A former Colombian soldier pleaded guilty in a U.S. court on Friday to charges related to his accused role in the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
Prosecutors had said Mario Palacios was part of a squad of Colombian contractors who broke into Moise’s home, where he was killed. Palacios had originally pleaded not guilty in the case.
Palacios was, according to his proffer statement, hired alongside other Colombian ex-military personnel by Florida-based security firm CTU to “provide security” for an individual who was to become Haiti’s next president.
Lawyers for firm’s owner Antonio Intriago, another of the 11 defendants on the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Once in the country, Palacios said he began training to kidnap someone from a fortified building, and before the start of the operation on July 7, 2021, he was told Moise would die, according to the statement.
Palacios is the fifth to plead guilty in this case, with three so far being sentenced to life in prison. Palacios is set to be sentenced on March 1.
The defendants include a Florida pastor, a former Haitian senator, an ex-informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and businessmen accused of supplying the funds and weapons for the attack.
Palacios said he took no part in planning the operation and served as “line soldier,” taking orders from other Colombians including German Rivera, sentenced to life in prison.
After President Moise was killed, Palacios said, he and other Colombian contractors took money and jewelry from his residence.
Moise’s death left a destabilizing power vacuum, since which extremely violent armed gangs have grown their territory, spurring a humanitarian crisis. Haiti’s unelected government has pledged long-awaited elections once security is re-established.