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(en) What's Behind the U.S. "Drug War" in Haiti?

From Haiti Progres <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Date Fri, 18 Feb 2000 09:16:21 -0500


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HAITI PROGRES "Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI * February 16 - 22, 2000

WHAT'S BEHIND THE U.S. "DRUG WAR" IN HAITI?

No doubt about it. Drugs are flowing through Haiti. The
question is: who is behind the traffic and what is the real
purpose of the U.S. government's "war on drugs," both in
Haiti and in other countries like Colombia?

Such questions arise when the drug news gets sensational, as
it did this week. The most dramatic story concerned a
botched drug deal in the northwestern town of Port-de-Paix
on Feb. 11. Late that afternoon, two Colombians landed a
small plane on the short dirt strip situated in the midst of
shacks and grazing animals on the west side of town. They
were met by two vehicles which apparently received a drug
hand-off. Unfortunately for them, the aircraft was soon
surrounded by townspeople making a commotion. Off-duty
police officer Jean Francois "Eddy" Desir, who lives near
the strip, came over to look into the situation. The drug
traffickers panicked and shot him dead with a bullet to the
head. They then sped away in different directions, one to
the east and the other along Rue Capois, which runs through
a popular quarter. The first vehicle got away, but the
second did not get far, flipping over due to mud and bumps.

Before the police could arrive at the scene of the accident,
the driver had disappeared and a crowd had looted the car,
snatching parts and, according to police, cocaine.

"After the vehicle crashed, [the drug traffickers] made off
with part of the drugs, and a portion of the population made
off with the other part," said Wanche Rodolphe Valmir, the
director of the Haitian National Police (PNH) in the
Northwest Department. The following day, the police
conducted house to house searches in the area, but failed to
recuperate any drugs. They did arrest 12 people, however,
whom they claimed were involved in the looting.

Meanwhile, the black-clad officers of the local Departmental
Unit for the Maintenance of Order (UDMO) along with agents
from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrived at the
airstrip and arrested three Colombians - Marco Rodriguez,
Carlo Gonzalez, Nicolas Sidney - and one Haitian, Jean
Michel. In vehicle searches in the capital and elsewhere in
recent months, U.S. DEA agents have been seen directing PNH
officers, even though the North Americans are on Haitian
soil. The PNH subservience to the DEA agents seems to be
continuing, since it was the U.S. agents who transported the
three Colombians to prison in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 14.
Michel remained in the Port-de-Paix jail.

"Two U.S. air force planes flew over Port-de-Paix on Friday,
apparently following the drug plane," Valmir told Reuters.
Once again, it seems the U.S. military thinks it can operate
in Haiti's airspace and waters as it sees fit, even though
no Haitian Parliament has ever ratified any treaty allowing
such incursions.

In an effort to catch the fugitive traffickers who escaped
in Port-de-Paix, the PNH set up roadblocks in surrounding
towns like Anse Foleur, Saint Louis du Nord, Bassin Bleu,
Chansolmne, and Gros Morne.

According to Reuters, the police have captured three drug
trafficking planes in Croix de Bouquets, just north-east of
the capital, in the past two weeks. Also, on Dec. 5 and Dec.
12, small planes believed to be running drugs crashed near
that town.

Meanwhile, in Miami, U.S. authorities heralded the seizure
of almost 3,000 pounds of cocaine from five Haitian
freighters: Anita, Caribbean Seahorse, Rio Star, Hardness,
and Croyance. Some Haitians apparently snitched on their
partners in crime and told the FBI and DEA that they would
find cocaine on the vessels. The U.S. authorities started
searching the ships, which were docked along the Miami
River, on Jan. 29, but it took them almost two weeks before
they finally found all the drugs.

"We knew it was there, and we couldn't find it," Customs
Supervisor Bobby Rutherford told the Miami Herald. "Without
sources we'd never find it."

In most of the vessels, the drugs were expertly hidden
behind welded steel. For example, at a cost of $10,000, U.S.
Customs had to haul the 128-foot Anita out of the water and
drill into the keel, where they discovered 238 packages of
cocaine.

According to the Herald, on hearing of the drug seizures in
Miami, "several Haitian freighters did U-turns at sea and
beat a path for home. More than a dozen freighters are
staying put in Cap-Haitien."

Now, of course, the big question: who is behind what the
Feb. 13 Herald calls "one of the most formidable smuggling
operations in the world"? Well, first off, all five vessels
are registered in Honduras. Secondly, as the Herald notes,
former Port-au-Prince Police Chief and coup leader Michel
Francois is also living in Honduras, despite a 13-count
indictment and extradition request made by the DEA in 1997
for Francois' alleged drug trafficking (see Haiti Progres,
Vol. 14, No. 51, 3/12/97). Francois "is 'strongly suspected'
to be at or near the top of the Haitian drug consortium,
according to federal authorities," the Herald said.

A third pointer is the involvement of Emmanuel Thibaud, who,
along with Miami businesswoman Clarice Jean-Michel, was
arrested last month as a suspected leader of the smuggling
ring. When U.S. authorities searched Thibaud's home on Jan.
29, they found documents linking him to Michel Francois.
This is no surprise.

"Thibaud was a soldier in Haiti during the coup d'etat, at
which time he was drug trafficking with Michel Francois,"
said Tony Jean-Thenor of Veye Yo, the well-known popular
organization in Miami. "For awhile, after the return of
Aristide [in Oct. 1994], he was working in the Interim
Police Force at the Airport, during which time he beat up
Piman Bouk [a popular radio show host in Miami]. Finally he
was fired, and since 1996, he bought a boat and has been
going back and forth between Haiti and Miami, trafficking
drugs."

Is it not ironic that a putschist soldier, renowned for his
drug trafficking both during and after the coup, who worked
closely with Michel Francois, should be allowed to immigrate
and live in Miami, while, only 45 days ago, hundreds of
other Haitians, who may have been victims of his repression,
were turned away?

The U.S. government looks out for Michel Francois too.
Honduras is a virtual protectorate of the Pentagon and CIA.
It was used to shelter the Nicaraguan contras and overturn
the Sandinista revolution. Today it is the principal U.S.
beach-head in Central America now that Panama has reclaimed
its canal. The U.S. government's sheltering of criminals -
including Francois in Honduras, Raoul Cedras in Panama,
Emmanuel "Toto" Constant in Queens, New York, and former
Col. Carl Dorelian in West Palm Beach, Florida - is so
flagrant that even the U.S. Congress is being forced to hold
hearings "on legislation that would expand the mandate of
the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations
from World War II-era Nazis to include the modern- day
oppressors in our midst," the Feb. 15 Herald reported.
Public outrage against the harboring of criminals from
U.S.-backed regimes has grown so high that even reactionary
Republican congressmen like Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and
Mark Foley (R-FL) are having to line up behind the
legislation.

But have no illusions. Despite the media hype, the
legislation, should it pass, will never be used against the
dictators and their henchmen who serve U.S. interests,
except perhaps in a extraordinary case or two, to fool the
masses.

Like Frankenstein with his monster, the U.S. often has to
chase after the very criminals it creates. Just as in the
case of Cuba and Nicaragua, the thugs trained and equipped
by the Pentagon and CIA go on to form vicious mafias,
involved in drug trafficking, assassinations, and money
laundering. Of course, the U.S. government also commits
these crimes - for example, in Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua,
Afghanistan, and Haiti, the CIA used, tolerated, or
encouraged drug trafficking to finance its operatives. But
sometimes the criminals become an embarrassment.

Take, for example, a letter we received by fax this week at
the New York office of Haiti Progres. Dated Jan. 17, 2000,
it purports to be from Georgia Senator Paul Coverdell,
Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on
International Narcotics and Terrorism, to North Carolina
Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. "I would like to confirm my committee's
promise to create a sealed indictment for Jean- Bertrand
Aristide, covering his involvement with cocaine trafficking
into the United States," the letter reads. It goes on to
predict that Aristide will be "moved to Miami under DEA
guard, just as they brought Noriega" and asserts that "the
evidence against Aristide is much stronger than that we held
against Noriega."

As suggested by its bizarre assertions and horrendous
grammar, the letter proved to be a forgery. "Oh my gosh,
this letter is so fraudulent," exclaimed Donna King,
Coverdell's press secretary. "It doesn't even come close to
anything related to our office. It is horribly misguided."
She explained that even the "United States Senate"
letterhead was concocted, since "each senator has his own
stationary with his name and logo on it."

The forgery fits the modus operandi of the FRAPH/Macoute
sector, which historically has devised such deceptions to
accuse opponents like Aristide of crimes which are more
attributable to themselves, as in the case of Michel
Francois' drug trafficking.

But there is a far more dangerous player in this "drug war"
than the Macoutes with their clumsy games. It is, in fact,
the "policeman of the hemisphere," a nation which takes the
liberty of invading territorial waters and airspace of any
country it sees fit (especially when there are pusillanimous
leaders like President Rene Preval in place) and which is
perpetuating the "war on drugs" by supporting and harboring
the drug traffickers. Why?

Because they need the "drug war" to camouflage their real
war, which is a war against any people which reject U.S.
hegemony, neoliberal doctrine, and imperialism. This is why
the U.S. government will try to pass a bill this spring to
pump an additional $1.6 billion in military and economic aid
to the Colombian government. The money is not to fight
drugs, as the U.S. claims, but to fight the guerrillas which
have been struggling against imperialism.

The goal is the same in Haiti. Despite the over $2 billion
which the U.S. has spent to politically and economically
"adjust" Haiti since 1994, it still does not master the
Haitian people. There remains the danger that Aristide will
come to power at the end of this year, complete with
nationalist and social-democratic rhetoric, and possibly
deeds. But even verbal defiance is seen as a threat to U.S.
interests. Thus Haiti is being systematically portrayed to
the U.S. public as a "drug transit point," so as to justify
any expansion of the continuing U.S. military presence
there.

In other words, "drug trafficking" serves U.S. purposes in
Haiti. It provides income to U.S. death squads and proxy
armies, both active and retired, and a pretext for deeper
U.S. intervention should the Mar. 19 "electoral coup d'etat"
fail. The "war on drugs" is no war at all. It is just high
theater to deceive the people and justify the presence of
U.S. agents and troops, who have no business being on
Haitian soil.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS
ENCOURAGED. Please credit Haiti Progres.

-30-

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. For information on other news in French and
Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100,
(fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at <editor@haiti-progres.com>.
Also visit our website at <www.haiti-progres.com>.


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