A mastermind of the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse two years ago has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a federal court judge in Florida.
Rodolphe Jaar, a Haitian-Chilean businessman, conspired with a group of Colombian mercenaries to murder Moïse at his home in Port-au-Prince on 7 July 2021. Prosecutors at his sentencing hearing in Miami said Jaar obtained the weapons used in the “commando-style” attack that killed Moïse, 53, and seriously injured his wife.
Jaar, 50, a convicted drug trafficker and US government informant, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the US, and providing material support resulting in death.
He was among 11 people arrested and charged in the US, after his extradition from the Dominican Republic – and so far the only one to admit guilt. A trial is set to begin in Miami next month for the others, but is likely to be delayed, authorities said.
The sentence from federal judge José E Martínez was the maximum Jaar could have received. Court papers from his plea hearing stated that he provided personnel and funds to kidnap Moïse, but the plot evolved into murder.
Some of the money was used to purchase weapons and bribe members of the president’s security detail, prosecutors said.
His alleged co-conspirators are a mix of politicians, businessmen and military figures, including the former Haitian senator Joseph Joel John, Haitian-American Joseph Vincent, retired Colombian army captain Germán Rivera, and Antonio Intriago, the Venezuelan owner of a private security firm in Miami.
Colombian authorities have said that Rivera received $50,000 for helping to plot the assassination.
The US Department of Justice revealed details of the murder plan in a statement in May last year announcing the extradition of John from Jamaica.
The conspirators met several times in Haiti and Florida to finalize the operation that Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the US, told the Guardian at the time was: “an act of barbarity. It’s an attack on our democracy.”
First lady Martine Marie Étienne Moïse, who has since recovered, said in 2021 that her husband’s murderers “came to to kill his dream, his vision, his ideology” for the western hemisphere’s most impoverished nation.
Since the assassination, Haiti has descended into crisis, with violence from street gangs and vigilantes prevalent, and communities fighting back with bloody reprisals of their own.
“Faced with these increasingly violent armed gangs vying for control of neighborhoods of the capital, with limited or no police presence, some residents have begun to take matters into their own hands,” the Ecuadorian diplomat María Isabel Salvador told the UN security council in March.
“These dynamics lead unfailingly to the breakdown of social fabric with unpredictable consequences for the entire region.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report