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#2383: This Week in Haiti 17:48 2/16/00 (fwd)

"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 <editor@haiti-progres.com>.
Also visit our website at <www.haiti-progres.com>.

                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                      February 16 - 22, 2000
                          Vol. 17, No. 48


No doubt about it. Drugs are flowing through Haiti. The question
is: who is behind the traffic and what is the real purpose of the
U.S. government's "war on drugs," both in Haiti and in other
countries like Colombia?

Such questions arise when the drug news gets sensational, as it
did this week. The most dramatic story concerned a botched drug
deal in the northwestern town of Port-de-Paix on Feb. 11. Late
that afternoon, two Colombians landed a small plane on the short
dirt strip situated in the midst of shacks and grazing animals on
the west side of town. They were met by two vehicles which
apparently received a drug hand-off. Unfortunately for them, the
aircraft was soon surrounded by townspeople making a commotion.
Off-duty police officer Jean François "Eddy" Désir, who lives
near the strip, came over to look into the situation. The drug
traffickers panicked and shot him dead with a bullet to the head.
They then sped away in different directions, one to the east and
the other along Rue Capois, which runs through a popular quarter.
The first vehicle got away, but the second did not get far,
flipping over due to mud and bumps.

Before the police could arrive at the scene of the accident, the
driver had disappeared and a crowd had looted the car, snatching
parts and, according to police, cocaine.

"After the vehicle crashed, [the drug traffickers] made off with
part of the drugs, and a portion of the population made off with
the other part," said Wanche Rodolphe Valmir, the director of the
Haitian National Police (PNH) in the Northwest Department. The
following day, the police conducted house to house searches in
the area, but failed to recuperate any drugs. They did arrest 12
people, however, whom they claimed were involved in the looting.

Meanwhile, the black-clad officers of the local Departmental Unit
for the Maintenance of Order (UDMO) along with agents from the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrived at the airstrip and
arrested three Colombians - Marco Rodriguez, Carlo Gonzalez,
Nicolas Sidney - and one Haitian, Jean Michel. In vehicle
searches in the capital and elsewhere in recent months, U.S. DEA
agents have been seen directing PNH officers, even though the
North Americans are on Haitian soil. The PNH subservience to the
DEA agents seems to be continuing, since it was the U.S. agents
who transported the three Colombians to prison in Port-au-Prince
on Feb. 14. Michel remained in the Port-de-Paix jail.

"Two U.S. air force planes flew over Port-de-Paix on Friday,
apparently following the drug plane," Valmir told Reuters. Once
again, it seems the U.S. military thinks it can operate in
Haiti's airspace and waters as it sees fit, even though no
Haitian Parliament has ever ratified any treaty allowing such

In an effort to catch the fugitive traffickers who escaped in
Port-de-Paix, the PNH set up roadblocks in surrounding towns like
Anse à Foleur, Saint Louis du Nord, Bassin Bleu, Chansolmne, and
Gros Morne.

According to Reuters, the police have captured three drug
trafficking planes in Croix de Bouquets, just north-east of the
capital, in the past two weeks. Also, on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12,
small planes believed to be running drugs crashed near that town.

Meanwhile, in Miami, U.S. authorities heralded the seizure of
almost 3,000 pounds of cocaine from five Haitian freighters:
Anita, Caribbean Seahorse, Rio Star, Hardness, and Croyance. Some
Haitians apparently snitched on their partners in crime and told
the FBI and DEA that they would find cocaine on the vessels. The
U.S. authorities started searching the ships, which were docked
along the Miami River, on Jan. 29, but it took them almost two
weeks before they finally found all the drugs.

"We knew it was there, and we couldn't find it," Customs
Supervisor Bobby Rutherford told the Miami Herald. "Without
sources we'd never find it."

In most of the vessels, the drugs were expertly hidden behind
welded steel. For example, at a cost of $10,000, U.S. Customs had
to haul the 128-foot Anita out of the water and drill into the
keel, where they discovered 238 packages of cocaine.

According to the Herald, on hearing of the drug seizures in
Miami, "several Haitian freighters did U-turns at sea and beat a
path for home. More than a dozen freighters are staying put in

Now, of course, the big question: who is behind what the Feb. 13
Herald calls "one of the most formidable smuggling operations in
the world"? Well, first off, all five vessels are registered in
Honduras. Secondly, as the Herald notes, former Port-au-Prince
Police Chief and coup leader Michel François is also living in
Honduras, despite a 13-count indictment and extradition request
made by the DEA in 1997 for François' alleged drug trafficking
(see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 14, No. 51, 3/12/97). François "is
'strongly suspected' to be at or near the top of the Haitian drug
consortium, according to federal authorities," the Herald said.

A third pointer is the involvement of Emmanuel Thibaud, who,
along with Miami businesswoman Clarice Jean-Michel, was arrested
last month as a suspected leader of the smuggling ring. When U.S.
authorities searched Thibaud's home on Jan. 29, they found
documents linking him to Michel François. This is no surprise.

"Thibaud was a soldier in Haiti during the coup d'état, at which
time he was drug trafficking with Michel François," said Tony
Jean-Thénor of Veye Yo, the well-known popular organization in
Miami. "For awhile, after the return of Aristide [in Oct. 1994],
he was working in the Interim Police Force at the Airport, during
which time he beat up Piman Bouk [a popular radio show host in
Miami]. Finally he was fired, and since 1996, he bought a boat
and has been going back and forth between Haiti and Miami,
trafficking drugs."

Is it not ironic that a putschist soldier, renowned for his drug
trafficking both during and after the coup, who worked closely
with Michel François, should be allowed to immigrate and live in
Miami, while, only 45 days ago, hundreds of other Haitians, who
may have been victims of his repression, were turned away?

The U.S. government looks out for Michel François too.  Honduras
is a virtual protectorate of the Pentagon and CIA. It was used to
shelter the Nicaraguan contras and overturn the Sandinista
revolution. Today it is the principal U.S. beach-head in Central
America now that Panama has reclaimed its canal. The U.S.
government's sheltering of criminals - including François in
Honduras, Raoul Cédras in Panama, Emmanuel "Toto" Constant in
Queens, New York, and former Col. Carl Dorelian in West Palm
Beach, Florida - is so flagrant that even the U.S. Congress is
being forced to hold hearings "on legislation that would expand
the mandate of the Justice Department's Office of Special
Investigations from World War II-era Nazis to include the modern-
day oppressors in our midst," the Feb. 15 Herald reported. Public
outrage against the harboring of criminals from U.S.-backed
regimes has grown so high that even reactionary Republican
congressmen like Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Mark Foley (R-FL)
are having to line up behind the legislation.

But have no illusions. Despite the media hype, the legislation,
should it pass, will never be used against the dictators and
their henchmen who serve U.S. interests, except perhaps in a
extraordinary case or two, to fool the masses.

Like Frankenstein with his monster, the U.S. often has to chase
after the very criminals it creates. Just as in the case of Cuba
and Nicaragua, the thugs trained and equipped by the Pentagon and
CIA go on to form vicious mafias, involved in drug trafficking,
assassinations, and money laundering. Of course, the U.S.
government also commits these crimes - for example, in Vietnam,
Cambodia, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Haiti, the CIA used,
tolerated, or encouraged drug trafficking to finance its
operatives. But sometimes the criminals become an embarrassment.

Take, for example, a letter we received by fax this week at the
New York office of Haïti Progrès. Dated Jan. 17, 2000, it
purports to be from Georgia Senator Paul Coverdell, Chairman of
the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Narcotics and
Terrorism, to North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I would like to confirm my
committee's promise to create a sealed indictment for Jean-
Bertrand Aristide, covering his involvement with cocaine
trafficking into the United States," the letter reads. It goes on
to predict that Aristide will be "moved to Miami under DEA guard,
just as they brought Noriega" and asserts that "the evidence
against Aristide is much stronger than that we held against

As suggested by its bizarre assertions and horrendous grammar,
the letter proved to be a forgery. "Oh my gosh, this letter is so
fraudulent," exclaimed Donna King, Coverdell's press secretary.
"It doesn't even come close to anything related to our office. It
is horribly misguided." She explained that even the "United
States Senate" letterhead was concocted, since "each senator has
his own stationary with his name and logo on it."

The forgery fits the modus operandi of the FRAPH/Macoute sector,
which historically has devised such deceptions to accuse
opponents like Aristide of crimes which are more attributable to
themselves, as in the case of Michel François' drug trafficking.

But there is a far more dangerous player in this "drug war" than
the Macoutes with their clumsy games. It is, in fact, the
"policeman of the hemisphere," a nation which takes the liberty
of invading territorial waters and airspace of any country it
sees fit (especially when there are pusillanimous leaders like
President René Préval in place) and which is perpetuating the
"war on drugs" by supporting and harboring the drug traffickers.

Because they need the "drug war" to camouflage their real war,
which is a war against any people which reject U.S. hegemony,
neoliberal doctrine, and imperialism. This is why the U.S.
government will try to pass a bill this spring to pump an
additional $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to the
Colombian government. The money is not to fight drugs, as the
U.S. claims, but to fight the guerrillas which have been
struggling against imperialism.

The goal is the same in Haiti. Despite the over $2 billion which
the U.S. has spent to politically and economically "adjust" Haiti
since 1994, it still does not master the Haitian people. There
remains the danger that Aristide will come to power at the end of
this year, complete with nationalist and social-democratic
rhetoric, and possibly deeds. But even verbal defiance is seen as
a threat to U.S. interests. Thus Haiti is being systematically
portrayed to the U.S. public as a "drug transit point," so as to
justify any expansion of the continuing U.S. military presence

In other words, "drug trafficking" serves U.S. purposes in Haiti.
It provides income to U.S. death squads and proxy armies, both
active and retired, and a pretext for deeper U.S. intervention
should the Mar. 19 "electoral coup d'état" fail. The "war on
drugs" is no war at all. It is just high theater to deceive the
people and justify the presence of U.S. agents and troops, who
have no business being on Haitian soil.

All articles copyrighted Haïti Progrès, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haïti Progrès.