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7190: US State Department - Haiti:2000 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>

Haiti:2000 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

I. Summary 

Cocaine flow through Haiti decreased from 13 percent to 8 percent of the total detected flow in 2000, but little of this is attributable to the efforts of the Haitian Government. Despite this decrease, Haiti's location combined with extreme poverty, corruption, and limited law enforcement and justice capability continue to make Haiti a major transshipment point for South American narcotics, especially Colombian cocaine. The Organization of American States' (OAS) questioning of the legitimacy of the May 2000 National Assembly elections and the Government of Haiti's (GOH) lack of action to correct this situation resulted in the suspension of most
international assistance to the Government of Haiti. In September, the GOH declined to sign a Letter of Agreement for U.S. Government (USG) counternarcotics assistance. In November, a U.S. law was enacted that stipulates that no U.S. assistance may be made available to the central Government of Haiti until two conditions (discussed in detail below) were met. 

The Government of Haiti cooperated fully in a limited number of areas; specifically, on maritime interdiction operations with the U.S. Coast Guard and multilateral interdiction operations. However, attempts to curb corruption have been minimal. In September 2000, the United States and Haiti were unable to agree to terms for a Letter of Agreement for United States Government counternarcotics assistance. 

>From mid-1997 to the end of 2000, the passage of counternarcotics-related legislation related to counternarcotics measures was delayed by a prolonged political crisis. Elections in May 2000 resulted in a new Parliament that, by year's end, ratified a U.S.-Haitian bilateral maritime counterdrug agreement and an Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. 

Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected as President and took office on February 7, 2001. In a December 27 letter to President Clinton, then President-Elect Aristide pledged to "enhance substantially cooperation to combat drug trafficking." 

II. Status of Country 

Haiti, was engulfed in a dangerously polarized political situation throughout 2000 that damaged further the country's meager economy. While elections in May restored a functioning Parliament after nearly a four-year lapse, irregularities in the election caused the opposition and much of the international community to question the legitimacy of the new Parliament. Former President
Aristide was elected as president in November in an election boycotted by most opposition parties. He took office February 7, 2001. 

The new Haitian Parliament's opening session was delayed over international concerns about irregularities in the May elections. Once in session, Parliament ratified the 1997 bilateral agreement with the United States on ending maritime trafficking and the Inter-American Convention against Corruption; and, in January 2001, it enacted the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) along with anti-money laundering legislation. The United States had lobbied for the passage of the NDCS and anti-money laundering bills and is working with the GOH on implementation plans. The GOH will need technical assistance to implement the legislation. The
Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Act, 2001 (P.L. 106-429) stipulates that no funds appropriated by that Act or any previous Foreign Operations appropriations Act can be made available for assistance for the central Government of Haiti until the Secretary of State reports that Haiti has held free and fair elections to seat a new parliament and the Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)reports that Government of Haiti is fully cooperating with United States efforts to  interdict illicit drug traffic through Haiti to the United States. Neither of these conditions has been met. In a December 27 letter to President Clinton, President- Elect Aristide pledged, among other things, to "enhance substantially cooperation to combat drug trafficking." 

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2000 

Policy Initiatives. Haiti's counternarcotics initiatives suffered due to the political impasse and economic  instability and apparent lack of political will. The new parliament, however, moved quickly after President Aristide's election to approve antidrug legislation and a National Drug Control Strategy. Only asset forfeiture and chemical control laws remain to be enacted. 
 Illicit Cultivation and Production. Haiti is not a major drug cultivating or drug producing country. Cultivation, production, distribution, sale and possession of narcotics are illegal in Haiti. Some small marijuana cultivation sites were found in the country, likely intended for local use. 

Money Laundering. On January 17, 2001, the Haitian parliament approved a money laundering law originally written in 1997. The legislature also approved the National Drug Control Strategy. In August Haiti's central bank published a circular directing commercial banks, savings banks, foreign exchange brokers and transfer agencies to report to the GOH individual monetary transactions valued at or above the Haitian gourde equivalent of 10,000 U.S. dollars. This is the GOH's first known attempt to address money laundering through Haitian banking institutions. The United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) has provided a money-laundering expert to work with the GOH on implementing the new legislation. 

Asset Seizure. The lack of asset forfeiture legislation and a functional seizure process has the Haitian government's ability to seize and utilize the property of criminals. Apart from abandoned Colombian go-fast boats recovered on the south coast, which were reconditioned by the USCG, the government has been unable to utilize the assets seized in drug raids. There were, however, reports in 2000 of property being returned to its owner after attempts to effect its seizure failed because of the lack of a clearly defined process. 

Precursor Chemical Control. Haiti has no precursor chemical and essential chemicals control law. While suspect activity in precursor chemicals exists, no significant trade has been detected. 

Demand Reduction. The GOH does not operate a demand reduction or public awareness program. Anecdotal reports indicate that local consumption is rising as traffickers increasingly pay their personnel in product. There have been many reports of local citizens seizing cocaine before it could be delivered to the individual in charge of transit through Haiti. Cocaine is widely known as "manna from heaven" throughout Haiti, as it has become a source of income for entire towns. Stolen drugs are re-sold to dealers who then either sell them locally or send them to the United States or Canada. 

Law Enforcement Efforts. The GOH is aware of the nation's status as a principal transit zone for narcotics trafficked from South to North America. For the Government of Haiti, counternarcotics efforts are secondary to the far more pressing matters of political stability, public order, and economic development. While the GOH insists that it is willing to combat drug trafficking if provided with needed resources and intelligence information, the minimal law enforcement progress that was accomplished was a result of U.S. agents working side-by-side with fledgling Haitian narcotics officers. 

The Haitian Coast Guard (HCG), a unit of the HNP that works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), has shown promise of developing into effective counternarcotics entity. A USCG team that trained and advised the HCG was withdrawn in December 2000 to comply with legislative restrictions on assistance to the central government of Haiti l. Expanded HCG patrols in 2000
targeted Haiti's ten most active ports. Working closely with the DEA, USCG, and HNP anti drug unit (French acronym is BLTS), the HCG boarded ships at sea and in port. It was the lead agency for the first-ever boarding and search of a large merchant vessel in Port-au-Prince harbor and seized sixteen vessels for suspicion of trafficking. While seizures were down in 2000,
institutional and infrastructure development continued. A north coast base built with USG funds is almost complete, but a similar facility is needed on the southern coast of Haiti where most of the go-fast boats discharge their cocaine shipments. 

During 2000, the HNP seized 238 kilograms of cocaine and just over 370 pounds of marijuana. Drug-related arrests matched the downward trend, with 58 recorded in 2000, compared to 72 in 1999. With USG support, a trailer was refitted as an office and located at the Port-au-Prince seaport for use by the interagency  maritime interdiction task force. It now serves as a coordination center for maritime interdiction activities off Haiti's coasts and in port . With DEA guidance, the task force has begun conducting port surveys throughout Haiti in an effort to develop sources of information and contacts with port authorities and other law enforcement entities. According to DEA, the Haitian airport and maritime drug units are evolving into disciplined professional units that are increasingly willing to work with U.S. counterparts. The fledgling organizations show willingness to work and to improve their professional capabilities. 

In January, the HNP Director General agreed to increase total BLTS agents from 25 to 75. At year's end, 26 new agents had been added, bringing the total to 49. The United States intends to polygraph these agents. In March, the GOH participated in  Operation Conquistador, an operation that resulted in an increased level of vehicle and vessel searches, airline passenger and baggage inspection, and search warrants in areas of high drug trafficking activity. No large seizures were reported. 

A Joint Information Coordination Center (JICC) began operations at the Port-au-Prince international airport in October 1999. The JICC has been used primarily for sharing information between Haitian authorities. No significant drug seizures were attributed to its operations in 2000. Because of GOH failure to appoint a director for the JICC, the USG suspended in September its support for a technical advisor.  A Haitian customs agent and his dog trained for three months in France with French Customs instructors. The dog and handler now assist in searches for contraband at the Port-au-Prince airport. 

Corruption. Haiti recently ratified the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Despite continuing official declarations that corruption will not be tolerated, it is endemic throughout the HNP, Customs, Justice and Port Authority sectors. Public officials at all levels are paid salaries that are sufficiently meager to predispose them to bribery. High level GOH officials of the Preval administration and members of the National Assembly are also suspected of ties with narcotraffickers. Agreements and Treaties. Haiti is party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, its 1972 Protocol and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Haiti has not ratified the 1971 Vienna Convention on Psychotropic Substances. In December 2000, Haiti was one of 125 countries to sign the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the supplementary protocols on Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons. 

Extradition. Haiti and the U.S. have had a bilateral Extradition Treaty since 1904. It has not been used in recent years. The Haitian constitution of 1987 forbids extradition of Haitians.  In December 1998, the GOH signed a Letter of Agreement with the U.S. in which it agreed to act diligently on U.S. requests for deportation or expulsion to the U.S. of non-Haitian nationals suspected of drug trafficking and wanted by the U.S. justice system. In August, the Haitian National Police (HNP) arrested a Colombian national wanted for parole violation in the U.S. and
subsequently expelled him to the U.S. This was the first non-Haitian national expelled from Haiti to the U.S. pursuant to the 1998 agreement. In January, the GOH expelled suspected trafficker Gary Levell, a French citizen, to Florida where he was under indictment for drug trafficking. 

Drug flow and transit. Cocaine flow through Haiti decreased from 13 percent to 8 percent of the total detected flow in 2000. Law enforcement actions, particularly U.S. Customs seizures of cocaine aboard Haitian freighters moored in the Miami River, account for some of this decrease. The largest factor may be the difficulties traffickers experienced in moving drugs through Haiti because of poor infrastructure or the seizure of drugs by rival traffickers or other criminals. Air shipments dropped significantly in 2000, particularly after several aircraft crashed trying to land on makeshift runways. Most Colombian cocaine transiting Haiti now arrives on the southern coast in coastal freighters, container ships and small non-commercial boats. Port areas are largely unsecured and coastal areas are porous. The HCG has no routine presence on the south coast and local police do not take any action. After cocaine enters Haiti, there are several methods of onward shipment. Some cocaine transits to the north coast and continues its journey in Haitian freighters or in containers bound for the U.S. Cocaine is the principal business in some coastal
towns, including those on the northern side of the southern claw. Some crosses the border to the Dominican Republic to be loaded into containers or small vessels bound for North America or Europe. Some is transshipped in small vessels to Puerto Rico and then shipped via container cargo vessels or commercial airlines to North America or Europe. 

IV U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs 

Some bilateral programs showed potential; however, the Government of Haiti (GOH) did not sign a Letter of Agreement for USG  FY-2000 counternarcotics assistance funds, primarily because the GOH objected to the implications of the agreement's language prohibiting assistance to narcotraffickers. Assistance pending from previous years funding has been suspended until the new administration's intentions on counternarcotics cooperation are clarified. 

Other U.S. programs, including those administered by the U.S. Department of Justice's ICITAP and OPDAT, were suspended during 2000 as a result of dissatisfaction with the results of the May elections and overall dissatisfaction with the programs as catalogued in a GAO report. The Bilateral Coast Guard Program, which showed measurable progress within 2000, was suspended
as a result of restrictions in the FY-2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (discussed above in the Status of Country section). 

The Road Ahead. Despite this year's decline, little of which can be attributed to the efforts of the GOH, the quantity of drugs transiting Haiti is still far too high. This trade threatens the stability and integrity of Haitian institutions and will ruin countless lives in Haiti and elsewhere. The new administration of President Aristide needs to halt this trade and make the rooting out of its corrupting and destabilizing influences one of its top priorities. 

The new Aristide administration must move quickly to implement the recently passed counternarcotics and anti-money laundering legislation. At the regional level, it should join the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), strengthen significantly counternarcotics cooperation with the neighboring Dominican Republic, and participate in regional counternarcotics interdiction exercises. Haiti also needs to establish a financial investigations unit that is able to analyze and investigate suspected money laundering. These law enforcement activities should be combined with education initiatives designed to convince Haiti's youth of
the risks and consequences of addiction and to change public perceptions that engaging in drug trafficking is an acceptable means to escape poverty. 

International assistance can play a strong part in assisting Haiti in confronting the drug trade. Such assistance, however, is valueless and will not be forthcoming unless Haiti moves decisively to strengthen law enforcement and judicial institutions, particularly to root out and establish effective internal controls against corruption. Without taking basic measures such as reinvigorating the Inspector General function of the Haitian National Police and enacting and implementing fully tough anticorruption statutes, Haiti's and the international community's efforts to fight illegal drugs there will be destined to be ineffective.