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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

US arrests three Americans in the assassination of Haiti’s president

By Maria Abi-Habib and Natalie Kitroeff

Federal agents Tuesday arrested the owners of a South Florida security company with ties to the assassination of Haiti’s former president, according to one of their lawyers, the latest step in an investigation that has implicated several U.S. citizens.

The suspects, Antonio Intriago, a Venezuelan American businessperson, and Arcángel Pretel Ortiz, a Colombian American citizen, were detained in South Florida and were expected to appear in court later Tuesday, a lawyer for Intriago said.

Their company, CTU Security, based in Doral, Florida, recruited some 20 former Colombian soldiers who helped storm the home of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse the night of his assassination in July 2021. Lawyers for Intriago previously admitted that CTU recruited the men.

“I can confirm that Intriago was arrested this morning and has been in Miami for the course of the investigation,” said Joseph Tesmond, Intriago’s lawyer. “He intends to enter a not guilty plea at his bond hearing this afternoon.”

Tesmond also confirmed the arrests of Pretel and a third suspect: Walter Veintemilla, a U.S. citizen and financier living in Florida, who lent $172,000 to CTU Security to finance their operations in Haiti, according to Haitian authorities.

On July 7, 2021, assailants entered Moïse’s home outside Port-au-Prince and shot him 12 times, leaving him dead and wounding his wife. The murder accelerated Haiti’s spiral into unchecked violence, as gangs stepped in to fill the power vacuum and now control most of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.

While about two dozen suspects have been arrested in Haiti and Miami, authorities in both countries have struggled to identify the plot’s masterminds. There were no immediate details on the charges against the three men arrested Tuesday.

Intriago released a statement shortly after Moïse’s murder saying he was unaware of the plans to assassinate the former president. Initially, he said, the plan was to arrest Moïse and force him to step down, replacing him with a Haitian American pastor named Christian Emmanuel Sanon.

CTU Security recruited the Colombian mercenaries and looked for funding from Veintemilla to finance the operation to arrest Moïse. The firm hoped to provide security for infrastructure projects in Haiti that Sanon intended to undertake once he became president of the country.

But just a few weeks before the assassination, the plan changed, and Sanon was no longer seen as a viable candidate to lead the country. The plot morphed from a plan to arrest Moïse to assassinating him, according to the Justice Department.

The South Florida security firm is also accused in another plot to assassinate a political figure, President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora of Bolivia, about a year before Moïse’s murder.

Representatives from the security firm — including Pretel — traveled to Bolivia in October 2020 and allegedly plotted with the defense minister to assassinate Arce and prevent him from winning the election, according to the Bolivian government.

In the United States, the Justice Department has so far charged seven suspects in connection with Moïse’s assassination, including four last month.

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