“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

A former DEA informant was sentenced to life in prison and another man pleaded guilty on Friday in a US court case over the 2021 assassination of Haiti’s last president, Jovenel Moise.
The two are among 11 defendants accused of participating in a plot to replace Moise by sending a team of Colombian mercenaries to kill him in his Port-au-Prince residence. Of four who have so far been sentenced in Miami, Florida, all have received life.

Joseph Vincent

The ex-informant, Haitian-American Joseph Vincent had pleaded guilty to helping the plot by providing political advice and meetings with community leaders. According to a court document, he had masqueraded as a US government official.

The same day, Florida resident Frederick Joseph Bergmann Jr. also pleaded guilty to charges in the case, including submitting false or misleading export information.
Bergmann Jr. was arrested alongside three other Floridians a year ago, at which time U.S. authorities said he had helped fund the mercenaries’ Haiti lodgings and helped ship bulletproof vests to Haiti by falsifying export documents.

They had said he could face up to 20 years in prison. Also indicted in the plot were Haitian-Americans James Solages and Christian Emmanuel Sanon and Colombian citizen Germán Rivera García.

According to court documents, two months before Moïse was killed, Joseph Vincent texted Solages a video of a cat “reacting alertly” to the sound of gunfire. Solages laughed, prompting Vincent to respond: “That’s the way Jovenel will be pretty much, but (sooner) if you guys really up to it!” Solages responded that “(this) cat will never come back,” and “trust me, brother, we definitely working on our final decision,” the documents stated.

Some 20 former Colombian soldiers were recruited to supposedly help arrest the President and protect former Haitian Senator Sanon, who envisioned himself as Haiti’s new leader. Rivera was in charge of that group, according to the documents that are part of the case in South Florida. Investigators allege the plotters had hoped to win contracts under Moïse’s successor.

Authorities said the plan was to detain Moïse and whisk him to an unidentified location by plane, but that plot fell through when the suspects couldn’t find a plane or sufficient weapons.

A day before the killing, Solages falsely told other suspects that it was a CIA operation and that the mission was to kill the president, according to the documents. Shortly before the killing, authorities said, Solages allegedly shouted that it was a DEA operation to ensure compliance from the president’s security detail.

Moise was shot down in his bedroom during the night-time raid. His death has left a political vacuum during which alliances of violent gangs have expanded their territories and are now estimated to control most of the capital.

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

About a year after the killing, U.S. authorities say they interviewed Solages, Vincent, and Rivera while they were in Haitian custody and that they agreed to talk.

In the years since Moise’s death, violent gangs armed with guns believed to be largely trafficked from the US, have massively grown their power, their turf wars driving a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Earlier on Friday, the United Nations said January was Haiti’s most violent month in over two years, with more than 1,100 people killed, injured or kidnapped.

Anti-government protests broke out in the days leading up to Feb. 7, the day by which Henry had promised to step down, though he later backtracked saying security must be re-established for free and fair elections.
A separate investigation is being carried out in Haiti, with the judge calling to interview figures such as Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Moise’s de facto but unelected successor, and his widow Martine Moise.

Haiti’s last elections took place in 2016 and its last senators’ terms expired in January last year.

Source Reuters, AP News