US authorities make arrest in assassination of Haitian prime minister

U.S. authorities arrested a Colombian man and charged him in connection to the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse last year.

Department of Homeland Security agents arrested Mario Antonio Palacios, known as “Floro,” on Tuesday in Miami and have scheduled an initial court appearance for him later in the day, the Department of Justice said in a press release.

Palacios, a former member of the Colombian military, will be the first person tried in a U.S. court for alleged involvement in the assassination of Moïse on July 7. He is alleged to have entered the house of the former president in Port-au-Prince where he was shot and killed, according to the DOJ.

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The 43-year-old is charged with "conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death, knowing or intending that such material support would be used to prepare for or carry out the conspiracy to kill or kidnap."

If convicted, Palacios faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The Justice Department’s National Security Division is working with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida and the FBI's Miami field office on the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Goldbarg and Walter Norkin are working with the National Security Division to prosecute the case.

Palacios is accused of being one of the people in charge of the summer assassination plot, executed by a mercenary hit team of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans who shot and killed Moïse inside his home, the Miami Herald reported, citing Haitian police reports.

Jamaican police arrested Palacios in October on an immigration violation. He was in the process of being deported to Colombia when U.S. officials intercepted him during a stopover in Panama.

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Haiti arrested more than 40 people in connection with Moïse's death, including 18 former Colombian soldiers, the head of the former president's security team and a Florida doctor accused of plotting the murder through a private security company.

The DOJ announced another co-conspirator, a dual Haitian-American citizen, is being detained in Haiti in connection with the assassination plot.

It's still unclear who orchestrated the assassination and why. Following Moïse's assassination, Haiti collapsed into unrest that was compounded by an earthquake in August.

Updated at 4:12 p.m.