Some Colombian nationals arrested for suspected involvement in the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moise this month received U.S. government-funded military training, Voice of America (VOA) reported on Friday.
A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to VOA in a statement on Thursday that an unspecified number of Colombian nationals “detained by the Haitian National police in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moise took part in ‘U.S. military training and education programs.'”
Haiti National Police have so far arrested 18 Colombian suspects as part of an investigation into President Moise’s assassination at his private residence in Port-au-Prince on July 7.
“A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past U.S. military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian Military Forces,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman said in a statement issued July 15.
“Our review is ongoing, so we do not have additional details at this time,” he added.
Hoffman said the Colombian nationals received “training that emphasizes and promotes respect for human rights, compliance with the rule of law, and militaries subordinate to democratically elected civilian leadership.”
Colombia was the first Latin American state to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a “global partner” in 2017, due in part to Bogotá’s prominent position as a strategic regional ally for Washington. Colombia has received “billions of dollars in U.S. aid since 2000, most of which has gone to its military and police forces to roll back [leftist] guerrillas that years ago controlled swaths of territory,” the Wall Street Journal reported on July 15.
“Colombian army intelligence working with U.S. equipment, training and other assistance has been key in operations that neutralized drug traffickers,” according to the U.S.-based newspaper.
“[The U.S.] Congress has appropriated more than $12 billion dollars in aid to Colombia through funds mainly from the [U.S.] Defense and State Departments,” CBS News reported on Thursday, citing data from the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
Washington has sent teams from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Haiti in recent days to support the Haitian National Police as it continues to probe President Moise’s assassination. Haitian security officials found Moise dead at his home in Haiti’s national capital on July 7. The president had been shot 12 times and one of his eyes was reportedly gouged out when authorities recovered his body.
Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, said Moise’s gruesome murder “was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers — well-orchestrated,” adding that the alleged hit squad “were masquerading as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA],” according to the Associated Press (AP). The DEA maintains an office in Port-au-Prince to assist the Haitian government with its counternarcotics programs, according to Haiti’s U.S. Embassy.