Made in Miami: A who’s who in Haiti president’s killing and how they’re interconnected

Rachel Handley/rhandley@mcclatchy.com

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It started as a plot to oust an unpopular president by kidnapping him and whisking him away when he returned from an overseas trip in mid-June 2021. The planning took root at least in part in Miami.

But after that coup attempt failed it mutated into something more sinister: an assassination.

Now investigators in at least three countries, including the United States, are sorting through a rogues’ gallery of players, trying to determine how the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, 53, was carried out on July 7, 2021.

The plot featured fake Drug Enforcement Administration agents, turncoat officers from Moïse’s own presidential security detail, grenade-dropping drones, mercenary commandos from Colombia, bags of cash spirited away in the night, and allegedly a Supreme Court justice, who went by the code name “Diamante” (Diamond) — who had been illegally removed from office by the president.

Although the justice and other key suspects remained fugitives nearly a year and a half after the deadly raid, dozens of others, including 18 Colombians and three Haitian Americans with ties to South Florida, are jailed in Haiti. Three others, who fled to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic only to be arrested and transferred to the United States, are awaiting trial in Miami federal court on charges that they conspired to kill the Haitian president.

It’s a true international whodunit.

This interactive graphic, a representation of the players and their alleged ties to each other, is based on information from Haitian police and judges’ investigative reports, interviews with lawyers and individuals close to some of the accused and other sources and records.

How we reported this

The Miami Herald, which was among the first to report the story of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, assembled this interactive graphic using source interviews, judges’ and court filings, investigative reports by the National Human Rights Defense Network and Haiti National Police, including a 124-page police report detailing how Moïse was an easy target, far more vulnerable to an attack by his own guards and a team of former Colombian soldiers than initially thought.

Acknowledgments

Contributors: Miami Herald Haiti/Caribbean Correspondent Jacqueline Charles / El Nuevo Herald/Miami Herald Reporter Antonio Maria Delgado / Investigations Editor Casey Frank / Federal Courts Reporter Jay Weaver / McClatchy Senior White House and National Security Correspondent Michael Wilner / Miami Herald Investigative Reporter Sarah Blaskey / Art directed and animated by Sohail Al-Jamea / Illustrated and storyboarded by Rachel Handley / Design and development by David Newcomb / Copy edited by Mary Behne / A special thanks to Frantz Voltaire and the Montreal-based International Center for Documentation and Information Haitian, Caribbean and African-Canadian (CIDIHCA) for archival photos of Haiti.