If there is a singular issue for the Biden administration, it is rooting out domestic terrorism purportedly perpetrated by right-wing extremists. Nonetheless, Biden nominated as Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) an unrepentant, honest-to-goodness, fear-inducing, caught-red-handed domestic terrorist—one Tracy Stone-Manning, who in 1989, engaged in eco-terrorism, which the FBI labeled as one of the nation’s primary domestic terrorism threats at the time. Despite indisputable evidence of her culpability in a federal felony, Biden continues to support her confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
President Biden should withdraw her nomination; failing that, the Senate must reject it.
In 1989, Tracy Stone-Manning was a graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula. She joined Earth First!, a radical environmental group that proclaimed, “No compromise in defense of Mother Earth” and that engaged in “monkeywrenching,” which involved the sabotage of equipment used in logging, mining, construction, and livestock grazing. In fact, according to the federal official who investigated her, Stone-Manning “was not only a member of Earth First!, but she played an active role in Earth First! hierarchy” and “wielded significant influence among its members.”
Stone-Manning lived in a house filled with fellow Earth First! acolytes and edited its local newsletter, the Wild Rockies Review. In the late winter or early spring of 1989, one of her “roommates” and part of her “circle of friends,” John P. Blount, conspired with her to spike trees that were part of the Post Office Timber Sale in the Clearwater National Forest in nearby Idaho. She agreed to mail the warning letter to the U.S. Forest Service on Blount’s behalf. To be clear, driving metal spikes into these trees was both a federal crime and an act of eco-terrorism. It was intended to prevent the sale of timber by terrifying the loggers and millworkers who could be injured or even killed if their saws hit the metal spikes as they attempted to harvest the spiked trees.
Blount, who was convicted in 1993 of the tree spiking and sentenced to 17 months in prison, stated that Stone-Manning “knew about [the tree spiking plot] far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out.” In fact, he said Stone-Manning “agreed to mail the letter well in advance. She was supposed to mail the letter from Billings [Montana] where she had planned on going in two or three more days, so that it wasn’t postmarked ‘Missoula.’ That was the agreed-upon plan.”
Instead, Stone-Manning retyped the letter because, as she later explained, her “fingerprints were all over the original,” and she even rented a typewriter because she did not want the letter on her personal computer. Then she mailed it—from Missoula.
The U.S. Forest Service, on receipt of the letter, verified that indeed some 284 trees had been spiked with 340 “bridge construction-type spikes” in the Clearwater National Forest. Forest Service Special Agent Michael Merkley undertook an investigation, which led him and other federal authorities to the house where Stone-Manning and Blount resided. Seven of the house’s residents, including Stone-Manning, were served with subpoenas to appear before a grand jury and to provide hair and handwriting samples and fingerprints.
Stone-Manning refused to provide the required samples—that is, until threatened with arrest and prosecution. Her cooperation ended there. According to Merkley, in a letter he sent to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Stone-Manning refused to answer his questions; she also failed to testify truthfully to the grand jury of her knowledge and role in the tree spiking. Worse yet, she copped an attitude with the special agent. Merkley said, “Stone-Manning was extremely difficult to work with; in fact, she was the nastiest of the suspects. She was vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government.”
Despite her contemptuous behavior, Stone-Manning portrayed herself as the victim, telling an interviewer in 1990 that the investigation was “degrading. It changed my awareness of the power of government [to do] bad things sometimes.”
As a result of Stone-Manning’s failure to tell what she knew, the case was stalled in 1989. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Breitsameter would later write in a Pretrial Memorandum that by the end of 1989, “the criminal investigation did not develop any substantial evidence as to the identity of the individuals involved in the spiking.”
Three years later, Blount’s former girlfriend contacted federal authorities and reported that Blount had done the tree-spiking, and Stone-Manning had mailed the letter. Federal authorities then contacted Stone-Manning. She hired a lawyer, who obtained an immunity deal, and she testified that Blount had given her the letter to mail.
Thus, Stone-Manning, according to Blount and Merkley, was an accessory before the fact and, by her own admission, an accessory after the fact. Nonetheless, she refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities in 1989, which delayed prosecution for four years. As a result, she may have aided and abetted the commission of a felony. Moreover, over the next 32 years, in various newspaper interviews, Stone-Manning lied about or otherwise misrepresented her role in the tree spiking crime in the Clearwater National Forest.
In 2013, she was similarly opaque or untruthful before the Montana State Senate after her nomination to lead the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Finally, this year, as Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) pointed out, she lied to the Senate when she declared that she had never been the subject of a federal investigation.
Before all her lies were exposed, Stone-Manning asserted that she did the right thing by mailing the letter as Blount requested. She did not do the right thing. The right thing would have been to contact the FBI or the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Attorney for Idaho. Now we know that her obligation to contact law enforcement began not when Blount handed her the letter–if, in fact, that event ever took place—but when Blount and the others began planning the tree spiking in February of 1989.
The BLM and its nearly 10,000 employees are responsible for 245 million acres of public land, 99.99 percent of which lies in the 11 western states and Alaska—10 percent of the country’s land mass—and for 700 million acres of mineral estate throughout the country. Some 65 million acres of that is managed for timber harvesting, a lawful activity with which Stone-Manning criminally interfered. Moreover, the BLM has 300 law enforcement rangers and special agents, like the Forest Service special agent whom she rebuffed, upbraided, and, who out of fear of Earth First!, including death threats against him and threats to harm his family, was forced into early retirement. Finally, some 155 million acres of BLM-managed land is devoted to livestock grazing, an economic activity Earth First! condemned and attacked with “acts of vandalism and violence.”
Westerners, the American public, and the dedicated public servants of the BLM deserve better.
Horrifying Things Airlines Do To Keep Their Prices Down
Flying through the sky with hundreds of other people in a cramped metal tube may seem luxurious, but you’d be surprised at how many corners airlines will cut behind your back. Here are the most horrifying things low-cost carriers will do to keep tickets cheap.
Many budget airlines, including Spirit, Frontier, and Southwest, have gotten rid of costly trained pilots and replaced them with anyone who looks decent in aviators.
Rather than let any monetizable ad space go to waste, turbulence is often sponsored by big-named brands such as Oreo, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, and Pepsi.
Like it or not, profit-hungry airline CEOs actually Charging Orphans More
What are they going to do, complain to their parents?
Padding Their Staff With Paid Extras
In order to appear fully staffed, one in four uniformed team members is actually an unsuccessful actor who is paid to simulate vaguely employee-like behavior.
Most airlines will take the most expensive item out of every piece of luggage and pawn it.
Even after losing roughly a third of its market cap, it still may prove one of the great shorts of all time.
“There’s no mental health support. The suicide rate is extremely high,” one of the directors of the documentary, “The Cleaners” told CBS News last May. The film is an investigative look at the life of Facebook moderators in the Philippines. Throughout his 2018 apology tour, Mark Zuckerberg regularly referenced the staff of moderators the company had hired as one of two key solutions — along with AI — to the platform’s content evils. What he failed to disclose is that the majority of that army is subcontractors employed in the developing world.
For as long as ten hours a day, viewing as many as 25,000 images or videos per day, these low-paid workers are buried in the world’s horrors — hate speech, child pornography, rape, murder, torture, beheadings, and on and on. They are not experts in the subject matter or region they police. They rely on “guidelines” provided by Facebook — “dozens of unorganised PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets with bureaucratic titles like ‘Western Balkans Hate Orgs and Figures’ and ‘Credible Violence: Implementation standards’,” as The New York Times reported last fall. The rules are not even written in the languages the moderators speak, so many rely on Google Translate. As a recent op-ed by John Naughton in The Guardian declares bluntly in its headline, “Facebook’s burnt-out moderators are proof that it is broken.”
As we noted in last week’s issue, 41 of the 53 analysts tracked by Bloomberg currently list Facebook as a buy, with “the average price target… $187, which implies upside of nearly 36%.” That optimism springs from a basic assumption: the company’s monopolistic data dominance means it can continue extracting more from advertisers even if controversy after controversy continues to sap its user growth. Given the depth and intractability of Facebook’s problems, this is at best short-sighted.
The platform’s content ecosystem is too poisoned for human or machine moderators to cleanse. Users are fleeing in droves, especially in the company’s most valuable markets. Ad buyers are already shifting dollars to competitors’ platforms. Governments are stepping up to dramatically hinder Facebook’s data-collection capabilities, with Germany just this week banning third-party data sharing. The company is under investigation by the FTC, the Justice Department, the SEC, the FBI, and several government agencies in Europe. It has been accused by the U.N. of playing a “determining role” in Myanmar’s genocide. An executive exodus is underway at the company. And we believe, sooner or later, Facebook’s board will see no option but to remove Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg.
The market is drastically underestimating the peril the company is in. In the very short term, the user backlash may simply hinder its revenue growth. In the longer-term, however, the institutionalized failure to see and respond to the platform’s downsides may render Facebook the Digital Age’s Enron — a canonized example of how greed and corruption can fell even the mightiest.
According to data recently released by Statcounter, Facebook’s global social media market share dropped from 75.5% in December 2017 to 66.3% in December 2018. The biggest drop was in the U.S., from 76% to 52%. As Cowen survey results released this week suggest, these engagement declines will continue to depress the company’s earnings. Surveying 50 senior U.S. ad buyers controlling a combined $14 billion in digital ad budgets in 2018, 18% said they were decreasing their spend on Facebook. As a result, Cowen estimates the Facebook platform will lose 3% of its market share.
No doubt Facebook’s struggles are not just about the headline scandals. For years, one innovation priority after another has fallen flat, from VR to its video push to its laggard position in the digital-assistant race. The company’s most significant “innovation” success of the past few years was copying the innovation of a competitor — pilfering Snapchat’s ephemerality for its “moments” feature.
However, it’s the scandals that have most crippled the company’s brand and revealed the cultural rot trickling down from its senior ranks. Consider just the most-sensational revelations that emerged in 4Q18:
Scandal after scandal, the portrait of the company is the same: Ruthlessly and blindly obsessed with growth. Overwhelmed by that growth and unwilling to take necessary steps to compensate. Willing to lie and obfuscate until the truth becomes inescapable. And all the time excusing real-world consequences and clear violations of user and client trust because of the cultish belief that global interconnectedness is an absolute good, and therefore, Facebook is absolutely good.
The scale of Facebook’s global responsibility is staggering. As Naughton writes for The Guardian:
Facebook currently has 2.27bn monthly active users worldwide. Every 60 seconds, 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated and 136,000 photos are uploaded to the platform. Instagram, which allows users to edit and share photos as well as videos and is owned by Facebook, has more than 1bn monthly active users. WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service that is also owned by Facebook, now has 1.5bn monthly active users, more than half of whom use it several times a day.
Relying on tens of thousands of moderators to anesthetize the digital commons is both inadequate, and based on the reported working conditions, unethical and exploitative. AI is not the solution either, as we explored in WILTW April 12, 2018. According to Wired, Facebook has claimed that 96% of the adult and nude images users try to upload are now automatically detected and taken down by AI. That sounds like a success until you consider that that error rate means 1.3 million such images made it to the public in the third quarter of 2018 alone (30.8 million were taken down).
In fact, the company has acknowledged that views with nudity or sexual content have nearly doubled in the 12 months ending in September. And detecting nudity is a far easier task for a rules-based algorithm than deciding the difference between real and fake news, between hate speech and satire, or between pornography and art.
Facebook has economically and culturally empowered hundreds of millions of people around the world. It cannot be blamed for every destabilized government, war, or murder in every region it operates. However, more and more, it’s clear that one profit-driven platform that connects all of the world’s people to all of the world’s information — the vision Zuckerberg has long had for his invention — is a terminally-flawed idea. It leads to too much power in the hands of too few. It allows bad actors to centralize their bad actions. And it is incompatible with a world that values privacy, ownership, and truth.
Governments are waking up to this problem. So is the public. And no doubt, so are competitive innovators looking to expand or introduce alternatives. Collectively, they will chip away at Facebook’s power and profitability. Given the company’s leaders still appear blinded by and irrevocably attached to their business model and ideals, we doubt they can stave off the onslaught coming.
This article was originally published in “What I Learned This Week” on January 17, 2019. To subscribe to our weekly newsletter, visit 13D.com
or find us on Twitter @WhatILearnedTW.
Pentagon Sees China’s Offensive Space Technology ‘On the March’
(Bloomberg) -- China is making sizable, long-term investments in weapons designed to jam or destroy satellites as the nation seeks to rapidly narrow the gap in space technology with the U.S., according to the top intelligence official for the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific command.
China is pushing to develop antisatellite weapons with capabilities from “dazzling to jamming, to kinetic kill-from-the-ground, from space -- all that, they’re on the march,” Rear Admiral Michael Studeman said this week during an intelligence-security trade group’s webinar.
Studeman’s comments mark the most current unclassified assessment of the counter-space capabilities of a nation that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin repeatedly refers to as the top challenge for U.S. defense planning and spending.
China’s threats to U.S. satellites as well as Russian advances in counterspace technologies were among the primary justifications American officials cited for establishing the U.S. Space Force, the sixth U.S. military service branch and the regional Space Command, during the Trump administration.
“They take a look at our space capability and want to equal and exceed those and be able to dominate to guarantee themselves the maneuvering they need to be able to secure their objectives if they’re in a fight,” Studeman said.
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in April that the Chinese military “will continue to integrate space services -- such as satellite reconnaissance and positioning, navigation, and timing and satellite communications -- into its weapons and command-and-control systems to erode the U.S. military’s information advantage.”
Developing so-called counterspace operations will be integral to a potential military campaign, the DNI said. Beijing continues to train its military space elements and “field new destructive and nondestructive ground- and space-based antisatellite (ASAT) weapons,” the intelligence office said in its annual Threat Assessment report.
It has “already fielded ground-based ASAT missiles intended to destroy satellites in low-earth orbit and ground-based ASAT lasers probably intended to blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors” on low-earth orbit satellites, according to the report.
The House Appropriations Committee, in a draft report on the fiscal 2022 defense bill obtained by Bloomberg Government, signaled its concern over “the growing threats posed by ground-based lasers capable of damaging or destroying sensitive space sensors in low-orbit, and the lack of a coordinated strategy to understand this threat and develop concepts to mitigate its risks.”
Without mentioning China, the report directed the Pentagon, in coordination with the ODNI, “to provide a plan to collect, consolidate, and characterize laser threat activity data of potential adversaries, and to develop strategies to mitigate these threats.”
Aside from destructive counterspace technologies, China also is pursuing parallel programs for military and commercial communications satellites and owns and operates about 30 of those for civil, commercial and military satellite communications, the Defense Intelligence Agency said in 2019. Beijing also operates a small number of dedicated military communications satellites.
The U.S. has a “substantial amount of activity going on on our side” as “we recognize the threat here,” Studeman said. “It will be a game of measures and countermeasures and counter-countermeasures for some time to come.”
A top U.S. counterspace weapon designed to temporarily jam but not destroy Chinese and Russian satellites is known as the Meadowlands system. The U.S. Space Force is building an arsenal of as many as 48 of these ground-based weapons over the next seven years and declared the first one operational in March 2020.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
TOKYO—With the city under a state of emergency as Covid-19 cases surge across Japan, Olympic officials announced that in the interests of public health, all athletic competition at the Tokyo Games would now be limited to short walks outside. “In order to slow the pandemic’s rapid spread through the region, each event at the XXXII Olympiad will be reconfigured so that it entails no more than a quick, 15-minute stroll around the Olympic village and a few of the stadiums,” said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, adding that after they had quarantined for two weeks, athletes could also participate in masked events in which they perform competitive crunches, push-ups, and stretches inside their single-occupancy rooms. “As we work to limit exposure to this deadly virus, we hope the world will enjoy watching Olympians put on a face shield, step outside, and walk in a circle around the same few blocks a couple of times a day until they inevitably grow bored of it, head back to their rooms, and lie down in their beds. Whether they traveled to Tokyo for swimming, gymnastics, or the javelin throw, we urge every participant in the Summer Games to bring a good attitude, a solid playlist, and a comfortable pair of walking shoes.” At press time, Suga stated that in the coming weeks, even more Olympic events could be added, such as watching TV, crafting, baking bread, and growing an indoor herb garden.
Fears that the already fragile country will descend further into turmoil after the president’s assassination are growing. Two Americans arrested in the investigation claim to have been only “translators” for the operation, according to a judge who interviewed them.
Haitian government officials said they had requested that the United States send in troops to protect Haiti’s port, airport, gasoline reserves and other key infrastructure as the country has descended into turmoil in the wake of the brazen assassination of President Jovenel Moïse early Wednesday morning.
Fears have been growing that unrest in the streets and political turmoil after the attack could worsen what is already the country’s worst crisis in years. Haiti is plagued by political intrigue, gang violence, a public health crisis driven by the pandemic and difficulties delivering essential international aid.
The Haitian minister of elections, Mathias Pierre, said the request was made because President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised to help Haiti.
However, a deputy State Department spokeswoman, Jalina Porter, told a news briefing that she could not confirm such a request.
Haitian authorities have said the assassination involved “foreign” forces, and the police have identified more than two dozen people involved in the assassination of the president, including 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent.
Mr. Pierre, the minister of elections, said the country had already been facing a large problem with “urban terrorists” who might use the opportunity to attack key infrastructure in the country while the police are focused on their manhunt.
“The group that financed the mercenaries want to create chaos in the country,” he said. “Attacking the gas reserves and airport might be part of the plan.”
Robenson Geffrard, a reporter for Le Nouvelliste, one of the country’s leading newspapers, said a “sense of uncertainty” and the “shadow of violence” was looming over the capital, Port-au-Prince, raising fears that Friday was but a fleeting interlude before the situation spirals out of control again.
“In supermarkets and public markets, people are jostling” to stock up on basic goods such as rice and pasta, Mr. Geffrard said, and there are lines at stations selling propane gas, often used for cooking.
The country is enmeshed in a constitutional crisis, with a nonfunctioning Parliament and competing claims over leadership. The Caribbean nation’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, says he has taken command of the police and the army. But the president, days before his death, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. Mr. Henry told a local newspaper after the assassination that he was the rightful prime minister.
The situation has been further complicated by the pandemic. While there are many legal uncertainties, in the past the country’s top justice has been expected to fill any void in the political leadership. But that justice, René Sylvestre, died of Covid-19 in June.
Haiti, the only country in the Americas with no active Covid-19 inoculation campaign, has virtually no vaccine doses, and public health experts say that the coronavirus is far more widespread there than publicly reported.
With the prospect of greater turmoil looming, international observers worry that a growing humanitarian crisis could lead to the kind of exodus that has previously followed natural disasters, coups and other periods of deep instability.
The Pan American Health Organization said in a statement that the crisis was “creating a perfect storm, because the population has lowered its guard, the infrastructure of Covid-19 beds has been reduced, the security situation could deteriorate even further and hurricane season has started.”
The usually crowded streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, were dominated by a form of “calm,” on Friday, three days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, according to a local journalist.
“But it’s a precarious, apparent calm, it can go awry at any moment,” said the journalist, Robenson Geffrard, a reporter for Le Nouvelliste, one of the country’s leading newspapers.
Mr. Geffrard described how economic activity had resumed on Friday. Street vendors took again to the streets; supermarkets, gas stations and banks reopened; and public transportation and public administration tentatively picked up. So, he said, had gang violence, an integral part of Haitians’ daily lives.
“Armed gangs resumed hostilities with a lot of bursts of automatic weapons,” Mr. Geffrard said, saying that there was gang fighting along one of the main roads connecting the south of Port-au-Prince to the surrounding provinces.
And he stressed how a “sense of uncertainty” was looming over the capital.
“In supermarkets and public markets, people are jostling” to stock up on basic goods such as rice and pasta, Mr. Geffrard said, while lines have appeared in front of stations selling propane gas, which is often used for cooking.
Mr. Geffrard said that in the hours after the assassination, the shock and fear were such that people deserted the streets, turning Port-au-Prince into a ghost town.
A video he posted on Twitter on Thursday showed the usually bustling suburb of Pétionville, where the presidential residence is, almost empty of people, with only a few motorcycles venturing out on the roads.
The silence that had enshrouded the capital was broken only when crowds of protesters gathered outside of a police station to demand justice for the suspects the police had arrested in the search for the president’s killers. A video from Agence France Presse showed protesters shouting slogans in front of a police station while cars and tires were being burned in nearby streets.
“There is still this specter of violence, of insecurity that haunts the minds of the population,” Mr. Geffrard said.
During a news conference on Thursday, the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, called on businesses to reopen despite the 15-day “state of siege” he imposed, essentially putting the country under martial law.
“It is true that there is a state of siege, but I want to tell everyone to resume economic activities,” Mr. Joseph said, as he also ordered the reopening of Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture international airport.
Two Americans arrested in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti this week said that they were not in the room when he was killed and that they had worked only as translators for the hit squad, a Haitian judge said on Friday.
Clément Noël, a judge who is involved with the investigation and who interviewed both men soon after their arrest, said that neither was injured in the assault.
One of the Americans was identified as James J. Solages, a U.S. citizen who lived in South Florida and previously worked as a security guard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. The other was identified as Joseph Vincent, 55.
Judge Noël, speaking by telephone, said that he could not provide details on the wider plot or a possible motive, but said the two Americans maintained that the plot had been planned intensively for a month.
The Americans, he said, would meet with other members of the squad at an upscale hotel in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, to plan the attack. He said they had relayed that the goal was not to kill the president but to bring him to the national palace.
Mr. Moïse was shot dead in his private residence on the outskirts of the capital around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, his body riddled with bullets.
Judge Noël said the Americans had been taken into custody after a shootout with police that resulted in the death of two Colombians.
When they were taken into custody, they had in their possession weapons, clothes, food and other paraphernalia used in the assault.
Judge Noël said that it was Mr. Solages who had yelled that the assailants were agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency over a loudspeaker at the start of the assault.
Mr. Vincent said he had been in the country for six months and that he had been staying with a cousin. Mr. Solages said he had been in Haiti for a month.
The men said the Colombians involved in the plot had been in the country for about three months.
All that Mr. Vincent would say about the broader plot was that the mastermind was a foreigner named “Mike” who spoke Spanish and English. Mr. Solages said that he had found the job to translate for the hit squad in a listing posted online. They would not say how much they had been paid.
Judge Noël said Mr. Solages had “replied in a very evasive manner.”
As the Haitian security forces continued to hunt for suspects in Mr. Moïse’s assassination, the interview offered the clues into who carried out the operation. Most of those in custody are Colombian, the authorities say, and include retired members of the military.
The body of another mercenary was found on Thursday around 10 a.m., on the roof of a private residence in Pétionville. The man, presumed a Colombian, was hit by a single bullet in his left side and killed, despite the fact he was wearing a bulletproof vest, said a justice of the peace, Phidélito Dieudonné. The man had climbed the security wall of the home, and then used a ladder to get up on the roof, Mr. Dieudonné said. He had no firearm or identity documents on him, but a couple of license plates had been dropped to the courtyard.
At a news conference announcing the arrests on Thursday, the authorities had singled out the Americans as they sat on the floor with their hands handcuffed behind their backs. It was not clear what evidence the Haitian authorities had against the two men, when they had entered the country and what their connection might be to those identified as Colombian.
Mr. Solages, 35, is a native of Jacmel, a city in southern Haiti, and lived in Broward County, the Florida county that includes Fort Lauderdale. He was the president of a small charity organization that said it focused on giving grants to women in his home city. But federal tax records show that he claimed to work 60 hours a week on an organization that in 2019 took in just over $11,000.
The organization, Jacmel First, says that its primary objective is reducing poverty and promoting education and better health systems in Haiti. His biography on his website said that he was a consultant, building engineer and “certified diplomatic agent.”
He also claimed to be chief commander of the bodyguards for the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. A Canadian government official said that Mr. Solages was briefly a reserve officer for a security company that had a contract to protect the embassy in 2010.
By the end of Thursday, as photographs of Mr. Solages in custody in Haiti circulated online, the charity group’s website had been taken down. So was a Facebook page that showed Mr. Solages in sharp suits.
Asked about the president’s murder and Mr. Solages’s arrest, Jean Milot Berquin, of Jacmel First’s board members, said, “I’m so sorry about that,” and declined to comment further.
While the biography on Mr. Solages’s charity website paints him as a professional and politician, his LinkedIn profile lists an entirely different set of jobs that sound more like maintenance positions.
His online résumé says that he has an associate degree from a technical college and is a plant operations director at a senior living facility in Lantana, Fla. (Company officials did not respond to requests for comment.)
State corporation records show that he owns maintenance company whose address was the same as the charity’s: a second-floor office above a restaurant in a strip mall. The office is now occupied by someone else.
Mr. Solages’s Twitter account, which has been dormant for over a year, includes inspirational quotes like “Don’t let nobody tell you that you are aiming too high or expecting too much of yourself, with both Mars, your ruler, and the Sun about to move to your favor, you should in fact expecting more of yourself then (sic) ever before.”
After 24 hours filled with intense standoffs and gun battles, the police said they had identified more than two dozen people involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse this week, including 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent.
Mr. Moïse’s chief bodyguards have been called for questioning as part of the investigation into the president’s murder, said Bedford Claude, chief public prosecutor in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. He said he had issued summons for the head of presidential guard, Jean Laguel Civil, security chief for the presidential palace, Dimitri Hérard and two other top presidential bodyguards to appear for questioning next Wednesday.
One of the main questions surrounding Mr. Moïse’s murder is how the assassins managed to enter the residence of Haiti’s most guarded man without apparently encountering resistance from dozens of bodyguards protecting him.
The authorities have so offered no clue as to who might have organized the operation or a motive for the attack, but they have pointed to “foreign” involvement, and arrested 17 people, including two Americans and most of the rest Colombians.
On Friday, the Taiwanese authorities said that 11 heavily armed people had been arrested a day earlier on the grounds of its embassy in Port-au-Prince, about a mile from the assassination. Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said the Haitian police were investigating.
In the aftermath of the assassination, at least two people killed in clashes with police were also identified as Colombians.
Colombia’s defense minister, Diego Molano, said initial information suggested that the people from his country in custody were retired members of the Colombian military.
On Friday, President Iván Duque of Colombia said that he had spoken with Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph. “We expressed our solidarity and support at this time,” Mr. Duque said on Twitter. “We offered full collaboration to find the truth about the material and intellectual authors of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.”
Mr. Joseph says he has taken command of the police and the army. But the president, days before his death, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. Mr. Henry told a local newspaper after the assassination that he was the rightful prime minister.
Despite declaring what is essentially martial law and imposing a curfew, Mr. Joseph asked people to return to work on Friday. Airports resumed commercial flights, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy.
More than a dozen of the suspects — some with physical injuries — were paraded before the cameras at a late-night news conference on Thursday. At least eight other suspects are on the run, the authorities said.
“We are pursuing them,” said Haiti’s police chief, Léon Charles, before a phalanx of politicians and police officers.
— Marc Santora, Harold Isaac and Andre Paulte
The political storm in Haiti intensified on Thursday as two competing prime ministers claimed the right to run the country, setting up an extraordinary power struggle over who has the legal authority to govern after the brazen assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in his home the day before.
Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, says he has taken command of the police and the army. He has also declared a “state of siege” that essentially put the country under martial law, although constitutional experts questioned his right to impose it, and a rival quickly challenged his claim to power.
Two days before his death, Mr. Moïse had appointed Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as a new prime minister. Mr. Henry, who was supposed to take up the role this week, told a local newspaper after the presidential assassination that he was the rightful prime minister.
The dueling claims created a volatile political crisis that left constitutional experts confused and diplomats worried about a broad societal collapse that could ignite violence or prompt Haitians to flee the country en masse.
“No one understands” what is happening right now, said Lilas Desquiron, a Haitian writer who was culture minister from 2001 to 2004, leaving the nation’s 11 million people in a “wait-and-see and powerless position.”
Alarmed that Haiti may be approaching a breaking point reminiscent of the surge of Haitian refugees fleeing on boats to Florida after a 1991 coup, American officials have sided with the interim prime minister, Mr. Joseph.
Haiti, the only country in the Americas without a Covid-19 vaccine campaign, is also the country with one of the world’s most dysfunctional health care systems.
Even as Haitians struggle to understand a shifting political crisis in the wake of the assassination of the nation’s president and worry about a surge in violence on the streets, looming in the backdrop is a pandemic whose scale is essentially unknown.
The country of 11 million people has yet to receive its first doses from the Covax vaccine-sharing program, making it one of few places that have not started an inoculation campaign.
Having never fully recovered from a 2010 earthquake that destroyed the Health Ministry’s building and 50 health care centers, Haiti has long depended on billions of dollars of foreign aid and the work of nongovernmental organizations to provide basic services.
But even before the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse this week, violence posed an increasing challenge to those working to deliver assistance. Humanitarian groups have become primary targets, and last month Doctors Without Borders evacuated some of its staff members and closed an emergency center in Haiti after gangs attacked it.
The dozens of armed gangs that control more than a third of the capital have also killed hundreds of people and impelled thousands to flee their homes over the past year.
International organizations and humanitarian groups warn that the assassination threatens to worsen a crisis that has been building for more than a year, ever since Mr. Moise’s decision to remain in office after opponents said his term had expired essentially paralyzed the government.
On Friday, UNICEF said that nearly one-third of all children in Haiti — about 1.5 million of them — were in urgent need of emergency relief because of the rising violence.
Against this overall backdrop, many in the country have viewed the pandemic as an abstraction. But there are indications that the coronavirus is far more widespread than officially reported.
The neighboring Dominican Republic, which has roughly the same size population, has reported more than 330,000 cases and nearly 4,000 deaths. Haiti has registered 19,000 cases and 467 deaths — but hospitals have reported struggling in recent weeks to find enough oxygen for a surge in patients.
UNICEF said that some patients had died because gang violence prevented ambulances from reaching them with oxygen and emergency treatment. “Amidst the upsurge of coronavirus cases in Haiti, any additional day without vaccine puts hundreds of lives under threat,” Bruno Maes, the organization’s Haiti representative, said on Friday.
The Rev. Richard Frechette, a doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, told the humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief that he had pleaded with gang leaders to allow the delivery of critical supplies, including oxygen.
“If the streets turn into looting and riots, we’re not going to be able to get oxygen,” he said. “That always happens when there’s instability.”
Haiti is due to receive about six million coronavirus vaccine doses from the United States, but it is unclear when they might be delivered.
The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on Wednesday by gunmen who broke into his private residence was a stark reminder of the violence that has plagued Haiti for years and escalated in recent weeks.
Armed groups have become increasingly powerful in Haiti, playing on the nation’s political instability and growing poverty to seize control of large swaths of cities like Port-au-Prince, the capital.
About a third of Port-au-Prince’s territory is affected by criminal activity, and a recent upsurge in clashes between rival gangs has caused numerous casualties among civilians and stark levels of displacement of people fleeing violence.
A report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that in the first three weeks of June over 13,600 people had fled their home in Port-au-Prince, which has a population of about one million. That was four times the violence-related displacement in the capital than in the previous nine months, the report said.
Gangs have attacked businesses, stealing food and other supplies, and engaged in kidnappings, including the abduction of five Roman Catholic priests and two nuns in April.
“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” Archbishop Max Leroy Mesidor of Port-au-Prince said in a statement at the time.
In June, one of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders, Jimmy Cherizier, also known as “Barbecue,” warned that he was launching a revolution against the country’s political and business elites. He called on people to take back what he said was their money in banks and supermarkets, prompting looting in several stores in Port-au-Prince.
Jacky Lumarque, the rector of Quisqueya University, a large private school in Port-au-Prince, said that in the current situation it was not possible to hold elections in September, as planned by Mr. Moïse and still demanded by the international community.
“Which candidate will be able to campaign in gang-controlled neighborhoods? Will they even be able to set up polling stations?” he asked.
Holding elections, he said, would amount “to perpetuating the chaos, sustaining the instability.”
OK, they say, Everybody do not shoot. They say they are not our enemies, everybody do not shoot. This is a D.E.A. operation. This is a D.E.A. operation. This is a D.E.A. operation. Keep moving, guys. Keep moving. Keep. moving. Keep moving.
Two videos filmed at the same time from separate buildings near Haiti’s presidential compound suggest that the group who killed President Jovenel Moïse claimed to be agents from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
The videos appear to show the assailants arriving near Mr. Moïse’s residence. A witness on one video claims to see the assailants disarming some of Mr. Moïse’s guards stationed nearby.
In the videos, about a dozen armed men can be seen walking slowly up a main street in the Pèlerin 5 neighborhood alongside at least eight vehicles — a mix of sport utility vehicles and trucks. The men appear calm and do not encounter resistance or try to hide.
Over a loudspeaker, a male voice shouts multiple times in English: “This is a D.E.A. operation! Everybody, don’t shoot!”
He repeats the command in Creole.
The D.E.A. has an office in Port-au-Prince to help Haiti’s government “develop and strengthen its counternarcotics law enforcement program,” according to the U.S. Embassy. But Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told Reuters that the gunmen had falsely identified themselves as D.E.A. agents. “No way they were D.E.A. agents,” he said.
The attack “was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers,” Mr. Edmond said in Washington.
In one of the two videos, the man holding the camera comments on what is unfolding, saying that the armed men are coming to the president’s home.
“They’ve taken Jovenel. Jovenel is gone,” he says, referring to Mr. Moïse by his first name, as shouting can be heard in the distance. “Don’t you see the guys disarming the Jovenel guys?”
The Taiwanese authorities said on Friday that 11 heavily armed people had been arrested on Thursday on the grounds of its embassy in Port-au-Prince, about a mile from where President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was assassinated.
It was not immediately clear whether the people arrested at the embassy were involved in the assassination. Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said the Haitian police were still looking into the matter.
In a separate statement posted on Friday, Taiwan’s Embassy in Haiti condemned the assassination as “cruel and barbaric” and referred to those arrested on its grounds as “mercenaries.”
Ms. Ou, the spokeswoman, said that on Thursday morning, security personnel had discovered a group of “fully armed, suspicious-looking individuals” breaking through the embassy’s security perimeter and had immediately notified the police and embassy staff.
She said that no embassy personnel were on the grounds when the intruders were discovered, because they had been instructed to work from home shortly after the assassination in the early hours of Wednesday.
Ms. Ou said embassy officials had immediately agreed to allow the Haitian police to enter the grounds to conduct a search and make arrests.
By 4 p.m. on Thursday, the police had arrested the suspects, she said, adding that no one was harmed and that an initial inspection indicated only minimal property damage.
It was not immediately clear whether the 11 people detained at the embassy were included in the group of 17 suspects who the Haitian authorities say have been arrested in connection with the assassination.
Haiti is one of only 15 nations to have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a self-governed island claimed by China. Taiwan’s embassy in Port-au-Prince is in Pétion-Ville, the suburb where Mr. Moïse was killed.
“At this difficult time,” Ms. Ou said, “the government of Taiwan reiterates its support for interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph in leading Haiti to overcome this crisis and restore democratic order.”
Haiti was gripped by unease on Friday after the nation’s president was killed at his home on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince earlier in the week. There are questions about who is in charge of the Caribbean nation even as the coronavirus is spreading and armed gangs wield growing power.
The presidential house peppered with holes and littered with bullet casings. The front doors badly damaged. The president’s body lying on the floor at the foot of his bed, “bathed in blood.”
The Haitian justice of the peace who arrived at the home of President Jovenel Moïse in the hours after his assassination on Wednesday described a haunting scene.
“There were 12 holes visible in the body of the president that I could see,” the justice, Carl Henri Destin, told The New York Times. “He was riddled with bullets.”
In the days after the assassination, the Caribbean country was still reeling, and as details of the assassination emerged, they seemed to offer more questions than answers.
Forty to 50 people were involved in the assault, and they appeared to have been well-trained, State Department officials told members of Congress on Thursday, according to three people familiar with the briefing who spoke on the condition of anonymity. That report was in keeping with earlier comments by the Haitian ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, who described the attackers as “professionals, killers, commandos” in a call with reporters.
The assailants made it past two police checkpoints before reaching the president’s gate, the State Department said, according to people familiar with the briefing, adding that the security personnel guarding the president’s residence had suffered no injuries.
There were also said to be no reports of an exchange of gunfire between the guards and the attackers — which raised some eyebrows.
“It’s weird that there was no one was fighting back,” said Laurent Lamothe, a former prime minister of Haiti, noting that the presidential guard usually had a detachment of about 100 officers. “There was a lot of shooting, but no deaths. The only death was the president.”
One American lawmaker, Representative Andy Levin, a co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the circumstances of the attack, and particularly the apparent lack of fighting, raised questions about whether the assassination could have been “an inside job.”
Mr. Destin, the justice of the peace, said the president’s house had been ransacked. “Drawers were pulled out, papers were all over the ground, bags were open,” he said. “They were looking for something apparently.”
And the attack, he said, had been very violent.
President Moïse had been dressed in a white shirt and jeans, he said, both of which were torn and covered in blood. Bullet holes perforated his arms, hip, backside and left ear.
Mr. Destin said two of the president’s children had been present during the attack. He took a statement from the president’s 24-year-old daughter, who had returned to the house from the hospital to collect clothing for her wounded mother.
She told him that she and her younger brother had hid together in his bathroom, Mr. Destin said.
The international airport in Port-au-Prince is resuming commercial flights on Friday, two days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti led to its closure and a series of canceled flights.
Christopher D. Johnson, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince, confirmed in a statement that flights would resume on Friday. The facility, Toussaint Louverture International Airport, first closed early Wednesday, Mr. Johnson said.
Among the U.S. airlines that operate flights between the United States and Haiti are American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit. JetBlue, which averages five flights per day between the United States and Haiti, has suspended flights until at least Saturday, a spokesman said, and is evaluating the situation.
“If and when we add flights before Sunday, we will reach out to customers to inform them,” said the spokesman, Derek Dombrowski. The Haiti-based Sunrise Airways, which flies within the Caribbean, grounded all flights until further notice.
American Airlines operates two daily flights from Miami and one daily flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The airline said it planned to operate both flights out of Miami but was still evaluating Fort Lauderdale flights because of “early timing.”
On Thursday, a day after declaring a “state of siege” and a curfew, Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, asked people to return to work and ordered the airport reopened.
The Dominican Republic’s president, Luís Abinader, had closed the country’s border with Haiti and also increased security, causing dozens of trucks to back up along the crucial passageway, according to
Haiti has been thwarted by outside interests from its very foundation as a country.
For decades, European powers, and later the United States, refused to recognize it as an independent republic.
The Caribbean nation became the world’s first Black-led republic when it declared its independence from France on New Year’s Day 1804. That day, Saint-Domingue, once France’s richest colony, known as the “Pearl of the Antilles,” became Haiti.
It was a land long coveted for its riches of sugar, coffee and cotton, brought to market by enslaved people. Its declaration of independence meant that, for the first time, a brutally enslaved people had wrenched their freedom from colonial masters. But it came only after decades of bloody war.
In 1825, more than two decades after independence, the king of France, Charles X, sent warships to the capital, Port-au-Prince, and forced Haiti to compensate former French colonists for their lost property.
Haiti, unable to pay the hefty sum, was forced into a debt that it had to shoulder for nearly a century. Throughout the 19th century, a period marked by political and economic instability, the country invested little in its infrastructure or education.
In 1915, U.S. troops invaded after a mob killed the Haitian president.
The United States later justified its occupation as an attempt to restore order and prevent what it said was a looming invasion by French or German forces. But U.S. troops reintroduced forced labor on road-construction projects and were later accused of extrajudicial killings.
The widely unpopular occupation ended in 1934, but U.S. control over Haiti’s finances lasted until 1947.
After a series of midcentury coups, the Duvalier family, father-and-son dictators, reigned over Haiti with brute force until the 1980s. Their regime plunged Haiti deeper into debt, and introduced the so-called Tontons Macoutes, an infamous secret police force that terrorized the country.
In the early 1990s, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was elected president. He was then ousted twice from power over the next 15 years.
Haiti, with a population of 11 million, is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
In 2010, it suffered a devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people. The country never really recovered, and it has remained mired in economic underdevelopment and insecurity. A cholera outbreak in 2016, linked to U.N. peacekeepers, killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened another 800,000.
Then early Wednesday, Jovenel Moïse, who became president in 2017, was assassinated at his residence.