Haiti Assassination Suspect Arrested During Stopover

Mario Palacios is now in US custody
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 4, 2022 5:27 PM CST
Haiti Assassination Suspect Is Now in American Custody
Authorities pose for a group photo in front of the portrait of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise at at the National Pantheon Museum during his memorial service in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.   (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

US authorities have taken custody of a main suspect in the killing of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, and he is scheduled to appear Tuesday in federal court in Miami. Mario Antonio Palacios was arrested in Jamaica in October and was scheduled to fly to his native Colombia on Monday. However, Interpol notified Palacios during a stopover in Panama that the US government was extraditing him, said Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, director of Colombia’s police. He said that Colombia, Jamaica, and the US were in touch to coordinate the deportation and extradition of Palacios to the US. Interpol had issued a red alert for Palacios on charges including attempted murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy based on a request from the Haitian government, the AP reports.

Marlene Rodríguez, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in South Florida, told the AP that Palacios was in US custody and would appear in federal court. She did not respond to additional questions including what charges he might face. Meanwhile, the office of Haiti’s prime minister issued a brief statement, saying only that it wanted justice to prevail in the July 7 assassination of Moïse at his private residence. The office did not reply to additional questions including whether the government was still seeking to charge Palacios or extradite him to Haiti.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the US taking custody of Palacios was a step in the right direction, but he urged local authorities to work with the US to extradite him so he can face justice in Haiti. Palacios was one of more than a dozen former Colombian soldiers accused in the slaying of Moïse. The Colombian government has said that the majority of the ex-soldiers were duped and thought they were on a legitimate mission to provide protection and that only a few knew it was a criminal mission.

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Also of note: Haiti welcomed the new year with violence as Prime Minister Ariel Henry fled the northern city of Gonaïves following a shootout between his security forces and an armed group that had warned the leader not to set foot in the city, per the AP. Local media reported that one person died and two were injured in the gunfire that forced Henry and others to duck and seek shelter as they walked out of a cathedral Saturday after attending a mass to celebrate Haiti’s independence from France. The prime minister's office said Monday that “bandits and terrorists” made an attempt on Henry's life and accused the group of hiding behind walls to attack the convoy and of threatening the bishop by surrounding the church. (More Haiti stories.)

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