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Colombian ex-soldier pleads guilty in plot to kill Haitian president

Haiti holds funeral for assassinated President Jovenel Moise in Cap-Haitien

By Sarah Morland

(Reuters) - A retired Colombian army officer pleaded guilty in a U.S. court on Thursday to conspiring and supporting a plot to kill Haitian President Jovenel Moise, shot dead in his bedroom two years ago, a brazen assassination that created a destabilizing power vacuum.

According to the signed U.S. court document, German Rivera, known as Colonel Mike, was part of the convoy which headed towards Moise's hillside Port-au-Prince residence on July 7, 2021, days after he relayed information that the plan was not to kidnap Moise but instead to kill him.

The document also says Rivera provided material support, training and personnel to support Moise's kidnapping or murder. The case's criminal docket details three counts for materially supporting the plot and conspiracy.

Since Moise's death, armed gangs have greatly expanded their control across the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Escalating turf warfare, largely centered around the capital, has driven a humanitarian crisis leaving some 200,000 internally displaced, according to U.N. estimates, amid frequent shootings, ransom kidnappings and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, the unelected government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry has struggled as critics accuse it of corruption.

Rivera is one of 11 defendants in the case, which includes businessmen accused of helping obtain vehicles and firearms from Florida.

Rivera's plea follows a that of Haitian-Chilean citizen Rodolphe Jaar, who in June was sentenced to life in prison after he said he had provided funds that were used to buy weapons and bribe the president's security detail.

"The battle for justice is intensifying," Martine Moise, the late president's widow who was wounded during the attack, wrote on social messaging platform X. "It will continue as long as the people, thirsty for justice, don't get the expected results."

Rivera's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the U.S. District Court in Miami.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Alire Garcia and David Gregorio)