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  • Police station where U.S. citizens armed with semi-automatic weapons were detained in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 18, 2019.

    Police station where U.S. citizens armed with semi-automatic weapons were detained in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 18, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 February 2019

Haitian officials offer contradictory versions about what these soldiers of fortune were trying to do. 

On Feb. 17 Haitian authorities detained five U.S. citizens, one Serbian, one Russian and one Haitian with firearms, ammunition, satellite communication equipment, drones and other military accessories in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

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This group, which was traveling in two vehicles without license plates, refused to leave those cars when the police stopped them, arguing that they were working for the President Jovenel Moise administration.

One of the detained foreigners is Kroeker Kent Leland, a former U.S. marine with "a long military, business and crisis management operations trajectory," according to the website of his own private security company.

The U.S. Department of State, which knew that U.S. citizens were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, has not issued an official statement on the case.

The arrest occurred when Port-au-Prince's streets were the scene for massive protests by Haitians, who are demanding President Moise to step out amidst a political crisis, which began on Feb. 7 and have led to the looting of businesses, violent police crackdown, 11 dead and dozens injured.

Reynold Georges, President Moise's legal advisor, denied on Thursday rumors that the eight people arrested work for the Haitian government and said they are thieves trying to assault the safe of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH).

"These are professional thieves who landed with an arsenal of highly technological weapons and electronic devices for the sole purpose of robbing the Bank," Georges told the media, although he could not explain how those people entered the island, according to the Haiti Press Network.

On the other hand, in an interview granted to a U.S. network, Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant said the detainees wanted to climb the BRH's roof to monitor his office and the parliament.

Faced with these mismatched official statements, for Haitians some important questions do not have consistent answers yet. "Who did the detainees work for? Was their real mission to kill the Prime Minister? Did the government or the opponents hire the job?," Vedeth, a local media, asked and commented that "the game of politics continues. And, in the midst of all this, people continue to fight as best they can."

So far the Haitian government's statements have failed to convince the country's social and democratic organizations against the idea that President Moise brought mercenaries to kill not only desperate people who are clamoring for their resignation but also his political opponents.

The Haitian organizations demanded that either the Minister of Justice or the Director General of the National Police provide sound explanations about the presence of these mercenaries. They argue that their suspicions about the Haitian government's ethics are based on the fact that Christian Joseph, who was mayor of Mose San-Nicolas and President Moise's right hand, was arrested on Feb. 16 for illegal drug trafficking.

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