members were killed by Haitian police.

The police report lays out the alleged roles of many of the individuals in custody, including the Colombian mercenaries who had abruptly moved out of a boutique hotel and into the home of another key suspect, a convicted drug trafficker, four days before the killing. What the report doesn’t do is resolve many of the core mysteries surrounding the attack, including who financed it and why.

The arrest warrant for Palacios was issued almost immediately after police confirmed that they had also killed two Colombian mercenaries. Haiti police in their investigative report surmised that being “the only black Colombian on the team” enabled Palacios to easily blend in with the population, allowing him to escape.

Among those who remain on the run are a former Haitian government official in the anti-corruption unit, Joseph Felix Badio, and a former diplomat, Ashkard Pierre, and Rodolphe Jaar, a convicted drug trafficker.

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