Soldiers guard the Dajabon border crossing between the Dominican Republic and Haiti after the borders were closed due to the assassination perpetrated by an armed group against the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, in the early hours of Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
Erika Santelices | AFP | Getty Images
The U.S. State Department confirmed on Friday that two Americans have been arrested following the brutal assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, pledging to cooperate with authorities in the Caribbean nation.
“We are aware of the arrest of two U.S. citizens in Haiti and are monitoring the situation closely,” a State Department spokesperson told CNBC. “We remain committed to cooperating with Haitian authorities on the investigation.”
The State Department declined to comment any further, citing privacy considerations, and pointed to Haitian authorities for further information.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections, identified the American suspects, who are of Haitian descent, to several news outlets on Thursday as James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55. They are among 15 suspects that Haitian police have detained so far in the shocking assassination, alongside 13 Colombians.
The search continues for at least nine people, and four others were killed by police in an exchange of gunfire, according to Haitian police. Haiti Chief of Police Leon Charles on Thursday urged the Haitian public to help authorities locate the other suspects but not to “take justice into their own hands.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed on Thursday that the United States is responding to a request from the Haitian National Police for assistance in their investigation.
A group of gunmen assassinated Moise and wounded his wife in their private residence Wednesday, plunging the Caribbean nation into an even deeper political crisis that has been fueled by gang violence and protests of the late president’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
Claude Joseph, Haiti’s interim prime minister, said the police and military were now in control of security in Haiti. Authorities declared a siege in the country following the killing and closed the international airport.
Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, has called for an international investigation into the assassination and has asked the U.S. for assistance in bolstering Haitian security.
The State Department on Thursday vehemently denied that the Drug Enforcement Administration was involved in the assassination after the attackers reportedly identified themselves as DEA agents.
Edmond has said the attackers were posing as DEA agents, describing them as “well-trained professional killers, commandos” based on a video shot from a neighbor’s house during the attack. He also noted that some spoke Spanish. Haitians speak French and Creole.
Protests against the late Haitian president turned violent in recent months as opposition leaders and their supporters demanded his resignation.
Moise had been accused of seeking to increase his power even after his term expired in February. Opposition leaders pointed to his approval of decrees limiting powers of a court that audits the government, and his creation of an intelligence agency that answers only to him.
Opposition leaders and their supporters also rejected Moise’s plans to hold a constitutional referendum with controversial proposals that would strengthen the presidency’s power.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report