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5460: This Week in Haiti 18:34 11/8/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
November 8 - 14, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 34
POLITICAL INTRIGUE SURROUNDS TWO WEEKEND RALLIES,
ONE FOR HILLARY, ONE FOR LAVALAS
On Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2:30 p.m., Marie Point du Jour showed up at
the door of Erasmus High School on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to
set up for a 5 p.m. rally that the local chapter of the Lavalas
Family party planned to hold there. However, she and hundreds of
other Haitians who turned out for the program weren't able to
enter the school until four and a half hours later, which just
happened to be when a rally for Senate candidate Hillary Clinton
down the street at Brooklyn College was ending.
"I am pretty sure there was some monkey-business (magouy)
involved to sabotage our event so that we wouldn't draw people
away from Hillary's rally," said Ms. Point du Jour, a leader of
former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party in
Brooklyn. "We had our contract, we had paid, we came on time.
There was no excuse for the school not to be opened. I said when
the lock-out started that the custodian would show up just when
the other event finished, and that's just what happened."
Meanwhile, the rally for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the victorious
Democratic candidate for New York state's U.S. Senate seat, was
hijacked by a small clique of aspiring Haitian-American
politicians, according to two community activists involved in
organizing the event.
John Alexis, an organizer with Local 1199/SEIU, had worked with
colleague Moses St. Louis, both formerly of the Haitian
Enforcement Against Racism (HEAR), to pull together a coalition
of people representing New York's politically diverse Haitian
community. But the Haitian American Alliance (HAA), headed by
rightist leader Dr. Jean-Claude Compas, succeeded in taking
control of the program.
"When Compas and his people decided to take the thing over, we
just pulled out," Alexis told Haïti Progrès. "Our position was
that every sector of the community should be included in the
activity. They didn't want that because they wanted to get the
credit all for themselves. But at the same time, they wanted us
to mobilize the community for them." Compas and his HAA
associates ended up hosting the Brooklyn College event, which
despite being free, drew a relatively small crowd of only 800
people. The Brooklyn College auditorium holds about 2500 people.
The event could have been huge. In general, the Haitian community
holds First Lady and Senator-elect Hillary Clinton in high regard
since it credits her husband President Bill Clinton with enabling
Aristide's return to Haiti from exile in October 1994.
But when the community learned that the Brooklyn College event
was controlled by Compas and the HAA, they stayed away in droves.
"They couldn't mobilize anybody, so they tried to use me and
John, scheduling us to go to all the media," explained Moses St.
Louis. "They set up about 20 interviews for us. But when John and
I pulled out, nobody else went because they knew there would be a
backlash. People wouldn't come if they saw those faces inviting
them. They were afraid to go themselves, even though they had
already paid some of the TV shows to have interviews done."
In recent years, Compas and the HAA have repeatedly sought to
present themselves to the U.S. establishment as the "leaders of
the Haitian community," seizing on any opportunity to parade in
front of microphones and television cameras. Wielding the
formidable financial resources of their upper-class and upwardly-
mobile membership, the HAA hijacked previous Haitian community
mobilizations against the police torture of Abner Louima in 1997
and the police shooting of Patrick Dorismond this past March (see
Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18 No. 2, 3/29/00). Their self-appointment as
"responsible leaders" has angered the larger Haitian community,
which views them as reactionary opportunists and charlatans.
Even the crowd which did turn out at Brooklyn College was not
very reverential toward the "host" of the event. When Compas took
the microphone to introduce Hillary Clinton, he was booed from
several quarters of the auditorium and his introduction was
interrupted more than once by impatient chants of "Hillary,
Ms. Clinton, apparently sensitive to the political dynamics at
play, did not thank Compas and the HAA but rather Patrick Gaspard
of Local 1199, the labor union which had worked closely with her
campaign and which had taken financial responsibility for some of
the publicity for the event. The HAA membership had anted up
about $3500 for the rental of the auditorium.
Some Lavalas activists went to the Brooklyn College event to
distribute and display pictures of Aristide. One of them, Fito
Antoine, said that when he waved Aristide's picture in front of
the stage, Hillary expressed appreciation, but the HAA organizers
were vexed. "There was Dr. Compas, Pastor Philius Nicolas, and
his son Samuel Nicolas," Fito Antoine told Haïti Progrès. "They
stood there squarely and said 'When Hillary is done, you don't
need to go to Erasmus. It's closed. That event is not going to
take place. Therefore, you don't need to waste your time going to
Erasmus.' I said: 'How could it not be taking place? Everything
was arranged and paid for. I don't see why it would be
cancelled.' They said: 'Go and see if it isn't closed.''"
In fact Erasmus did remain closed until about 7 p.m. But the
hundreds of Haitians who turned out for the rally to support
Aristide's presidential candidacy and that of Fanmi Lavalas
Senate candidates in Nov. 26 Haitian elections refused to leave.
They launched a spirited and spontaneous demonstration in front
of the school. By 5:00 p.m. there were some 500 people
demonstrating in front of the building.. The police arrived and
set up blue barricades to contain the angry, chanting crowd.
"It was a real plot," said Fito Antoine. "Compas and Nicolas know
just what they are doing. When I arrived at Erasmus, I saw the
whole sidewalk was filled with people, enough to fill the Erasmus
auditorium both upstairs and down. I saw that they weren't
opening the door. I said that since I was at Brooklyn College I
knew this was going to happen. It was a monkey-business concocted
by Compas, Nicolas, and his son."
Hillary Clinton finished speaking around 6:30 p.m. and shortly
after 7:00 p.m. the door to Erasmus was opened. By that time,
however, hundreds of the people standing outside had left due to
the extreme cold of the evening. Others in the area who were
planning to come didn't bother because they heard the rumors that
the event was cancelled.
The Erasmus organizers had in hand a contract for a show from 5
p.m. - 11 p.m. for which they had paid $541.11 and an additional
$336.96 for security. They also lost a $2500 deposit they gave
the Sipriz Band and another sum to Phantom. Their sound system
also went home when the school door didn't open on time. The
organizers are demanding a reimbursement of the money they lost
from the Board of Education.
The Erasmus custodian told Lavalas organizers that he was never
notified of the event, said Fritznel Benoit, another Brooklyn
Lavalas Family leader. "I told him that, if that is true, the
sabotage may have happened at a higher level over his head,"
Benoit told Haïti Progrès. Several phone calls by Haïti Progrès
to the superintendent responsible for dispatching the custodian
were not returned.
Despite the late start and lack of sound or entertainment, the
Lavalas organizers gamely managed to hold a rally with only
speeches until about 11 p.m. using the Erasmus auditorium sound
The conflict between the two Sunday events reflects the growing
political tension between two currents in the Haitian community.
Objectively, the HAA's unspoken agenda is to attack Haiti's
nationalist movement surreptitiously and from abroad by
attempting to undermine the community's traditional nationalist
interest in political events in Haiti. It proposes that Haitians
should instead focus on and integrate into U.S. politics and
leave Haiti for vacations and folklore.
But grassroots currents, like that which organized the Fanmi
Lavalas rally, are trying to keep strong links and solidarity
between Haiti and its diaspora, which was dubbed by Aristide a
decade ago Haiti's Tenth Department (Haiti is composed of nine
geographic departments). "We have shown that we are indeed a
Lavalas (flood) of people here because of the number of people
here in the room and the number of people who came but went home
discouraged," Balthazar Fortuné, another Brooklyn Lavalas leader,
declared to the crowd of about 300 in Erasmus. "This shows how
interested the Haitian community here is in the political battles
being waged in the country."
Also on hand for the Lavalas forum were Senators Lons Clonès and
Gérard Gilles as well as Deputy James Derosier and New York
Consul General Therese Guilloteau.
As for Compas and the HAA, their modus operandi is becoming very
clear to the Haitian community. "I think we learned a lesson, and
next time we will make sure we don't fall into their trap," said
Moses St. Louis of working with the HAA on the Hillary program.
"At first they pretend that they want the inclusion [of
everybody] just to mobilize, but when it gets down to the wire,
they make sure that you're not there."
FUGITIVE COPS TRAINED BY U.S. SPECIAL FORCES
At least eleven former police chiefs, most of whom have taken
refuge in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador after being accused
in October of hatching a coup, were trained by the U.S. Special
Forces, according to former Pétionville police chief Goodwork
In an interview accorded Haïti Progrès in 1998, Noel said that
the now-disbanded Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH) chose him in 1993,
during the three year coup d'état, to receive a scholarship to
study military tactics and strategy in Quito, Ecuador. But his
trainers were soldiers from the U.S. Special Forces, an elite
corps designed to teach militaries around the world anti-
insurrectional and anti-guerrilla techniques. Noel, who was 24
when he was sent to Ecuador, said he also received training from
the Ecuadorian Special Forces.
The training continued for four years until 1997, when the
"Ecuadorian" trained policemen returned to Haiti and were
integrated into police leadership posts around the country. At
the time, the Haitian National Police (PNH) claimed, as they do
today, that they had nobody "qualified" to act as police chiefs
and were forced to use former FADH officers and FADH trainees
like the "Ecuadorians."
Last year there were revelations that the U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) had infiltrated the U.S. Justice
Department's International Criminal Investigation Training
Assistance Program (ICITAP) in Haiti, which selected and trained
the PNH (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 16 No. 51, 3/10/99). Therefore,
it is not unlikely that some of the FADH trainees in Ecuador were
also approached to be CIA agents. Furthermore, there is always a
very close working relationship between the Special Forces and
the CIA, both elite services operating primarily in foreign
Noel said that his own training was mainly in the domain of
"maintaining order" and "criminal investigations," and was "very
professional." All the Haitian cadets were trained in different
disciplines, Noel said, and some of them rather exotic, such as
Last month, seven of the "Ecuadorian" police chiefs fled to the
Dominican Republic after Haitian authorities uncovered their
participation in planning for a coup d'état (see Haïti Progrès,
Vol. 18 No. 32 10/25/00).
Two of the former officers -- Didier Seide and Fritz Gourdet --
were granted political asylum in Ecuador last week because they
had "blood relatives" in the country, Ecuadorian officials said.
The training of the former police chiefs by military trainers
highlights once again that the Haitian police force is hardly
"civilian" as heralded by Washington, which has been the main
architect and overseer of the PNH since its launching five years
ago. At least two dozen of the most high-ranking PNH officers,
including the police chief of Port-au-Prince, the head of the
Company for the Maintenance of Order (CIMO), and of the SWAT
team, are former FADH officers.
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