Haiti: Retired soldier claims 26 Colombians accused of assassination were in fact hired to protect president

Matias Gutierrez, 45, told CNN he was contacted in early June by another veteran named Mendivelso Gersain, who put him in touch with another man – the retired sergeant. Duberney Capador – recruiting a group of private security agents to travel to Haiti.

Capador told the men he worked for a US-based company and created a WhatsApp group to coordinate recruiting efforts, Gutierrez said. The logo of the Florida-based CTU Security company was added as an icon for the WhatsApp group, which Gutierrez said at one point numbered more than 250 people.

“They only mentioned a US-based company and private security work in Haiti. Security for the president of Haiti, who would be threatened with death,” Gutierrez told CNN.

Colombian police had previously appointed CTU Security as recruiter for the operation in Haiti, but their Haitian counterparts believe that an American of Haitian origin, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, had hired CTU to recruit the 26 Colombians, calling them mercenaries. as well as two Haitians. Americans.

Asked about the 26 Colombians and two other Haitian-Americans suspected in the investigation, Sanon stressed that “he does not know anything at all”, according to a source close to the investigation, who cannot be named because they are not authorized to discuss the matter. “He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. That’s what he has said since the day the authorities questioned him,” the source said.

CTU Security is headquartered in the Miami area and is headed by a Venezuelan, Antonio “Tony” Intriago.

CNN has made several attempts to contact CTU security since Saturday and could not identify Intriago’s contact details. Colombian police say they are working with Interpol to provide information on Intriago.

Colombian police also claimed on Monday that the plane tickets of 19 Colombian men were paid for with a credit card linked to a Miami-based company.

About a month after the first recruiting approach, according to Gutierrez, Moise was killed in his private residence in the early hours of July 7. Capador was shot dead in an operation by Haitian police shortly after, the same day, and Gersain remains detained as one of 20 Colombians captured after the assassination.

Gutierrez told CNN that he had been in contact with Colombian guards recruited several times while they were in Haiti. They told him the job was to complete the Haitian presidential guard.

“They weren’t working in the inner circle,” Gutierrez said. “A country would never put the security of a president in the hands of a foreigner. The inner circle is always a group of presidential guards or secret services in civilian clothes. Our group was in uniform and worked in support of the inner circle. “

According to Colombian police, Capador traveled to Port-au-Prince on May 10 with another Colombian, retired captain German Rivera. A group of 11 retired Colombian soldiers followed them on June 4. It is not known when Gersain arrived in Haiti.

At the end of May, Dimitri Herard, the Haitian head of the General Security Unit at the presidential palace, also traveled to Ecuador via Bogota, according to the Colombian national police. The force said on July 12 that it was investigating whether Herard, while in Colombia, encountered any of the Colombian nationals allegedly involved in the assassination.

Herard is currently subject to disciplinary action in Haiti and was due to appear in court on Wednesday, but he missed his appearance, citing “a precautionary measure ordered by the Inspector General of the Haitian Police,” according to a letter from Herard that CNN has seen.

Gutierrez questions Colombian involvement

Gutierrez, who works as a security guard for an oil company in Bogota, says he was drawn to the job by the good salary and the ability to travel: “In Colombia, any job would earn you some three hundred dollars. , while this offer was for $ 2,700 per month, including food and lodging. I know people who are currently working in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, people in Kabul or Yemen, or even in Syria. It was a job posting similar to those. “

Gutierrez told CNN he is part of a large network of retired special forces and commandos who work as private security at home and abroad. Colombian veterans are highly sought after by private security companies because of their combat experience gained during a sustained war between the Colombian state, left-wing guerrillas and paramilitary groups.

Capador’s sister told CNN her brother was also looking for better pay overseas, saying he struggled to cope with the state pension he was receiving after 20 years of military service. Colombian.

Gutierrez, along with several relatives of other Colombians who visited Haiti, told CNN that the charges against the men did not match.

“It was quite a plot. How can you have this type of assassination and not have a single death besides the President himself? If my comrades had done the job, they should have entered the residence and killed the guards before killing the President. You would have seen a fight scene, “Gutierrez said.

Capador’s sister also told CNN that she spoke with her brother on the morning of the day the president was assassinated and that he told her that they had arrived too late and could not save the target they had been hired to protect.

She said she last heard from her brother on the afternoon of July 7, when he told her he was negotiating the surrender of the Colombians to the Haitian police, Capador told CNN, a claim that CNN was not able to independently verify.

After the news from Haiti was announced, everything calmed down on the WhatsApp group created to coordinate the recruitment effort, says Gutierrez.

“Our group was called ‘First Flight’. They made other groups because there were over 250 people in that group, and they couldn’t add more. Then everyone left. has less than 50 people now. “

Gutierrez said he believed the fact that there were so many people on the WhatsApp group suggested there was nothing wrong with the operation.

“You don’t do this if you need to kill someone,” he said.

“I did these operations when I was in the army, and they would send a commando to kill a guerrilla leader or something like that. You are never more than eight people. Eight is the maximum, because otherwise too many people are making the operation more difficult. This time they were adding more and more people. “

His thoughts, he says, are with the families of the detained guards: “They didn’t even get their first salary, they had just arrived. Now it has happened, and the Colombians are likely to be charged. Who knows when they’ll see them again. “

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