The U.S. government extradited an ex-Colombian soldier and charged him in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. NPR reported that Mario Antonio Palacios was on a layover in Panama, on his way back to Colombia, when he was informed by Interpol that the U.S. was extraditing him. The Department of Justice announced that Palacios is being charged with “conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death, knowing or intending that such material support would be used to prepare for or carry out the conspiracy to kill or kidnap.”
President Moïse was assassinated on July 7th in an overnight raid by a group of mercenaries. While initially the motive behind the attack was unknown, the New York Times published an article explaining that Moïse had created a list of people involved in Haiti’s drug trade. The list contained the names of several top business people and politicians, including some of Moïse’s political supporters. Moïse was preparing to give the list to the American government when the raid took place.
Martine Moïse, the president’s wife, who was wounded in the raid, described the attack, noting that the mercenaries ransacked the house before they left. She explained that one of the assassins declared, “that’s it,” before fleeing. Interrogations confirmed that finding Moïse’s list was the raid’s top priority.
Forty suspects have been arrested in connection with the assassination, including a dozen ex-Colombian soldiers. The Colombian government stated that its soldiers were deceived into participating under the illusion that they were participating in a legitimate mission. Palacios told authorities the plan was to kidnap Moïse and take him away by plane. However, he expressed that on July 6th he was informed the plans had changed to assassinate Moïse.
Palacios appeared in a Florida court where he was charged by the Department of Justice. He has not yet entered a plea. However, his attorney, Alfredo Izaguirre, told CNN that Palacios would likely plead not guilty at his pretrial.
NPR wrote that Haiti’s former Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, stated that the arrest of Palacios was a “step in the right direction.” Joseph encouraged local authorities to work with American officials to extradite Palacios to face justice in Haiti.