Explained: Who is Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a suspect in Haitian president’s assassination?

A Haitian man identified as Christian Emmanuel Sanon was on Sunday arrested as a suspect in the assassination of the country’s 48-year-old president Jovenel Moïse last week

When was Jovenel Moïse killed?

Moïse, who became president in 2017, was killed in his home in the country’s capital Port-au-Prince on July 7 by trained gunmen who also shot his wife and critically injured her. She is currently recovering in a Miami hospital and on Saturday she posted an audio message on Twitter announcing that she will not give up “Moïse’s fight.”

Following his assassination, an editorial in the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste said, “The President of the Republic of Haiti in office, guarded by a garrison of armed men, was the victim of violent action, without any of his faithful coming to his aid. It’s unimaginable. Huge. Unbelievable.”

“Beyond the person of President Jovenel Moïse, it is the country and the nation that find themselves plunged into an abyssal void. The institutions are at their worst, legal ties are minimal, national cohesion frayed,” it added.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere and more than 50 per cent of its population stays below the poverty line. The country was also witness to a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 250,000 people.

Other than that, Moïse’s tenure was marked by mass demonstrations due to the country’s economic performance and also corruption. Opposition leaders have also accused him of having a leadership style that borders on being dictatorial. Moïse has also tried to amend the Constitution in order to secure immunity from prosecution as president.

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After the attack, the police killed four suspects in a shootout and arrested two more. While there is no clear line of succession, following Moïse’s death, the country’s prime minister Claude Joseph is the interim president.

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Who is Christian Emmanuel Sanon? 

Sanon is a Haiti national in his 60s who lives in Florida and has identified himself as a doctor in a YouTube video from 2011 called “Leadership for Haiti”, in which he has spoken against the Haitian government and has accused them of stripping the country of its resources. “…they’re corrupt, they’re involved in the same movement that the whole world is trying to do” he said in the video and also spoke about a “new leadership” that has the capability of “changing the way of life” for Haitians.

According to the Miami Herald, Sanon’s name was mentioned by several people who are already in custody because of the assassination. “The Haiti National Police arrested him as part of their ongoing investigation into the leadership of the group of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans suspected of carrying out the assassination,” the report says.

As per The New York Times, Sanon is being painted by the Haitian national police as a key figure behind Moïse’s assassination and is also the third Haitian-born suspect with US links to be arrested.

Amid the investigation into the assassination, another angle has emerged. In February, the Haitian Director General of the Anti-Corruption Unit took up the matter of a case relating to the purchase of a $4.25 million mansion by Rony Célestin, a Haitian Senator and his wife Marie Louisa Aubain in Montreal, Canada. Célestin was considered to be close to the assassinated president and the news triggered criticism in Haiti, where the case is seen as symbolising the gap between the rich and the poor.

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