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#1006: Ouster,assassination renew concerns about Haiti's security (fwd)


Published Wednesday, November 17, 1999, in the Miami Herald       

 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 a day later of a former army officer
erroneously reported to have been his likely replacement. Robert Manuel,
undersecretary of state for public security, resigned at Preval's
request Oct. 7.  On the evening of Oct. 8, Jean Lamy, a former army
officer and consultant to the police with links to former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was gunned down by 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 ``dead 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
connected. 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 reported
 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 and
 describing himself as among the first exiles of Lavalas, the movement
that carried 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 about 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 be used for partisan political
purposes, the sources said. It was in the days following
 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 points 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 preferred
 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 reportedly 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 early 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 Haiti 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 with maintaining the integrity of the police.
The concern now is that with Manuel gone, Denize may soon follow and the
police will become increasingly politicized.