MIAMI — With her elbow shattered by gunfire and her mouth full of blood, the first lady of Haiti lay on the floor beside her bed, unable to breathe, as the assassins stormed the room.
“The only thing that I saw before they killed him were their boots,” Martine Moïse said of the moment her husband, President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, was shot dead beside her. “Then I closed my eyes, and I didn’t see anything else.”
She listened as they ransacked the room, searching methodically for something in her husband’s files, she said. “‘That’s not it. That’s not it,’” she recalled them saying in Spanish, over and over. Then finally: “‘That’s it.’”
The killers filed out. One stepped on her feet. Another waved a flashlight in her eyes, apparently to check to see if she was still alive.
retired Colombian commandos, a former judge, a security equipment salesman, a mortgage and insurance broker in Florida, and two commanders of the president’s security team. According to the Haitian police, the elaborate plot revolves around a 63-year-old doctor and pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who officials say conspired to hire the Colombian mercenaries to kill the president and seize political power.
But critics of the government’s explanation say that none of the people named in the investigation had the means to finance the plot on their own. And Mrs. Moïse, like many Haitians, believes there must have been a mastermind behind them, giving the orders and supplying the money.
were being hollowed out.
Mr. Moïse was also locked in battle with some of the nation’s wealthy oligarchs, including the family that controlled the nation’s electrical grid. While many people described the president as an autocratic leader, Mrs. Moïse said her fellow citizens should remember him as a man who stood up to the rich and powerful.
And now she wants to know if one of them had him killed.
“Only the oligarchs and the system could kill him,” she said.
Dressed in black, with her arm — now limp and perhaps useless forever, she said — wrapped in a sling and bandages, Mrs. Moïse offered an interview in South Florida on the agreement that The New York Times not reveal her whereabouts. Flanked by her children, security guards, Haitian diplomats and other advisers, she barely spoke above a whisper.
She and her husband had been asleep when the sounds of gunfire jolted them to their feet, she recalled. Mrs. Moïse said she ran to wake her two children, both in their early 20s, and urged them to hide in a bathroom, the only room without windows. They huddled there with their dog.
Her husband grabbed his telephone and called for help. “I asked, ‘Honey, who did you phone?’” she said.
“He said, ‘I found Dimitri Hérard; I found Jean Laguel Civil,’” she said, reciting the names of two top officials in charge of presidential security. “And they told me that they are coming.”
But the assassins entered the house swiftly, seemingly unencumbered, she said. Mr. Moïse told his wife to lie down on the floor so she would not get hurt.
“‘That’s where I think you will be safe,’” she recalled him saying.
It was the last thing he told her.
A burst of gunfire came through the room, she said, hitting her first. Struck in the hand and the elbow, she lay still on the floor, convinced that she, and everyone else in her family, had been killed.
None of the assassins spoke Creole or French, she said. The men spoke only Spanish, and communicated with someone on the phone as they searched the room. They seemed to find what they wanted on a shelf where her husband kept his files.
“They were looking for something in the room, and they found it,” Mrs. Moïse said.
She said she did not know what it was.
“At this moment, I felt that I was suffocating because there was blood in my mouth and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “In my mind, everybody was dead, because if the president could die, everybody else could have died too.”
The men her husband had called for help, she said — the officials entrusted with his security — are now in Haitian custody.
The Assassination of Haiti’s President
And while she expressed satisfaction that a number of the accused conspirators have been detained, she is by no means satisfied. Mrs. Moïse wants international law enforcement agencies like the F.B.I., which searched homes in Florida this week as part of the investigation, to track the money that financed the killing. The Colombian mercenaries who were arrested, she said, did not come to Haiti to “play hide and seek,” and she wants to know who paid for it all.
In a statement on Friday, the F.B.I. said it “remains committed to working alongside our international partners to administer justice.”
Mrs. Moïse expected the money to trace back to wealthy oligarchs in Haiti, whose livelihoods were disrupted by her husband’s attacks on their lucrative contracts, she said.
Mrs. Moïse cited a powerful Haitian businessman who has wanted to run for president, Reginald Boulos, as someone who had something to gain from her husband’s death, though she stopped short of accusing him of ordering the assassination.
Mr. Boulos and his businesses have been at the center of a barrage of legal cases brought by the Haitian government, which is investigating allegations of a preferential loan obtained from the state pension fund. Mr. Boulos’ bank accounts were frozen before Mr. Moïse’s death, and they were released to him immediately after he died, Mrs. Moïse said.
In an interview, Mr. Boulos said that only his personal accounts, with less than $30,000, had been blocked, and he stressed that a judge had ordered the release of the money this week, after he took the Haitian government to court. He insisted that, far from being involved in the killing, his political career was actually better off with Mr. Moïse alive — because denouncing the president was such a pivotal part of Mr. Boulos’s platform.
“I had absolutely, absolutely, absolutely nothing to do with his murder, even in dreams,” Mr. Boulos said. “I support a strong, independent international investigation to find who came up with the idea, who financed it and who executed it.”
Mrs. Moïse said she wants the killers to know she is not scared of them.
“I would like people who did this to be caught, otherwise they will kill every single president who takes power,” she said. “They did it once. They will do it again.”
She said she is seriously considering a run for the presidency, once she undergoes more surgeries on her wounded arm. She has already had two surgeries, and doctors now plan to implant nerves from her feet in her arm, she said. She may never regain use of her right arm, she said, and can move only two fingers.
“President Jovenel had a vision,” she said, “and we Haitians are not going to let that die.”
Anatoly Kurmanaev and Harold Isaac contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince.
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CAP-HAÏTIEN, Haiti — Heckled by protesters and surrounded by phalanxes of heavily armed guards, foreign diplomats and Haitian politicians attended the funeral of Haiti’s assassinated president on Friday, a tense event that laid bare a fractured nation’s problems instead of providing an opportunity for healing.
Less than a half-hour into the funeral, foreign dignitaries including an American delegation led by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, departed over safety concerns set off by gunshots fired outside the event. White House officials said that the delegation members were safe and that they had flown back to the United States, cutting the trip short.
questioned and taken into custody.
Trou-du-Nord, and later began his entrepreneurial career from Port-de-Paix, where he became president of the Chamber of Commerce.
That he was killed far away in Port-au-Prince inflamed old divisions between the less developed north and the country’s capital and economic center. It also deepened the rifts between the country’s small elite — historically stemming from the descendants of lighter-skinned Blacks who were free before the revolution — and its destitute majority.
“It comes back incessantly in all the history of Haiti,” said Emile Eyma Jr., a historian based in Cap-Haïtien, speaking of the resentment felt by northerners.
“What is dangerous is that both the question of color and the question of regionalism are weaponized for purely political reasons,” he said, distracting from the country’s fundamental problems of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
Harold Isaac, Zachary Montague and Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.
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The risk of allowing decisions to be guided by foreign powers, he said, was further unrest. Most political parties in the country won’t accept this decision, Mr. Lambert said, and “Haiti will continue on this spiral of instability.”
The Core Group was set up in 2004 after a coup, as part of the U.N. stabilization mission, said Jake Johnston, a research associate for the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. Since then, he said, it has become a “de facto fourth branch of government.”
The Core Group’s role in the reshuffling of Haiti’s government came as slap in the face to the Commission, a gathering of civil society groups and political parties with more than 150 members who held marathon meetings over the weekend to publicly work out the kind of transitional government they wanted.
The scene was one of participatory democracy, with debates and votes on propositions including how long the transitional government should last and what form it should take.
Mr. Jean-Baptiste, a participant, said that Mr. Joseph’s resignation on Monday made little difference to him, pointing out that Mr. Joseph and Mr. Henry, like Mr. Moïse, came from the same political party, the ruling Bald Head party, or P.H.T.K.
“We can’t accept that P.H.T.K. will continue to lead the country,” Mr. Jean-Baptiste said on Monday, “with the gangs, with the massacres, with the looting of state coffers. It’s not possible. We want to finish with the regime of Jovenel Moïse.”
Harold Isaac contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.
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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Several of the central figures under investigation by the Haitian authorities in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse gathered in the months before the killing to discuss rebuilding the troubled nation once the president was out of power, according to the Haitian police, Colombian intelligence officers and participants in the discussions.
The meetings, conducted in Florida and the Dominican Republic over the last year, appear to connect a seemingly disparate collection of suspects in the investigation, linking a 63-year-old doctor and pastor, a security equipment salesman, and a mortgage and insurance broker in Florida.
All have been identified by the Haitian authorities as prominent players in a sprawling plot to kill the president with the help of more than 20 former Colombian commandos and seize political power in the aftermath. It is unclear how the people under investigation could have accomplished that, or what powerful backers they may have had to make it possible.
But interviews with more than a dozen people involved with the men show that the suspects had been working together for months, portraying themselves in grandiose and often exaggerated terms as well-financed, well-connected power brokers ready to lead a new Haiti with influential American support behind them.
Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a doctor and pastor who divided his time between Florida and Haiti, conspired with the others to take the reins of the country once Mr. Moïse was killed. During a raid of Mr. Sanon’s residence, they say, the police found six holsters, about 20 boxes of bullets and a D.E.A. cap — suggesting that it linked him to the killing because the team of hit men who struck Mr. Moïse’s home posed as agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Mr. Sanon is now in custody.
Haitian officials are investigating whether the president’s own protection force took part in the plot as well, and on Thursday they detained the head of palace security for Mr. Moïse. Colombian officials say the palace security chief made frequent stopovers in Colombia on his way to other countries in the months before the assassination.
The Haitian authorities offered little explanation as to how Mr. Sanon — who did not hold elected office — planned to take over once the president was killed. It was also difficult to understand how he might have financed a team of Colombian mercenaries, some of whom received American military training when they were members of their nation’s armed forces, to carry out such an ambitious assault, given that he filed in Florida for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 2013.
But the interviews show that several of the key suspects met to discuss Haiti’s future government once Mr. Moïse was no longer in power — with Mr. Sanon becoming the country’s new prime minister.
“The idea was to prepare for that eventuality,” said Parnell Duverger, a retired adjunct economics professor at Broward College in Florida, who attended about 10 meetings on Zoom and in person with Mr. Sanon and other experts to discuss Haiti’s future government.
street protests demanding his removal — would eventually have no choice but to step down. Mr. Duverger, 70, described the meetings as cabinet-style sessions intended to help Mr. Sanon form a potential transition government once that happened.
that hired the former Colombian commandos and brought them to Haiti.
The other was Walter Veintemilla, who leads a small financial services company in Miramar, Fla., called Worldwide Capital Lending Group. On Wednesday, the Haitian authorities accused him of helping to finance the assassination plot.
Mr. Intriago arrived in Haiti, he and Mr. Veintemilla met in the neighboring Dominican Republic with Mr. Sanon.
On Wednesday, Haitian and Colombian officials said that a photograph showed the three men at the meeting with another central suspect in the investigation: James Solages, a Haitian American resident of South Florida who was detained by the Haitian authorities shortly after the assassination.
It is unclear whether any of the discussions crossed into a nefarious plot that led to the death of Mr. Moïse. The Haitian police have provided little concrete evidence, and American and Colombian officials familiar with the investigation said their officers in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, had been unable to interview most of the detained suspects as of Wednesday morning, forcing them to rely on the accounts of the Haitian authorities.
Another participant in one of the meetings with Mr. Sanon also said there was never any hint of a plot to kill the president.
websites, which claim to offer generic financial services such as mortgages and insurance, do not mention any notable deals.
And the owner of the company that hired the Colombian commandos, Mr. Intriago, has a history of debts, evictions and bankruptcies. Several relatives of the Colombian soldiers said they had never received their promised wages.
After the assassination, 18 of the Colombian soldiers were detained by the Haitian authorities and accused of participating in the killing. Another three Colombians, including the recruiter, Mr. Capador, were killed in the hours after the president’s death.
On Thursday, the Colombian police said Mr. Capador and a retired Colombian captain, German Alejandro Rivera, had conspired with the Haitian suspects as early as May to arrest Haiti’s president, providing the first indication of at least some of the veterans’ complicity in the plot.
It remained unclear how the plot turned into murder, but the Colombian authorities said seven Colombian commandos had entered the presidential residence on the night of the attack, while the rest guarded the area.
“What happened there?” said the wife of one of the detained former soldiers, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of concern for her safety. “How does this end?”
Reporting was contributed by Mirelis Morales from Miramar, Fla.; Sofía Villamil from Bogotá, Colombia; Edinson Bolaños from Villavicencio, Colombia; Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington; and Catherine Porter.
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Mr. Célestin said he also had a radio station called Model FM, which he started in a rural region but which grew to the point that he installed it in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital. The station does have a small, discreet office in the suburb of Petionville, with no signs. On the two occasions when The Times visited, the office was closed, or a single person was there who could provide no information about the station — not even an advertising rate sheet.
Mr. Célestin said he also owned a gas company called PetroGaz-Haiti, but by his own description, it appeared to violate legal prohibitions against profiting from state funds. While politicians are permitted to own businesses, the Constitution forbids them from having contracts with the state, which Mr. Célestin said he had had for four years through the company.
With outrage brewing, the Haitian government’s Anti-Corruption Unit launched an investigation into the purchase of the Célestin home in Canada in February. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the national police force, said it could not disclose whether it was also investigating the transaction. But under Canadian regulations, the purchase should have raised a red flag, said Garry Clement, the former head of an R.C.M.P. unit that investigates money laundering.
As a senator, Mr. Célestin is considered a “politically exposed person” under Canadian money-laundering regulations, which means financial institutions are required to perform due diligence to determine the source of any transferred funds greater than $100,000. These rules would also apply to Mrs. Célestin as the wife of a “P.E.P.,” Mr. Clement explained.
Mr. Célestin said everything about the purchase was above board. “If I wasn’t clean, I would have had a lot of trouble with the banks in Miami,” he added, saying that he routinely transferred between $20 million and $30 million to Turkey to buy iron for what he described as one of his import businesses. “I would be scared if my money wasn’t clean.”
But Mr. Célestin and his lawyer in Montreal, Alexandre Bergevin, declined to answer follow-up questions or provide the names of his import company or his farm. His wife, a counselor at the Haitian consulate in Montreal since 2019, did not respond to a request for comment.
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