Haiti crisis deepens as alleged hitman’s sister vows to clear his name

The sister of one of the alleged Colombian hitmen accused of assassinating Haiti’s president has insisted he is innocent and vowed to clear her dead brother’s name, as a potentially destabilising power struggle gripped the Caribbean country.

Duberney Capador, a retired member of Colombia’s special forces, was one of two Colombians reportedly killed by Haitian security forces last week after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince. More than a dozen citizens of the South American country have so far been arrested, as well as two Haitian Americans.

Haitian authorities claim Capador was part of a 28-member hit squad that stormed Moïse’s presidential compound in the early hours of last Wednesday before shooting him dead – a sensational narrative now coming under increasing scrutiny, both in Haiti and overseas.

Capador’s sister told journalists her 40-year-old brother was not a paid assassin but had travelled to Port-au-Prince after being hired by a private security firm to help protect “important people”. “He’s no mercenary, he’s a good man,” Jenny Capador said in an interview with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

Capador said she had exchanged messages with her brother in the hours after Moïse’s murder, which supposedly took place at around 1am on Wednesday. She said he had told her his team “had arrived too late to protect the person they were supposed to be protecting”. “I guess it was the president,” she speculated, adding that her brother had told her his group had subsequently been surrounded by police.

Speaking to CNN Capador added: “He told me they were in a house, under siege and under fire, fighting … I’m 100% sure of the innocence of my brother and his comrades.”

Haitian police said a 16th Colombian suspect was captured on Saturday and that they were continuing to hunt five other “villains” they suspected of involvement in the bizarre and brazen attack. The latest man to be arrested was named as Gersaín Mendivelso Jaimes, another former member of Colombia’s military who had served in the naval hospital in Cartagena, on the country’s Caribbean coast. El Tiempo said authorities believed Mendivelso had helped recruit the Colombian group, which travelled to Haiti via the Dominican Republic, but the exact nature of their mission remains a mystery.

A report in the Colombian magazine Semana, citing an anonymous source, suggested the former Colombian soldiers had gone to Haiti after being hired to protect Moïse, who had reputedly been receiving death threats, not murder him. Semana published extracts from a WhatsApp message sent by one of the jailed Colombians – a former army sergeant called Ángel Mario Yarce – in which he told his wife their job was to provide close protection to high-profile dignitaries.

In Haiti, questions have been raised over the role of Moïse’s personal bodyguards – none of whom were reportedly injured in the alleged raid on his hillside mansion.

On Friday, Steven Benoit, a prominent opposition politician and former senator, told the local radio station Magik9: “The president was assassinated by his own guards, not by the Colombians.”

Moïse’s murder threatens to aggravate an already desperate situation in Haiti, which was facing a political deadlock, economic turmoil, a wave of kidnappings and violence, and an accelerating Covid crisis. In the wake of the president’s assassination at least three politicians have attempted to claim leadership over the crisis-stricken nation, whose post-colonial history is a patchwork of bungled foreign interventions, vicious and corrupt dictatorships, and natural disasters such as the devastating 2010 earthquake which claimed an estimated 200,000 lives.

Haiti’s outgoing prime minister, Claude Joseph, who had been dismissed in the days leading up to Moïse’s assassination, has declared himself interim leader until planned elections in September, and been recognised by countries including the United States.

But two other politicians – senate chief Joseph Lambert, and the man Moïse had intended to install as prime minister, a neurosurgeon called Ariel Henry – have said they should be in charge.

“His way of acting could put the country in jeopardy. We could have a lot of violence,” Henry warned of Joseph’s bid to claim power in an interview with the Washington Post.

If the true identity of Moïse’s executioners remains murky, even less is known about the masterminds of the crime. In a statement posted on social media on Saturday Martine Moïse, the late president’s wife, blamed his killing on shadowy enemies with political motives whom she did not identify.

“This act has no name because you have to be a limitless criminal to assassinate a president like Jovenel Moïse, without even giving him the chance to say a single word,” she said.

“You know who the president was fighting against,” she said, without expanding further.

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