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Former Colombian soldier enters guilty plea in Moïse's murder trial

Saturday, December 23rd 2023 - 09:35 UTC
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After Moise's assassination, gang violence surged in Haiti After Moise's assassination, gang violence surged in Haiti

Former Colombian soldier Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios has pleaded guilty in a US court to the July 7, 2021, assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, becoming the fifth of 11 defendants to do so in Miami.

Palacios, who was arrested while hiding in Jamaica in October 2021, admitted to three charges, including conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States, as part of a deal with prosecutors to cooperate with the investigation. He could face up to life in prison, but it was acknowledged that he played a minor role in the plot, so some leniency is expected when he is sentenced on March 1.

“He didn't know what he was getting into. He wasn't part of the plan,” his lawyer told reporters after the hearing. “He didn't recruit anybody. He didn't have any decision-making authority with respect to the conspiracy. I think the government understands that.”

According to prosecutors, the conspirators initially planned to kidnap the Haitian president but later decided to kill him. About 20 former Colombian soldiers and several dual Haitian-American citizens are believed to have been involved in the crime. To date, 3 defendants have been sentenced to life in prison while Joseph Vincent, a dual Haitian-American citizen and former confidential informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), pleaded guilty this month and awaits sentencing in February 2024.

Haitian authorities have arrested more than 40 suspects, ranging from former Colombian soldiers to high-ranking local law enforcement officials. Several judges assigned to the case have recused themselves for fear of being killed.

Earlier this week, former Haitian Senator John Joel Joseph was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to kill Moïse. The December 19 sentencing came two months after Joseph signed a plea deal in hopes of a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation. According to US media, the reduction could come months or years after the sentencing. “It turned out that the plan got overwhelmed, got out of hand,” Joseph said in Creole. “It was never my intention,” he added.

The other two people convicted in the case are Haitian-Chilean businessman Rodolphe Jaar and retired Colombian army officer Germán Alejandro Rivera García.

After Moise's assassination, gang violence surged in Haiti. Prime Minister Ariel Henry has asked for help from the United Nations Security Council, which agreed to a multinational force led by Kenya, but the deployment has been delayed.


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