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#3246: Re: Toussaint's Story (fwd)
From: kevin pina <email@example.com>
Forgive me, I satnd corrected. The last overture of the CIA toward Toussaint
was apparently in 1997.
Haiti: A Marked Man/Toussaint Case
id BAA19034; Thu, 18 Sep 1997 01:53:32 -0400
Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 18:03:09 -0700 (PDT)
source: Robert Corbett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
submitted by email@example.com
Miami Newtimes, August 28 - September 3, 1997
"A Marked Man"
By Jim DeFede
This past January 22, shortly before 5:00 p.m., Dany Toussaint arrived at
Miami International Airport aboard American Airlines flight 1292 from
Port-au-Prince and was detained by officials from the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service. Although he is a legal permanent resident of the
United States, Toussaint had become accustomed to such delays on his trips
back and forth from Haiti. During the previous twelve weeks Toussaint had
been stopped at MIA three times by INS officials. On each occasion he was
held for an hour or two, then allowed to leave without any explanation as to
why he had been detained. He was never questioned and his immigration
status was never challenged. This time, however, would be different.
His belt and shoes were confiscated and he was placed in a holding cell at
the airport. Beginning at approximately 8:00 p.m., Toussaint was
interrogated by an immigration inspector named James Carroll. Although some
of the questions were related to Toussaint's immigration status, he says the
majority dealt with political matters in Haiti and specifically with his
ties to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the country's current
leader, Rene Preval.
According to Toussaint, the interview session lasted nearly seven
hours,until roughly 3:00 a.m. One reason it dragged on so long was the
peculiar way in which the questions were asked. According to Toussaint, the
INS agent would ask a question, then type Toussaint's answer into a laptop
computer. This was then followed by an awkward silence -- sometimes as long
as ten minutes -- before the INS official would ask another question.
Slowly it dawned on Toussaint that someone other than the agent in the room
with him was actually conducting the interview -- by way of e-mail. But
The answer to that question can be found in Toussaint's background. He was
born in Cap-Haitien on September 12, 1957. Before his first birthday, his
father was killed by security forces working for Francois "Papa Doc"
Duvalier. Several years later his stepfather was also killed by
Paradoxical as it may seem, these murders induced Toussaint to join the
Haitian army. "When you are in the military," he explains, "you know what is
going on and you are in a better position to protect your family."
Toussaint excelled in the military. Not only did he become a black belt in
tae kwon do, he also represented Haiti in international karate
competitions. As a reward he was sent to the United States, where he
learned English at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, then went on to Fort
Benning, Georgia, where he received advanced military training. By the time
Toussaint completed his eight-month stint in Georgia in 1985, the political
situation in Haiti had deteriorated dramatically; killings had become
Toussaint had already moved his family to the United States, so rather
than return to Haiti, he received permanent-resident status under an
agricultural program. (For a time he had been a farmworker in South Dade.)
He then began shuttling between New York and Miami, working for various
Haitian-American organizations. He also became a vocal critic of Haiti's
self-proclaimed president-for-life, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.
After Duvalier was forced from power in February 1986 and replaced by
Haitian army leaders, Toussaint returned to the island, where he resumed his
military career. He claims he was then trained by the CIA to conduct
surveillance for the military junta. "I was the best clandestine
photographer in Haiti," he says proudly.
Among those he was assigned to spy on was a populist priest named
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But Toussaint claims Haitian officials wanted more
than just photographs of Aristide; they wanted Aristide killed. Rather than
carry out that order, Toussaint says, he went to Aristide and warned him of
the plot. Toussaint once again fled to the United States, eventually
settling in Miami, where he went to work at Coconut Grove's landmark E-Z
Kwik Kuntry Grocery Store on SW 27th Avenue.
In December 1990 Aristide became the first democratically elected
president of Haiti. One of his first calls went to Toussaint. He reached him
at E-Z Kwik.
Aristide asked Toussaint to return to Haiti and become one of the
commanders responsible for overseeing his corps of bodyguards. "I was
working for E-Z Kwik. I had a good job, but I wanted to serve my country,"
Toussaint recalls. "I wanted to be part of the change. We wanted to show a
different image of the army." Toussaint returned with the rank of captain.
But there was nothing easy or quick about changing the culture within the
Haitian army. In September 1991 the military, led by Gen. Raoul Cedras,
launched a bloody coup. At the time of the uprising Toussaint was with
Aristide at the president's home in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, along with
about 30 loyal bodyguards. For the next two hours, Toussaint recalls, they
fought their way through roadblocks so Aristide could reach thepresidential
palace, where the fighting grew even more intense.
At the palace Toussaint's best friend, the head of Aristide's security
force, died in the firefight. Eventually Aristide was permitted to leave the
country and go into exile. Toussaint says military officials asked him to
stay behind and swear his allegiance to Cedras, but he refused and tendered
his resignation. He returned to Miami and his job at E-Z Kwik.
By the time U.S. military forces restored Aristide to the presidency in
October 1994, Toussaint had left his job at E-Z Kwik for a new assignment as
Aristide's personal bodyguard. After the president's return, Toussaint was
appointed chief of the country's interim police force, a post he held
through the end of 1995, when he resigned from government service. Today he
owns a pair of businesses in Haiti -- a video arcade and a police-supply
store. He is a member of Aristide's political party, Lavalas Family, and
says he plans to run for the Haitian Senate.
Why, then, did U.S. officials detain Toussaint at Miami International
Airport? And who was really behind his questioning? Toussaint says he got
his answers two days after the incident, when he was transferred to the
Krome Detention Center: A pair of FBI agents paid him a visit.
During Toussaint's tenure as interim police chief, several high-profile
murders occurred in Haiti, most notably that of attorney Mireille Durocher
Bertin on March 28, 1995. Bertin was an outspoken critic of Aristide, and so
early suspicions held that she had been killed by forces within the
government. Under pressure from the United States, Aristide agreed to allow
the FBI to investigate Bertin's murder, but only on condition that the
bureau also probe the slayings of numerous Aristide supporters as well,
including Justice Minister Guy Mallory and Father Jean-Marie Vincent. More
than two years later the continuing FBI inquiry has become so politically
charged as to render it highly suspect.
One of the FBI agents who arrived at Krome to visit Toussaint was Mark
D'Amico, who was responsible for the investigation into Bertin's death. "He
told me he knows I am not the triggerman but they would like me to cooperate
with them," Toussaint says. "He made it seem like he was there to help me.
Anything I want I could have. He wanted to buy me. He wanted me to lie about
what I know about the killings, about whether Aristide ordered the
killings." Toussaint refused, saying he had nothing to do with Bertin's
murder and that he didn't know who was responsible.
Toussaint acknowledges that when he returned to Haiti in 1994 he was
tempted to seek revenge on those who supported the coup against Aristide.
"But President Aristide gave us orders to do reconciliation," he says
today. "He granted amnesty and we had to follow his orders. Inside of me,
at first, I did not agree with reconciliation, because my friends who were
killed never got justice. The people who killed them never went to jail. My
house was ransacked and nothing happened. But I have to follow orders.
Finally, I now feel comfortable with reconciliation, because those people
did not know what they were doing."
Toussaint, who was released from Krome several days after D'Amico's visit,
believes it was D'Amico or others at the FBI who were feeding the INS agent
questions via e-mail during his January interrogation. Toussaint's Miami
attorney, Ira Kurzban, suspects that federal agents used the e-mail gambit
as a way of circumventing Toussaint's right to have an attorney present
while being questioned in a criminal case. Toussaint says he repeatedly
asked to call his attorney but was told he was not entitled to counsel
because he was merely being questioned regarding his entry into the United
States. Anne Figueiras, a spokeswoman for the Miami office of the FBI,
declined to comment.
Although INS officials initially told Toussaint they would go to court to
have his residency status revoked, seven months have passed without any
action. Miami INS spokesman Lemar Wooley would not comment about any
possible action the INS might eventually take against Toussaint.
Kurzban, who in addition to representing Toussaint is also an attorney for
the government of Haiti, argues that the United States's ham-handed
treatment of Toussaint is typical of its dealings with Haiti in general.
For example, when FBI agents went to Haiti to investigate Bertin's death,
Kurzban asserts, they were predisposed to believe that Aristide was
responsible. "The FBI was being briefed by the U.S. intelligence guys in
Haiti," says Kurzban. "These are the same guys who were in Haiti during the
September 1991 coup that removed Aristide and who some people believe may
have had some responsibility for the coup. So the orientation they were
getting when they came in was that Aristide's people were behind this
killing in some way, without any proof except for the fact that Bertin was
on TV as a critic of Aristide. But anyone who knew Haitian politics knew she
was not a threat to Aristide. She was just a person who shot off her mouth a
Although the United States helped restore Aristide to power, many senior
U.S. officials have never been comfortable with the former priest and his
fervent brand of nationalism. The prospect of Aristide running again for
president in 2001 is clearly something they do not relish. "The fear is that
he doesn't toe the line," Kurzban says. If they can brand Aristide -- as
well as his most loyal supporters -- with Bertin's death, Toussaint
contends, then they may be able to keep him from running for office.
Many Republicans in Congress, particularly North Carolina's Sen. Jesse
Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have been
vociferous opponents of Aristide and have repeatedly criticized the
Clinton administration for not being more aggressive in pursuing the FBI
investigation into Bertin's death. Indeed, it is possible that such
congressional pressure on the FBI may have been partly responsible for
Toussaint's detention and questioning.
Although Toussaint returned to Haiti this past April, new obstacles have
arisen to keep him from re-entering the United States. An amendment to the
bill authorizing funding of the State Department appears to have been
proposed with the specific intent of barring Toussaint's return. The
measure, which recently passed Congress, allows INS officials to exclude
anyone the Secretary of State believes participated in political killings in
"On its face, obviously, who can complain about going after and excluding
human rights violators?" Kurzban asks. "That's the thrust of what it is --
unless you really know what the politics are. This is a bill written to
exclude ten people from the United States, and to put pressure on them.
"Look at what the standard is," Kurzban continues. "The standard is
ridiculous. It says, 'reason to believe that there is a credible
allegation.' What does that mean? That means that if the FBI says they
think they have information -- even though it wouldn't stand up in a court
of law -- that is sufficient to exclude someone from the United States who
has been a long-term permanent resident. Where's the evidence? What this
does is allow the government to get off the hook by not having to prove
Kurzban says he has no doubt the measure was written specifically with
Toussaint and a handful of other people in mind. "I've been practicing
immigration law for twenty years and have never seen an immigration bill
establishing grounds for exclusion directed toward specific individuals," he
adds. "Whatever the objective is here, it is bad law and bad public policy,
because, if they want to go after human rights violators, then they ought to
do it in such a way to cover human rights violators wherever they are in the
world. But to single this out -- it is obvious to me what it is. It's really
going after three or four major people, with Dany at the top of the list,
and six or seven other people solely because of very short-term, very
narrowly focused U.S. foreign policy."
The only way to have the ban lifted, according to the law, is for suspects
to cooperate with the FBI. "The exemption is that if you cooperate, we will
forgive everything, which is the same offer that has been made to Dany and
others before," Kurzban says. "It was made to Dany when they stopped him at
the airport. This is designed to try to induce them to testify falsely
against Aristide, Preval, or anyone else in the government." Kurzban says he
is considering a possible legal challenge to the measure, believing that it
is unconstitutionally broad and violates Toussaint's rights to due process
and equal protection under the law.
Although the law would also apply to those suspected of killing Aristide's
allies, Kurzban says he doubts it would ever be used to that end. "Given the
history of the State Department, it is a virtual certainty that they will
not apply it toward anyone who was involved in the murders of Aristide's
supporters," he says.
Kurzban notes that members of Cedras's family have been allowed to reside in
the United States. In addition, the U.S. government granted political asylum
to Marc Valme, a major in the Haitian military, even though he was
identified as one of the leaders of the coup against Aristide. (He was
subsequently indicted by a Miami federal grand jury on drug-trafficking
charges.) "How the U.S. decides to grant asylum to Valme is absolutely
amazing," Kurzban says with exasperation.
But no more amazing than the decision earlier this month to allow Emmanuel
Constant, former leader of the murderous right-wing Haitian paramilitary
group known as FRAPH, to live and work freely in the United States.
Although he is wanted in Haiti for numerous human rights violations, U.S.
officials are considering his application for political asylum. In 1995
Constant told the CBS program 60 Minutes that he had been a paid agent of
the CIA from 1991 to 1994. "That just goes to show you what this country's
agenda is," Kurzban shrugs. "As long we find you useful we don't care what
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