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(en) Pressure Grows to Send Toto Back

From Tom Burghardt <tburghardt@igc.apc.org>
Date Fri, 20 Mar 1998 18:33:41 -0800 (PST)
Cc ara@web.net, ats@locust.etext.org, bblum6@aol.com, mnovickttt@igc.org, nattyreb@ix.netcom.com, sflr@slip.net


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                        * HAITI PROGRES *
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"
 
                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
                        March 18-24, 1998
                         Vol. 15, No. 52
 
                              * * *
 
     "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 <haiticom@blythe.org>
 
                              -----
_________________________________________________________________
 
                PRESSURE GROWS TO SEND TOTO BACK
_________________________________________________________________
 
                                *
 
     Is there an individual who better symbolizes the 1991-1994
coup d'etat than Emmanuel "Toto" Constant? As an agent of the
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the son of a prominent
Duvalierist general, the leader of the death-squad FRAPH (Front
for the Advancement and Progres of Haiti) became the very
embodiment of the alliance between Washington and former Tonton
Macoutes (Duvalier's shock troops) which made the coup possible.
 
     And Constant carried out his mission well. Recycling
thousands of former Tonton Macoutes, his organization became
world-famous for the flamboyant terror it rained down on the
Haitian people. Along with the army and police, its paramilitary
thugs helped to cut down many of the 5,000 Haitians who died
during the coup. Jeep-loads of FRAPH members would make night-
time drive-throughs of popular neighborhoods, sending residents
climbing out of back windows and diving under beds. The next
morning, people would often find FRAPH's grisly calling card: a
fly-blown bullet-ridden corpse, usually missing limbs or
sometimes the head.
 
     Since November 1994, when the first warrant for his arrest
was issued, the Haitian justice system -- such as it is -- has
sought Constant in connection with charges of torture, attempted
murder, murder, illegal arrest, and arson. But Constant fled to
the U.S. and presently remains under the protection of the U.S.
government, freely living and working in Queens, New York.
 
     Since last year, however, the Center for Constitution Rights
(CCR), in conjunction with the Haiti Support Network (HSN) and
the Alliance for Haitian Emigres, has been building a grassroots
campaign to pressure that Constant be returned to Haiti to stand
trial. As a first step on the legislative front, the CCR is
pushing for a resolution in the New York City Council calling on
the U.S. government to honor the Haitian government's repeated
demands for Constant's extradition back to Haiti. But the
initiative has met with some unexpected ambivalence from an
unexpected quarter, which could slow or jeopardize the
resolution's passage.
 
     "[City Council] Speaker Peter Vallone, who apparently
immediately saw the value of the resolution, is reluctant to move
forward with it without having the full support of the person who
has the largest constituency of Haitians in their council
district, which happens to be Councilwoman Una Clarke," explained
Ron Daniels, executive director of the CCR.
 
     Clarke is well-known to many Haitians as an outspoken
supporter of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide during the
coup. She spoke at many meetings and rallies for the return of
democracy in Haiti and against the mistreatment of Haitian
refugees at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba.
 
     So it was surprising to those in the "Return Constant to
Haiti" campaign that Clarke so far has withheld her support. "I
am deeply disappointed that apparently you are refusing to sign
on to the proposed resolution from the City Council," Daniels
wrote on Mar. 3 to Clarke in an exchange of correspondence
between CCR and Clarke which Haiti Progres has obtained. Although
dismayed by the leak of the documents, Daniels admits that he is
shocked by Clarke's reticence. "This is obviously very
disappointing for me because I have such great respect for Una
Clarke who is a self-professed warrior woman -- a maroon -- from
the hills of Jamaica," Daniels said. His letter to Clarke details
how he and others have repeatedly tried to reach Clarke over the
past year to obtain her support for the campaign to return Toto
Constant to Haiti. They never received any answer.
 
     In her Mar. 4 response to Daniels, Clarke claims that she
was unaware of any calls from the Haitian community that Toto
Constant be brought to justice in Haiti, and even questioned if
there was such a sentiment in her constituency. "If it were a
matter of urgency within the Haitian community, I am sure that
they would not have hesitated to solicit my support," Clarke
wrote. "Moreover, I have spoken to several organizations and
well-respected leaders, who otherwise would be pushing for Mr.
Constant's return, and they have expressed doubt that a
jurisdictional hearing is in place for a fair trial were he to be
returned to Haiti." Of course, this is the precise rationale
offered by the U.S. State Department for establishing itself as
the world's policeman and judge, thumbing its nose at Haitian
sovereignty, and protecting someone which it has itself labeled
"a terrorist" (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 12 No. 29, Oct. 14, 1994).
One can only wonder what "organizations and well-respected
leaders" Clarke spoke to. Perhaps it was editors and confederates
of Haiti Observateur, a right-wing weekly which was the principal
mouth-piece for the coup and used to run ads for the "Toto
Constant Defense Fund."
 
     The previously valiant Clarke now wants to bow out. "I am
not persuaded that I can provide the kind of leadership that
would cause the United States Government to have him returned,"
Clarke wrote. "In addition, such a matter is better handled by
the Federal Government and the US Department of Justice..." But
it is precisely the "Federal Government and the US Department of
Justice" which are shielding Constant, giving him de facto
political asylum here in the US! A City Council resolution is
aimed at exposing and foiling their dirty game of subverting
Haitian justice.
 
     "If we take such a posture, we would have never engaged in a
divestment campaign around South Africa, because it took pressure
on the part of people like Una Clarke, who did civil
disobedience, were arrested, and were in the streets around the
issue of ending apartheid in South Africa to force the U.S.
government to change its policy," Daniels said. "To wait for the
U.S. government to act honorably in a situation like this is, on
the face of it, almost absurd."
 
     Constant's FRAPH is most well-known for its theatrical CIA-
backed demonstration which "turned back" the USS Harlan County, a
troop ship which was supposed to land US and Canadian soldiers in
Haiti in October 1993. FRAPH militants also stand accused of the
Oct. 1993 attempted murder of Alerte Belance, whom they hacked
with machetes and left for dead in a Port-au-Prince dump. They
are also charged with the Dec. 27, 1993 burning of Cite Soleil,
where at least 860 houses were destroyed and about 5000 left
homeless, according to the Haitian Health Ministry. Human Rights
Watch, in an April 1994 report, wrote that 36 people were killed
and 25 disappeared in the attack, and some estimates have put the
death toll as high as 102.
 
     While Constant's role in these actions remains unclear, he
has been personally charged with torturing a pro-Aristide
posterer in February 1994 and is wanted for questioning in
several murders.
 
     Even if Clarke's support is not forthcoming, Daniels remains
optimistic that the City Council resolution to return Constant to
Haiti will pass. Both Speaker Vallone and Councilman Wendell
Foster have indicated their strong support for the resolution,
which would hopefully begin a cascade of similar bills in the New
York State legislature and eventually the US Congress. "This is
more than just a political debate but is really a clear moral
issue," Daniels said about the proposed resolution. "It really
comes down to where you stand on whether the Central Intelligence
Agency and the State Department should be able to strike a secret
deal to harbor a notorious human rights abuser like Toto
Constant."
 
     Copyright 1998 Haiti Progres. All Rights Reserved. Reprints
     Encouraged.
 
                              * * *
 
  ** NOTICE:  In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107,
     material appearing here is distributed without profit to
     those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this
     information for research and educational purposes. **
 
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