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5361: This Week in Haiti 18:32 10/25/2000 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
October 25 - 31, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 32
THE AUTOPSY OF A FAILED COUP
A U.S. military officer earlier this month hosted meetings by men
conspiring to make a coup d'état in Haiti in November, Haïti
Progrès has learned from a well-placed confidential source.
Haitian authorities learned of and foiled the plot last week.
The leader of the thwarted putschists, former Cap Haïtien police
chief Guy Philippe, who was reported to have fled to the
Dominican Republic, may presently be holed up in the U.S. Embassy
in Port-au-Prince, according to another source requesting
anonymity, and his visa to travel to the U.S. has been revoked.
This report concerning Philippe has not been confirmed.
President René Préval confirmed last week that his security
forces had uncovered the overthrow plot planned by both former
and active-duty police chiefs, civilians, and former soldiers
from the now disbanded Haitian armed forces.
"There was no attempt; there were well-founded rumors ," Préval
said before taking a flight to Caracas, Venezuela to sign a
petroleum accord. "Today we can say that we are in control of the
situation, and we ask everybody to remain calm."
According to our confidential source, two meetings were held at
the private residence of a U.S. Military Attaché in Haiti, a
certain Major Douyon, on Oct. 8 and Oct. 11. At the first
meeting, there was discussion of delivering U.S. visas to certain
police chiefs. At the second meeting, there was a call for mutiny
to take action against Lavalas demonstrators ("chimères"), with
whom one police chief had trouble earlier this month.
On Oct. 2, Delmas police chief Jackie Nau angered a crowd of
Lavalas sympathizers when he disarmed a Lavalas militant Ronald
Camille alias Ronald Cadavre. Some witnesses said that Nau was
trying to provoke a confrontation. According to our source,
conspiracy leader Guy Philippe, who was also the assistant
Northern departmental director of the Haitian National Police
(PNH), made much of Nau's confrontation as he led the discussion
at Major Douyon's home on Oct. 11. Certain police chiefs said
they had expected a discussion about the delivery of visas. Also
participating in the meeting were former soldiers, civilians, and
former police chiefs who had been fired. According to an
unconfirmed report by Radio Kiskeya on Oct. 24, the U.S. Chargé
d'Affaires Leslie Alexander was also on hand or at least
"The U.S. officials who were there tried unsuccessfully to have
the men drop the idea of having a coup," Kiskeya said. "But the
putschists reportedly told the U.S. officials that the coup was
already too far along and that abandoning it would place the
group in greater danger."
Kiskeya, whose report was based on an unspecified "document,"
said the coup was planned to take place over three days in
November. Préval, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and
Senator Dany Toussaint, a former soldier, would have been
executed along with other government officials. Finance Minister
Fred Joseph was to have been put on trial.
Kiskeya also reported that a leading member of the conspirators
was Didier Seïde, a former soldier and police chief at the
Palace. He was fired from the PNH for alleged involvement in drug
Unfortunately for the would-be putschists, a sector in the U.S.
Embassy alerted Haitian authorities about the seditious meetings
at Douyon's home, according to our source. This leak reflects the
existence of two factions in the U.S. government: the official
government and the invisible one (the Pentagon and CIA), which is
often referred to in Haiti as the "laboratory." This "invisible
government" is represented by politicians like Sen. Jesse Helms
(R-NC), head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. One of the
most well-known feats of the "laboratory" was the turning-around
on Oct. 14, 1993 of the U.S.S. Harlan County carrying U.S. and
Canadian troops sent by President Bill Clinton to
"professionalize" the Haitian Army and prepare the ground for
Aristide's Oct. 30, 1993 return. But John Kambourian, the CIA
station chief in Haiti at that time, orchestrated on the Port-au-
Prince wharf with his FRAPH and Macoute henchmen a snarling "show
of force," in which some journalists and some cars were kicked.
The troop carrier turned back, Aristide's return was called off,
and Clinton lost face.
If the planned coup was a similar experiment, it didn't work.
Once alerted, the Haitian Palace transmitted the dossier to the
PNH Director General Pierre Denizé, who summoned to a meeting
five key police chiefs who had been at Douyon's meetings: Guy
Philippe (Cap-Haïtien), Jean Jacques Nau (Delmas); Gilbert Dragon
(Croix-des-Bouquets), Millard Jean Pierre (Pétion-Ville), and
Riggens André (Carrefour). They all claimed to know nothing of
the unauthorized meetings at the home of a foreign military
After Denizé reported this response to the Palace, Prime Minister
Jacques Edouard Alexis asked him to meet again with the police
chiefs for further clarifications. Faced with their continuing
denials, Denizé finally produced for them a transcript of the
meetings. Certain of the chiefs backtracked and began spilling
the beans, saying they had only gone to the meetings to obtain
Meanwhile, the Palace received complementary information
confirming that a coup was being prepared. Peasants in Fermathe,
in the mountains above the capital, had noted the movement of
armed men -- as many as 200 by one count -- at the residence of
Patrick Dormeville, the former police chief at the Airport. Radio
Kiskeya reported that up to 600 policemen were involved in the
President Préval returned from his trip to Taiwan on Oct. 16 and
conducted a deeper investigation with his security personnel, who
arrested the guardian at the Dormeville home, André Excellent. He
declared that he had allowed the armed men to enter the premises
on the express orders of his employer. Some had assault rifles
such as T-65s and Galils, while others carried suitcases,
presumably containing weapons. The plotters spent the whole night
talking, eating and drinking (their garbage was still in evidence
when investigators arrived) before leaving the following morning
at about 6 a.m..
Seeing that coup plans were more advanced than originally
thought, Denizé again summoned the five police chiefs to a third
meeting, which all agreed to attend. But only the two chiefs from
Carrefour and Pétion-Ville came; the other three went into
hiding. From that moment, the gravity of the situation became
clear, since one of the fugitive chiefs conveyed to authorities
that he and his cohorts were military tacticians and ready to
defend themselves against any attempt to arrest them.
On Préval's orders, Prime Minister Alexis commanded the arrest of
any officer who did not respond when summoned. But it was too
late. On the night of Oct. 17, six police chiefs in two 4x4 Jeep
Four Runners crossed the Haiti's northern border with the
Dominican Republic to the town of Dajabon. The 15 policemen who
accompanied them were arrested by Haitian authorities on their
return to Haiti.
Meanwhile the Oct. 23 edition of the Dominican daily Listin
Diario reports that the Haitian police chiefs "crossed the border
with the assistance of members of the Dominican Armed Forces in
Dajabon and Monte Cristi."
Having gotten wind of the coup, Haitians in Dajabon encircled the
hotel where the police chiefs were holed up, intent on lynching
them. The Dominican Army intervened and evacuated them by
helicopter to Santo Domingo.
Meanwhile in Haiti, popular apprehension remained high last week,
since the government had issued false reassurances as a coup was
unfolding nine years earlier. "It is true that there was an
unfortunate coup in 1991," Préval said, aware of the widespread
misgivings. "But I think that the situation is not the same today
because we have defeated this coup in its early stages. And
people should not confuse all the police with a few
troublemakers. For example, the CIMO (Company for Intervention
for the Maintenance of Order) and the SWAT helped us out
tremendously. Thus, there should not be general suspicion about
all the police." The public is still waiting for "a detailed
report to the population" about the aborted coup promised by
Meanwhile, the opposition, reinforced by Lavalas dissidents, has
dismissed the coup plot as a government fabrication. However, the
circumstances surrounding today's failed plot and its successful
predecessor are very similar. In 1991, a strategy was formulated
to overturn the government of then President Aristide and then
Prime Minister Préval by a "parliamentary coup d'état." However,
anti-Lavalas parliamentarians of that 45th Legislature were
frustrated by massive pro-government demonstrations. There ensued
a bloody military coup d'état on Sept. 30, 1991. Similarly, this
past summer the opposition's Concerted Space front, with thinly-
veiled support from the International Foundation for Electoral
Systems (IFES) and the U.S. State Department, failed to carry out
an "electoral coup d'état" in nationwide polling on May 21, which
went overwhelmingly to Aristide's Lavalas Family party. Faced
with this defeat, was the "laboratory" helping to foment a coup
to take power as it did in 1991?
There are many reports that the CIA has deeply infiltrated the
Haitian police force. Just last year, Ms. Jan Stromsem, the
director of the U.S. Justice Department's ICITAP (International
Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program) -- which was
in charge of choosing and training members of the newly-formed
PNH -- was fired for protesting the recruitment of PNH trainees
by the CIA (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 16 No. 51, 3/10/99).
Furthermore, The Nation magazine of Feb. 26, 1996 cited Chavannes
Jean-Baptiste, a leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement and the
Organization of Struggling People (OPL), who at that time was the
head of President-elect Préval's Transition office, as saying
that the force was chock full of CIA agents. "The CIA is present
within the police," Chavannes said. "It is present in all parts.
But what their plan is -- I don't have it." U.S. officials have
also admitted that the CIA recruited Haitian policemen during
their training at Camp Leonard Woods in Missouri.
The policemen implicated in this coup plot were known as the
"Group of 13" or the "Ecuadorians" (see last week's issue) since
they were trained as cadets in Quito, Ecuador during the 1991-
1994 coup d'état by the putschists. After the end of the coup,
the "Ecuadorians" were integrated into the PNH by ICITAP agents.
In certain political circles, they were known as the "little
jewels of Bob Manuel," the former Haitian security chief who was
fired by Préval last year.
According to our source, the conspirators enriched themselves
with impunity in drug trafficking. Furthermore, Chief Millard of
Pétion-Ville was under PNH surveillance for having alledgedly
tortured a woman.
According to Radio Kiskeya, the plotters planned to "eclipse
themselves" after carrying out their 3-day coup and install a
government of "national salvation" composed notably of arch-
reactionary outspoken businessman and government critic Olivier
Nadal, who now lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S.; former
CEP president Léon Manus, an appointee of the opposition's
Concerted Space who resigned in protest after the May 21
elections; writer and politician Jean-Claude Fignolé; and police
chief Guy Philippe. It is not clear exactly when in November the
coup would have occurred, but Haitian presidential and partial
Senate elections are now scheduled for Nov. 26.
Although the coup was foiled, one wonders why the government
didn't proceed much more quickly with the arrest of the police
chiefs once it learned of the unauthorized meetings? All the
chiefs were together at the second meeting with Denizé when
certain of them started to confess. Nonetheless, the group was
allowed to walk away. Negligence or a "cover-up"? In any case,
this lapse allowed some of the conspirators to flee.
Dominican president Hipolito Mejia said that seven former police
chiefs are being held in Dominican security headquarters. He said
his government is analyzing their requests for political asylum
since, according to Mejia, no formal demand for extradition has
yet come from Haitian Foreign Minister Fritz Longchamp.
The police chiefs have declared from Santo Domingo that the
rumors of a coup d'état were concocted by Lavalas Family senators
Dany Toussaint and Joseph Médard, both former soldiers. The
fugitive chiefs say that Toussaint and Médard, who sit on the
Senate's police oversight committee, wanted them out of the way
to get the PNH in their grip. "As parliamentarians, we have the
constitutional responsibility to control the work of the
Executive," responded Artibonite Senator Médard. "The police,
which is an branch of the Ministry of Justice, does not escape
this control. This is not control of police personnel but control
of police work." Médard said that he too is waiting for the Prime
Minister's official report.
Denizé has installed Claude Eugène Théodat as the new police
chief of Pétion-Ville and Gael Ménélas in Cap Haïtien, while
Alexis has placed Camille Marcellus and Ralph Dominique as police
chiefs in Croix-des-Bouquets and Carrefour respectively.
Meanwhile, the residence of police chief Guy Philippe at Pèlerin
9 was looted by unknown persons.
Despite growing evidence of the coup plot, the opposition
continues to call the affair a Lavalas "self-coup" and a trick to
intimidate and arrest certain opposition political militants.
"These guys are maneuvering to arrest the opposition," said 1991
coup supporter Reynold Georges, seconded by Sauveur Pierre
Etienne of the OPL and Ernst Colon of Mochrenah. "That's what it
is, oh yes. They want to eliminate certain troublesome elements
in the police, who were credible, who didn't want to be
corrupted, and who were not opposed to the police being lynched."
President Préval, on the other hand, remarked this week that such
desperate coup plots merely reflect the ferocious struggle
between the 1% privileged who own 50% of Haiti's national wealth
and the 99% of the Haitian people who swear that they will no
longer remain under the table.
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