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#4929: Newsday: Constant Interview082100 from Slavin (fwd)

From: Patrick Slavin <pslavin@unicefusa.org>
       Haunted By Haiti Violence
       Queens man, target of protests, responds to accusations of
       by Ron Howell
       Staff Writer

       These days, he has lots of spare time. He watches home videos,
       takes computer classes, goes to house parties and enjoys time
       with his children visiting from Montreal.

       It is easy to lose oneself in solitude on his quiet block of
       detached homes and well-manicured lawns on 225th Street in

       But there are those who will never let Emmanuel Constant forget
       he is Haiti's most wanted man, the head of a group that
       allegedly killed, kidnaped and pillaged in a right-wing
       campaign of terror that covered Haiti like a long, scary night
       between 1993 and 1994.

       More than a week ago, human-rights activists protested outside
       his home and the Cambria Heights real-estate office where he
       worked, bringing Constant the first flurry of media attention
       in two years.

       In the wake of the renewed interest in his case, he decided to
       break his silence and in three interviews with Newsday spoke
       guardedly about his cloak-and-dagger past and about his
       personal life in Queens.

       He discussed his past relationship with agents of the CIA and
       Defense Intelligence Agency, revealing that they were attracted
       to him by his access to extensive databases of information
       about Haitians and by his work in satellites and other
       telecommunications as a private contractor for Haitian army
       commanders and others.

       Speaking about his life in Queens, he angrily asserted that he
       is being maligned by such human-rights groups as the
       Manhattan-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which he says
       has been hounding him and making it hard for him to find a job.

       After the center and local Haitian organizations got wind of
       his recent job with Rigaud Realty Services on Linden Boulevard
       in Cambria Heights, they organized a protest on Aug. 12 outside
       the office, as well as outside Constant's home.

       Constant said he and his former employer at the realty company,
       Patrick Rigaud, have agreed that the negative publicity is bad
       for Rigaud's business, and Constant is now looking for work

       "I'm the father of five kids, and I have the right to feed them
       and put them through school and college," Constant, 43, said
       angrily. "I heard somebody was comparing me to Nazis. I was
       shocked to hear such a thing ....It's purely propaganda, and
       it's time for it to stop." Disputing claims by various
       human-rights groups that from 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed
       in Haiti from 1991 to 1994 after the coup against President
       Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Constant said his organization, the
       Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), was
       not even formed until the fall of 1993.

       He also maintained that the number of people killed during the
       entire period might be as low as 170, a figure even the most
       cautious of Haiti-watchers would call ridiculously
       conservative. Given to such declarations that seem to fly in
       the face of reality, Constant has even maintained that members
       of his group did not carry weapons.

       Emmanuel Constant is a 6-foot-3 former broad jumper who speaks
       fluent Creole, English, French and Spanish and who smiles and
       laughs easily. "Wherever I go, I tell stories, wherever I go, I
       tell jokes, I make people laugh," he said.

       But true to the Haitian saying that behind the mountains are
       more mountains, there is an aura of intrigue behind Constant's
       smile, an aura that some of his detractors would say is colored
       in blood.

       In late 1995, when he was being held in jail by the Immigration
       and Naturalization Service, Constant began speaking openly
       about his CIA ties, hinting that more revelations would come if
       he were not released from custody.

       The disclosures were a terrible embarrassment to the United
       States, revealing that U.S. intelligence agents met with,
       advised and financially supported Constant to the tune of $700
       a month, even as he formed the terror group FRAPH, an acronym
       that sounds like the word for "hit" or "strike" when said in
       Haitian Creole.

       (The U.S. State Department has confirmed that Constant had a
       relationship with U.S. intelligence agents, but it has not
       disclosed details.) In dealing with Constant, U.S. agents
       effectively gave aid and comfort to those opposing the return
       of Aristide, a leftist former Catholic priest who was ousted in
       a bloody military coup on Sept. 30, 1991. Aristide was fiercely
       loved by the poor Haitian masses, just as he was hated by the
       wealthy elite and regarded with extreme suspicion by some
       Americans, who saw Aristide as anti-capitalist and

       The collaboration with Constant, which lasted from 1992 to
       1994, ran counter to official U.S. policy, which was that
       Aristide was Haiti's first popularly elected head of state and
       should be restored to power. In the fall of 1994, President
       Bill Clinton dispatched 20,000 troops to return Aristide to
       Haiti from his exile in Washington.

       In December, 1994, two months after Aristide's return, Constant
       fled to the United States on a temporary visa, and in February,
       1995, he was arrested in Queens on orders of a red-faced
       Clinton administration, which declared him persona non grata.

       On June 14, 1996, Constant was released from a jail in Wicomico
       County, Md., after signing a five-page agreement, whose terms
       Constant is not supposed to disclose, with State and Justice
       Department officials.
       Last week, Constant said his Newark-based lawyer, J.D.
       Larosiliere, has advised him not to talk about his past ties to
       American intelligence agents.
       However, with nods and brief answers, he did confirm the
       following outline of his work with U.S. officials: In the
       months after the coup against Aristide, a Defense Department
       attaché from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince approached
       Constant and began paying him $700 a month as an informant.

       Constant said his knowledge of computers and his contacts with
       the Haitian military made him valuable to American intelligence
       officials. "I'm very good at analyzing the situation," he said.
       "I was privileged to have a lot of information." In addition to
       having a telecommunications company, Constant said he worked as
       director of social affairs under the post-coup de facto
       government of Marc Bazin. In that capacity, he helped build a
       database about people and places all over Haiti.

       Constant's first flirtation with notoriety came on Oct. 11,
       1993, when he and dozens of anti-Aristide militants mobilized
       at the port of the capital city, waving guns and yelling
       threats against Americans. Their goal was to prevent the
       docking of the Harlan County, a U.S. ship transporting 216
       American and Canadian soldiers who were the advance guard of an
       international plan to restore Aristide.

       FRAPH was born out of that demonstration. Constant would later
       reveal that U.S. intelligence officials were aware beforehand
       of plans for the dockside demonstration but did not try to stop
       it. Clinton ordered the Harlan County to turn back, dashing
       hopes for Aristide's return for another year.
       During this time, Constant says, he met almost daily with the
       CIA station chief in Port-au-Prince, driving around town with
       him and sharing ideas about Haitian politics. And in this
       period, FRAPH expanded throughout the country, as its members
       acquired weapons in violation of an international embargo and
       terrorized cities and villages. Haitian refugees interviewed by
       American officials and human- rights groups say FRAPH was
       involved in murders, rapes, beatings and even the burning down
       of whole neighborhoods.

       This violent past will come alive again in about three weeks.
       On Sept. 12, Haiti is scheduled to begin the trial of 59
       people-36 soldiers and 23 FRAPH members-accused in the deaths
       of eight Aristide supporters in the Raboteau section of
       Gonaives, Haiti, on April 23, 1994. Among the accused FRAPH
       members, only two are not in Haiti: Constant and his FRAPH
       co-founder, Jodel Chamblain, who is believed to be in the
       Dominican Republic.
       While Constant and Chamblain are not accused of firing weapons
       in the Raboteau incident, "they started an enterprise that
       involved massive violations of human rights, and ... the fact
       that they started the enterprise makes them liable for all the
       acts," asserted Brian Concannon, the lead attorney for the
       Haiti-based Bureau of International Lawyers.
       The bureau is helping the Haitian government prosecute the
       crimes stemming from the coup against Aristide.

       Concannon said he wants Constant returned to Haiti. "If
       Constant arrived today, certainly within a couple of weeks we
       could file a lot of cases against him," Concannon said in a
       phone interview from Haiti.

       Concannon said the United States had been hindering efforts to
       build a case against FRAPH and Constant by refusing to turn
       over 160,000 pages of documents that U.S. soldiers seized from
       FRAPH headquarters and Haitian army headquarters in late 1994.
       The United States is apparently trying to identify and erase
       the names of all Americans who dealt with FRAPH, Concannon

       And the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit in
       U.S. courts in which it demanded and received some formerly
       classified documents held by the CIA and Defense Intelligence.
       Some of the documents point a finger at Constant.

       One CIA memo reviewed by Newsday cites a source in Haiti who
       said, "FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant and
       Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military officer on
       the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary."
       Aristide's justice minister, Guy Malary, was assassinated with
       his chauffeur and bodyguard on Oct. 14, 1993.

       The center alleges that on Oct. 16, 1993, in the Carrefour
       section of Port-au-Prince, hatchet-wielding FRAPH members beat
       a pro-Aristide woman, Alerte Belance, and left her for dead.
       Belance, who is missing her right forearm and is deaf in her
       right ear, now lives in the New York area.
       Last week Constant denied any involvement in Malary's death or
       in the brutal assault on Belance.

       "I was not at a meeting," he said of Malary's killing. "I heard
       about [the killing] on the scanner, like anyone else." Constant
       said that if he is deported to Haiti to stand trial, he will
       surely be tortured and killed. The U.S. government has cited
       that possibility in allowing him to remain in New York, where
       he says he reports every Tuesday to INS officials in Manhattan.

       On June 12, 1996-two days before Constant was released from
       detention-a Baltimore official of the INS told him, "[Our]
       information indicates that you will be put in prison, and that
       a prison riot will be staged as a diversion during which an
       attempt to kill you will be made." A transcript of that
       conversation, signed by U.S. government officials, is among the
       files in the office of Constant's attorney, Larosiliere. INS
       officials last week did not return calls seeking comment on the
       alleged death plot.

       Speaking in Haiti, the attorney helping prosecute FRAPH members
       denied Constant would be killed or harmed.

       He said a former Haitian army captain, Castera Cenafils, had
       been in jail five years, alive and well and waiting for his
       trial in the Raboteau mass-murder case. "He hasn't been
       touched," Concannon said of Cenafils.
       Although Constant says he is offended and outraged at the
       allegations against him, he often appears to be enormously at
       ease. Much of his spare time he spends going to the movies or
       watching videos at home or attending parties.

       "I'm the No. 1 client of Blockbuster," he said.

       He has gained 20 pounds since his days in Haiti and now wears
       wire-rimmed glasses. He sports an earring in his left ear.

       Haitians have reported seeing him at discos and even at voodoo
       ceremonies, but Constant says he is not a regular disco-goer
       and is not a devotee of voodoo.

       He said he is from a family of devout Catholics. But at least
       one local Catholic priest has refused to perform sacraments for

       When Constant was released from prison in June, 1996, his
       mother went to Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Cambria
       Heights and asked the priest to celebrate a mass of
       thanksgiving for his release. The priest agreed and accepted a
       donation of about $25, Constant said.

       When more than half a dozen members of the family showed up at
       the church for the morning service, though, the Rev. Jean
       Augustin Francois recognized Constant and told the mother he
       could not celebrate a mass for her son.

       Francois returned the money to Constant's mother.

       Francois, now assigned to the St. Thérèse Lisieux Roman
       Catholic parish in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, said:
       "I did something which, in my judgment, was right. My
       conscience is clear." He refused to comment further, saying he
       did not want to offend Constant or Constant's mother.
       Growing up in Haiti, Constant lived a life of privilege. His
       father, Gen.
       Gerard E. Constant, who is now dead, was commander of the armed
       forces under the late Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier during the
       highly repressive 1960s.

       Emmanuel-known by his nickname, Toto-attended private schools
       in Haiti and lived for a time in Spain before going to college
       in Montreal as a teenager. In Montreal, he studied computers
       and was put on the payroll of the Haitian embassy there to
       promote the interests of Haitian businesses.
       In 1984, he moved to an apartment in Flushing, commuting to his
       job as a UN diplomat representing Jean-Claude (Baby Doc)
       Duvalier, who took power in Haiti after Francois Duvalier's
       death. In 1986, an era came to an end, as Jean-Claude Duvalier
       fled to Europe amid growing protests against the 30-year family

       And in 1988, Toto Constant, now without his steady government
       paycheck, left Queens and returned to live in Haiti.

       Constant said that at the time of the 1991 coup against
       Aristide, he was working as a consultant with Haitian army
       officials, setting up a nationwide telecommunications system in
       Haiti. He said he wanted to make it clear, however, that at the
       time of the coup, he was in Miami with his father, who died
       nearly three weeks afterward.

       Looking back on his last decade in Haiti, Constant says he
       realizes many thousands of Haitians in New York hate him for
       the things he is accused of doing. But he scoffs at the two or
       three dozen people who showed up to demonstrate outside his
       home and outside Rigaud Realty last week.
       If he were really guilty of killing hundreds of people, "There
       would be at least 15,000 people there," he said.

       Constant said his real enemy is the Center for Constitutional
       Rights, which has spearheaded much of the public outcry against
       his release from jail.
       "They're a pain in my butt, the center is," he said Thursday,
       speaking at his home.

       Meanwhile, Constant said, he will do what any respectable guy
       would do in his shoes: look for work. Three years ago, he lost
       his job selling telephone cards after news articles appeared,
       and now he has lost his real-estate job.
       Lately, he has been trying to use his computer networking
       skills to establish a "home-based" business of some kind, he

       "One thing I'll tell you," he said, referring to the position
       he just lost after the Aug. 12 demonstrations. "That was the
       last time anybody's going to find out where I work."

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