A man who allegedly participated in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has been arrested in the United States, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Mario Antonio Palacios, a 43-year-old Colombian ex-military man and the main suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, appeared in federal court in Miami on Tuesday, according to Reuters news agency.
Palacios was arrested in October in Jamaica and was scheduled to fly to Colombia on Monday, however, during a stopover in Panama Interpol notified him that the U.S. government was extraditing him and he agreed to travel there.
The accused, who admitted to having been in Haiti at the time of the attack on Moïse, allegedly evaded capture by Haitian authorities by escaping the Caribbean island by boat and entering the neighboring island of Jamaica through an informal port, Jamaican news outlet The Gleaner reported last year.
The Colombian was a member of the five-man mercenary group that entered President Moise’s room to kill him, according to reports of the assassination by the Haitian National Police. The agency said the group was known as “Team Delta.” Other members are in Haiti under custody.
Handcuffed and dressed in civilian clothes, Palacios said he did not know anyone in the U.S. and did not have the resources to pay for a lawyer, as he only had a Colombian military pension of approximately $375 per month.
In addition to being charged with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping, he is charged with “providing material support resulting in death.”
Once indicted, Palacios will be the first person allegedly involved in the July 7, 2021 assassination of 53-year-old President Moise in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince to be formally charged with the crime.
Former Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the U.S. taking Palacios into custody was a step in the right direction, but urged local authorities to work with the United States to extradite him to face justice in Haiti, according to the Associated Press.
Following Moïse’s assassination, Haitian investigators arrested 44 other suspects, including 18 Colombians and two Haitian-American dual nationals based in Haiti, who allegedly conspired to kidnap or kill the Haitian president, but none have been charged so far.
The Colombian government has said that most of the former soldiers were deceived into thinking they had a legitimate mission to provide protection and that only a few knew it was a criminal mission.