Arrest in Haiti Assassination Leaves Some Baffled: ‘Nobody Ever Heard of Him’

As a sprawling multinational investigation into the assassination of Haiti’s president broadens, with suspects stretching from Colombia to Florida, the Haitian authorities have turned their focus to a little-known physician who they stated coveted the presidency.

The Haitian authorities say that President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated early on Wednesday morning by a group of maybe two dozen closely armed mercenaries recruited from overseas who rolled as much as the president’s closely guarded dwelling in a number of automobiles, gained entry after little resistance and opened hearth.

On Sunday, Haiti’s nationwide police chief, Léon Charles, was among the many authorities who forged Dr. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old physician and pastor who divided his time between Florida and Haiti, as a central determine in the plot.

But how Dr. Sanon may need managed to set such an bold plot in movement was not simply explainable on Monday.

“I never heard of this Sanon before,” stated Georges Sami Saati, 68, a Haitian American businessman who’s a outstanding determine amongst Haitian émigrés in Miami. “Nobody ever heard of him.”

Questions about Dr. Sanon’s function got here as Haiti reeled on Monday in the aftermath of the assassination, with three outstanding political figures staking claims to guide the nation. After being briefed by a group despatched to Haiti assess the outlook, President Biden on Monday urged Haitian leaders to place apart their variations.

“The people of Haiti deserve peace and security,” President Biden stated, “and Haiti’s political leaders need to come together for the good of the country.”

It isn’t just that Dr. Sanon, who was born in Haiti and studied in the Dominican Republic and the United States, was not a really outstanding determine. It was additionally laborious to see how he might have footed the invoice for the assault, given his private monetary travails. In 2013, he filed in Florida for Chapter 7 chapter.

Dr. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, in a picture taken from a video posted on social media.

Dr. Sanon holds levels not simply in medication but in addition in theology, and there are recommendations that if he did see himself taking up the presidency, he felt it was a divine calling.

Michel Plancher, a civil engineering professor at Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, stated he acquired a name out of the blue to return to fulfill Dr. Sanon in June. He was informed the physician was planning a political marketing campaign.

“He said he was sent by God,” Mr. Plancher stated in an interview Monday. “He was sent on a mission of God to replace Moïse. He said the president would be resigning soon — he didn’t say why.”

Mr. Plancher stated he had met with the physician twice in Haiti at a house he thought could have been owned by a businessman.

The first assembly, on June 1, was temporary, the second longer, he stated. It was held in an enormous room, with a Haitian flag flying and 6 to eight folks sitting round a big desk, Mr. Plancher stated.

There, he stated, Dr. Sanon outlined his political ambitions for the long-suffering nation.

“He said he will implement a Marshall Plan to run the country,” stated Mr. Plancher. “He wanted to change French as an official language, and replace it with English. He seemed a bit crazy. I didn’t want to participate anymore.”

Although Dr. Sanon is in custody in Haiti together with at the least 18 different males described as suspects — many of them Colombian navy veterans, and two U.S. residents — Haitians at dwelling and in the big diaspora have been greater than just a little skeptical in regards to the authorities’s account of what occurred, particularly amid questions on what function, if any, the president’s personal safety element may need performed.

Some of the suspects have been introduced earlier than the information media, some bloodied and bruised, however none have appeared earlier than a choose or had an opportunity to talk out.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., nobody answered the door on the Sanon dwelling. In New York, Dr. Sanon’s brother, Joseph Sanon, stated that he had not been in contact with him for a while, and that he had no thought what was happening.

“I really need to know what in the world is happening here — I need to know,” Mr. Sanon stated. “I don’t feel comfortable speaking about him until I know what’s going on. I am desperate to know what’s happening.”

Police officers standing guard below an overpass in Port-au-Prince on Monday.Credit…Fernando Llano/Associated Press

American officers say U.S. investigators had been serving to the Haitian authorities because it tried to unravel the plot. The American delegation despatched there included representatives from the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the National Security Council.

They appeared to have come dwelling with extra questions than solutions about who’s in cost in Haiti.

“What was clear from their trip is that there is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,” the White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, stated at a information convention on Monday.

Not solely is Haiti’s presidency vacant after the assassination, it additionally has two rival prime ministers and a Parliament that’s not functioning. Three males have come ahead to stake a declare to management of the nation, which was already rife with gang violence and hobbled by poverty.

The U.S. delegation met collectively Sunday with each the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, and with Ariel Henry, the person Mr. Moïse named to succeed Mr. Joseph as prime minister solely days earlier than he was assassinated. A 3rd aspirant to energy, the Senate president, Joseph Lambert, was additionally on the assembly.

Ms. Psaki stated the White House was nonetheless reviewing Haiti’s request that it ship troops to assist stabilize the county. “But as of right now,” she stated, “the U.S. has not committed to having any sort of presence on the ground.”

Dr. Sanon was born in 1958 in Marigot, a metropolis on Haiti’s southern coast, and graduated from the Eugenio María de Hostos University in the Dominican Republic and the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., in response to the Florida Baptist Historical Society.

According to public data, Dr. Sanon can be licensed to follow each typical medication as properly osteopathic medication, an space in which medical doctors generally present therapies like spinal manipulation or therapeutic massage as half of their remedy.

Dr. Ludner Confident, a Haitian-born anesthesiologist who practices medication in Florida, stated he acquired to know Dr. Sanon whereas each had been working for the Rome Organization, a nonprofit support group in Haiti, in the years earlier than an earthquake devastated the nation in 2010. The quake destroyed Dr. Sanon’s clinic, in response to a 2010 article in the Baylor Line, a campus journal at Baylor University in Texas.

“He is a pastor,” Dr. Confident stated about Dr. Sanon. “He’s a man of God, wanting to do things for Haiti.”

Still, Dr. Confident stated he had not spoken with Dr. Sanon for years. And, he stated, “When it comes to politics, I don’t have any information about his political agenda.”

At least a decade in the past, there have been indicators that Dr. Sanon did harbor some grand ambitions.

A YouTube video recorded in 2011 titled “Dr. Christian Sanon — Leadership for Haiti” seems to current Dr. Sanon denouncing Haitian leaders as corrupt and providing himself as a possible chief of the nation.

A good friend of Dr. Sanon’s, a former airline pilot named Steven Bross who met him when he moved to Florida, stated he cared deeply about making Haiti a greater place to stay.

“He was always trying to figure out ways to make Haiti more self-sufficient,” Mr. Bross stated.

But political aspirations? That appeared unlikely, he stated.

“He liked being behind the scenes,” Mr. Bross stated.

Reporting was contributed by Frances Robles, Julie Turkewitz, Julian E. Barnes, Jane Smith and Elizabeth Djinis