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#975: Haitian National Police (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <stanley_lucas@smtpgwy.iri.org>

Ouster, assassination renew concerns
 about Haiti's security


 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Six weeks after the event, the biggest mystery in town still
 swirls around the dismissal by President Rene Preval of a longtime personal
 friend as the country's highest-ranking security official and the assassination
 day later of a former army officer erroneously reported to have been his likely

 Robert Manuel, undersecretary of state for public security, resigned at
 request Oct. 7. 

 On the evening of Oct. 8, Jean Lamy, a former army officer and consultant to
 police with links to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was gunned down
 unknown assailants on one of Port-au-Prince's main streets. His shooting
 occurred a few hours after he had visited Manuel.

 Adding to the intrigue, a week later Mario Andresol, chief of judicial police
and the
 person in charge of investigating Lamy's murder, was the target of an
 unsuccessful assassination attempt.

 As a result, according to one diplomatic source, the Lamy investigation is
 in the water.''

 While there is no clear evidence of a link between Manuel's resignation and
 Lamy's assassination, it is widely believed in Haiti that the two are
 Informed sources say Lamy was never considered as Manuel's replacement,
 however, despite press reports to the contrary. No replacement has been named.

 The episode has raised questions about the ability of the 4-year-old police
force --
 Haiti's only security force -- to resist political pressure, and Aristide's
 influence in forcing Manuel's resignation as parliamentary elections approach.

 Dany Toussaint, another former army officer with links to Aristide, immediately
 accused Manuel of responsibility for Lamy's assassination. The accusation
 prompted a midnight meeting with Preval at the National Palace the night of the
 assassination, with Manuel and Toussaint present, to clear the air. Toussaint
 reportedly acknowledged the lack of any evidence against Manuel.

 The next morning Manuel and his family departed under tight security for
 Guatemala, his wife's home. There he is said by friends to be looking for a job
 describing himself as among the first exiles of Lavalas, the movement that
 Aristide to the presidency in 1991.


 Manuel has made no public comment since resigning. Informed sources said
 Aristide called Manuel to his residence on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince
 two weeks before the security chief. The ex-president appealed to Manuel as an
 early and staunch supporter and told him that he needed the full cooperation of
 the police in upcoming elections, the sources said.

 Manuel rejected Aristide's appeal and told him he would not allow the police to
 used for partisan political purposes, the sources said. It was in the days
 the Aristide meeting, according to the sources, that Preval called Manuel, told
 him he was not satisfied with his work and asked for his resignation.

 ``Their [Manuel and Preval] objective was the same, but they had different
 of view on how to get to the objective . . . the how and the timing of the how
in a
 politically sensitive moment,'' a friend said. Manuel apparently wanted to move
 against people with ties to Aristide for alleged illegal activities, but Preval
 a more cautious approach.

 Manuel and Preval had spent months in asylum in the French and Mexican
 embassies in Port-au-Prince after the coup that ousted Aristide in September
 1991. Manuel had also been a staunch longtime Aristide supporter, but
 became disillusioned, particularly by people surrounding the ex-president.

 Among them were Toussaint and other former army officers -- including Pierre
 Cherubin and Jacques Aurelus -- who aligned themselves with Aristide in the
 stages of his presidency in 1991.


 When Aristide was returned to office by U.S.-led troops in 1994, the former
 officers returned with him and are still seen as enjoying the political
protection of
 the former president.

 They regarded Manuel and Pierre Denize, the police chief, as ``an obstacle to
 doing business as usual with guaranteed impunity,'' one source said. ``So under
 the guise of political action,'' they initiated a campaign against the two.

 Manuel was also Preval's point man in negotiations last spring with opposition
 political parties that resulted in an agreement for parliamentary elections now
 scheduled for next spring. His role in that also stirred some controversy.

 Combined with his security position, that made him a lightning rod for some
 sectors, which apparently led to Preval's request for his resignation.

 The incidents in early October came at a time when the police force had been
 showing signs of deterioration after being regarded earlier as one of the rare
 success stories in the five years since constitutional rule was restored. 

 Both Manuel and Denize had been under pressure for months by Aristide
 supporters demanding their resignations.

 Despite the pressures, the two were credited by the international community
 maintaining the integrity of the police. The concern now is that with Manuel
 Denize may soon follow and the police will become increasingly politicized.