July 13 (UPI) — The United States is considering requests from Haiti to send troops to the nation that was thrown into political chaos after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated last week, the White House said Monday.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters during a regular press briefing that President Joe Biden is reviewing the possibility of sending troops to Haiti after the government requested security and investigative assistance.
“It’s still under review,” she said.
John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, confirmed to reporters during the Department of Defense’s regular briefing later Monday that they were aware of the request and were “carefully” reviewing it.
“We’re reviewing it just like we would review any request for U.S. military assistance,” he said. “If and when there is a decision to be able to speak to you about that we’ll certainly do it.”
A delegation of officials from the National Security Council and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security though mostly from the FBI were dispatched to the Hispaniola Island nation Sunday in response to the embattled government’s request for assistance.
They returned Monday after viewing the security situation and meeting with government officials and the Haitian National Police, which is leading the investigation into Moise’s assassination, after committing to support the government as it seeks justice, a readout from the White House said.
Later Monday, the Justice Department confirmed it would assist with the criminal probe and in particular investigate “whether there were any violations of U.S. criminal law in connection with this matter.”
“An initial assessment has been conducted in Haiti by senior U.S. officials,” Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement. “The department will continue to support the Haitian government in its review of the facts and circumstances surrounding this heinous attack.”
Psaki said the delegation briefed Biden Monday morning, telling him what is known about the situation in Haiti is that its future remains murky.
“What was clear from their trip is that there is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,” she said. “That’s an important step that the people of Haiti, the different governing leaders of Haiti, need to work together to determine a united path forward.”
“We will remain deeply engaged, as we have been for months prior to the assassination, with individuals in Haiti to provide assistance moving forward,” she said.
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, explained during his department’s separate briefing that they believe focus of assistance to Haiti should be on “navigating” the assassination investigation to determine who is culpable.
Moise was assassinated Wednesday at his home by a group of at least 28 people, mostly Colombian, including three men tied to the United States.
Haiti National Police Chief Leon Charles named Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old Haitian-born doctor, as a “central” suspect during a press conference on Sunday, stating he arrived to the nation in June upon a private jet and hired operatives through a Venezuelan security firm to kill the president.
Five Colombians remain at large, he said.
Several people have been arrested, including Haitian Americans Joseph Vincent, 55, and James Solages, 35.
Price said they are aware of three U.S. citizens having been detained but privacy precludes him from saying anymore about them.
In a statement emailed late Monday to UPI, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson confirmed at least one of the men arrested in the assassination plot has been a confidential source for the department.
“At times, one of the suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise was a confidential source to the DEA,” the statement said. “Following the assassination of President Moise, the suspect reached out to his contacts at the DEA.”
A DEA official assigned to Haiti, the spokesperson said, urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities while the administration and the State Department provided information to the Haitian government “that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual.”
The spokesperson said the DEA is aware of reports that those involved in the assassination plot yelled “DEA” during the attack.
“These individuals were not acting on behalf of DEA,” the person said.