The political effort never included a plan for a violent overthrow, people involved in it said. Two men who attended meetings with Sanon called him a thoughtful politician with a genuine interest in improving the country. And a letter sent to a senior US State Department official in late May outlined a serious project that had the support of Haitian leaders who “represent approximately 80% of the population.”
But according to authorities in Colombia and Haiti, Sanon had a secret plan B. Haitian police allege Sanon recruited the more than two dozen men who stormed the residence of Jovenel Moise, the assassinated President, in an attempt to seize power.
Sanon met in May with two Colombian commandos leading the operation, the chief of the Colombian police said Thursday, and the group’s original plan was to detain the President and hand him over to the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
Sanon was arrested over the weekend in Haiti in a raid on a house where, according to a source close to the investigation who is not authorized to discuss the incident, police recovered boxes of ammunition, 24 unused shooting targets and a cap labeled “DEA.” Sanon has told police he had no knowledge of the attack, CNN reported Wednesday. CNN has been unable to contact Sanon or others arrested since the assassination.
The assassination and intrigue around the police investigation reads like a novel compared to the political campaign that Sanon led above board, people who were involved in the political process said.
In an interview Wednesday, Parnell Duverger, an economist and former university professor in Florida, said he attended several online meetings beginning in 2020 where Sanon and a group of other Haiti experts crafted an agenda for a transitional government in which Sanon would serve as prime minister.
According to Durverger, Sanon told the group he had the support of the United States and the international community in his bid for leadership, although he did not provide evidence to back up that claim.
The group was operating under the assumption that Haiti’s President would eventually resign as protests in the country mounted, ushering in the interim government, Duverger said. There was never discussion of a coup attempt, he said.
“The Zoom meetings put together, in my opinion, an assortment of specialists and good people who were very knowledgeable in their field — whether it’s agriculture or education, who are quite knowledgeable — and who actually put together a government agenda that would be fairly successful if applied,” Duverger said.
Other sessions took place in person. One meeting in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which Duverger said he believed took place in early May, was attended by Antonino Intriago and Walter Veintemilla, two men who authorities have said in recent days played key roles in the assassination.
Intriago, a Venezuelan living in south Florida, runs the security firm that police said provided the men who carried out the assassination. Sanon had hired CTU, the firm, to recruit the men, authorities have said. CNN has been unable to reach CTU and Intriago.
Veinemilla, according to corporate records in Florida, is the president of the Worldwide Capital Lending Group, a company that police in Haiti said Wednesday helped to “collect money for the men to carry out the acts.”
In a statement sent to CNN on Thursday, Worldwide Capital Lending Group denied any involvement in the plot, saying it had provided a loan that included funding for “private security for Dr. Sanon and other Haitian dignitaries due to the ongoing violence in Haiti” after being approached by Sanon and current and former elected officials from Haiti, “to assist in obtaining financing for power plants and other infrastructure projects in Haiti.”
“At no time during any meeting or conversation with Dr. Sanon or with any of his representatives was there any mention, discussion or suggestion of an assassination plot against President Moise or the intention to use force to bring about a change of leadership in Haiti,” the company said.
“Contrary to certain media reports, no representative of Worldwide Capital Lending Group attended meetings in the Dominican Republic or Haiti at any time,” the company added.
Duverger said the meeting in Fort Lauderdale was held to discuss “financing the construction of infrastructures necessary for Haiti to achieve durable economic development in 30 years or less.”
The New York Times was first to report on the meetings behind Sanon’s political campaign.
Earlier this year, Sanon changed his plan and allegedly told the group that he wanted to become Haiti’s president instead of the prime minister, according to Duverger.
The plan was detailed in a letter to a senior State Department official in late May.
Signed “the People of Haiti,” the letter was posted to a now-defunct website that advocates Sanon’s leadership in a transitional government and warns of an impending crisis at the hands of Moise.
“Moise has shown he intends to use his power, intimidation and unending wide scale brutality to broaden and extend his control of Haiti by establishing a new ‘Constitution’ in just a few weeks,” the letter, which was first reported by DailyMail.com, says. “We pray this does not happen, but time is running out; as you know, a ‘fuse’ has been burning since February 7! Something must be done soon.”
A State Department spokesperson referred CNN to Haitian authorities for comment on the investigation but added that they “receive a regular flow of correspondence.”
“We engage actively with Haitian-American individuals and groups in off-the-record conversations. We also receive a regular flow of correspondence,” the spokesperson said.
“We have long supported Haitian political leaders and civil society coming together to strengthen democratic institutions and reach an inclusive solution that will facilitate peace and stability,” they said.
There are indications that the support for Sanon described on the website and in the letter may have been exaggerated. A United Nations consultant listed prominently on the website as part of a coalition supporting the doctor’s leadership said in an interview that he was unaware of his presence on the site, and that he had met with Sanon once.
Frantz Gilot, the consultant, said he discussed topics related to criminal justice in Haiti at a January meeting with Sanon and more than 20 others involved in the political effort.
But he said he was “not interested” in the project.
“Someone put my name on this site,” he said. “I’m not a backer of Mr. Sanon or his team.”
An official with Haiti’s UN mission is also displayed as a supporter of Sanon. Messages left for the official were not responded to.
Duverger said the regular Zoom meetings stopped earlier this year. At the time, Sanon’s desire to lead and improve Haiti appeared real, he said. But with news of the assassination and Sanon’s arrest, his opinion has changed.
“Right now, I don’t believe anything that came from that man’s mouth. I think we were all being taken for a ride,” Duverger said.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.