A clearer picture emerged of the group that Haiti accuses of assassinating President Jovenel Moise, when Colombian Defense Ministry officials identified 13 suspects by name and said all were former members of the Colombian army.
Officials said two were killed, while 11 others remain in detention. They said some traveled to Haiti as early as May.
In the past, some former members of the Colombian military, who receive significant financial support and training from the US Army, served as hire guns after their service.
Colombians are attractive to those looking for military assistance, as they often have years of experience fighting leftist militias and drug dealers within their country – and are often trained by American experts.
Colombian officials condemned the attack and said they were doing everything possible to help the Haitian government in its search for the truth. General Jorge Luis Vargas, the national police chief, said Colombian officials are investigating four companies they believe have recruited people for the operation.
According to documents obtained by the New York Times, one of the suspects, Francisco Eladio Uribe, was under investigation last year by the country’s peace court for murder. Mr. Uribe was accused of involvement in a scandalفض Known in Colombia as “false positives”, Hundreds of military personnel were accused of killing civilians and said they were victims of combat in an attempt to show success in the country’s long civil war.
at Interview With Radio W, a woman who identified herself as Mr. Uribe’s wife said the two had been married for 18 years and had three children, and that he left home one day after telling her he had a “very good job opportunity.” She said her husband was investigated but was acquitted. in the military scandal.
Colombian officials said some of the accused left Bogota early in May and flew to Panama before traveling to the Dominican Republic and then on to Haiti. Others arrived in the Dominican Republic in early June, then traveled to Haiti, officials said. The two countries share a Caribbean island, Hispaniola.
General Luis Fernando Navarro said the defendants left the army between 2002 and 2018 and were involved in “mercenary activities” with “purely economic” motives.
It’s not clear if the people enlisted for the operation know the specifics of the mission assigned to them, according to John Marulanda, president of the Association of Retired Military Officials.
Paul Angelo, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies security issues, said Colombians had a history of conscription into criminal missions because their options were sometimes limited once they left the armed forces.
“Colombia is a country that has had military conscription for a very long time, which has fallen on the shoulders of the poorest men in the country,” he said. “When the economic lower class is taught how to fight, how to conduct military operations, and a few other things, these skills are not easily transferred to the civilian sector except in the private security field.”
A former Colombian army officer, who asked not to be identified, said a mercenary who traveled abroad could easily earn about $2,700 a month, compared to a military salary of about $300 a month — even for soldiers with years of combat experience.
“It’s not just Haiti, it’s Kabul, Mexico, Yemen and the Emirates,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the places the former Colombian soldiers had gone.
Sophia Villamil Edinson Bolanos contributed reporting.