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8891: This Week in Haiti 19:22 08/15/01 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        August 15 - 21, 2001
                            Vol. 19, No. 22


Only two weeks after its appointment, an official commission
investigating recent armed attacks on Haitian police
installations delivered its report to Haitian Justice Minister
Gary Lissade.

The report merely reiterated events as they have been presented
since the first hours of the affair: at around 3 a.m. on Jul. 28,
six to eight armed individuals dressed in the olive-green
uniforms of the former army attacked the Pétionville police
station and the National Police Academy in the Frères suburb of
the capital (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 20, 8/1/2001).
Similar attacks took place at the same time in Mirebalais and in
Hinche, leaving a total of five dead and fourteen wounded among
police officers and cadets.

What was behind the offensive? The report comes with two
hypotheses: 1: an attempted coup d'état 2: the beginning of an
armed struggle by former Haitian soldiers. The commission of
inquiry based its first hypothesis on the late hour of the attack
and its proximity to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's residence
in Tabarre, located only a few kilometers from the police
academy. The second hypothesis was formed because the assailants
searched for and seized heavy weapons and called on former
soldiers to reoccupy police stations, which were previously the
barracks of the disbanded Haitian Armed Forces (FadH).

Clearly, a report which offers only hypotheses is proof that the
investigation remains incomplete. Even the report's authors
seemed to agree. "The commission proposes... the institution of a
new commission of support whose essential role would be to assist
judicial authorities in conducting their investigation, to
designate and recommend when needed certain courses, taking into
account new facts and discoveries which might emerge in the short
or medium term," read an Aug. 10  press release signed by the
five members of the commission of inquiry. They are Secretary of
State for Public Safety Jean Gérard Dubreuil (president), two
police inspector generals, Jean Victor Harvel Jean Baptiste and
Fred Manigat, prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis, and former Haitian
Army general Wilthan Lhérisson.

In the wake of the attacks and mounting suspicion of collusion
from within the Haitian National Police (PNH), the government
arrested some police officials. The ex-director of the police
academy, division chief Jean Yonel Trécil, was arrested and held
in isolation at a PNH headquarters until his release over the
weekend. A warrant also went out for his successor, Max St. Joie,
who was nonetheless able to elude authorities and fly to Miami.
Meanwhile, authorities kept division chief Mario Andrésol in
detention even though it has filed no charges against him and
despite a judge's ruling for his release. Authorities have argued
that the arrests and detentions are necessary given the gravity
of the charges of overthrow and murder.

The commission of inquiry's report points to apparent complicity
of forces within the police. For instance, the assailants
displayed a perfect knowledge of the large police academy
grounds. As a result, other police chiefs and inspectors are
being questioned, put in isolation, or put under close watch.

Corruption and infiltration of the PNH is no surprise. Since it
replaced the FAdH in 1995, the PNH was designed, formed and
trained by U.S. government agencies, which insisted on
integrating many former Haitian soldiers. In 1996, Chavannes
Jean-Baptiste, then a consultant in President René Préval's
cabinet, declared that "the C.I.A. is present within the police,
it is present in all parts" (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 13, No. 46,

Aristide's Lavalas Family party accepted the report even though
some, like Senator Gérald Gilles, asked that the investigation be
deepened. Gilles shared the report's hypothesis of a coup d'état
à la Kabila but estimated that there were more than six to eight
assailants on Jul. 28. "This is of course just a partial report
which the commission has issued," Gilles said, "and we would ask
the government to be much more vigilant so that those who tried
to make this coup don't feel at ease to continue."

The Democratic Convergence (CD) opposition front backhanded the
report as incomplete and imprecise. From the start, the CD called
for the formation of a commission of inquiry independent from the
government, which it accuses of wanting to fabricate events to
justify suspension of negotiations and repression of its
political adversaries. "One can say that this report is just
generalities and hypotheses," said Gérard Pierre-Charles of the
OPL/CD. "First off, it supports the thesis of a coup d'état on
the grounds that the events took place near the house of the
president at 3 a.m., as if there were a precise time to make coup
d'états. Secondly, it is mostly hypotheses. For us, it's not
serious; a commission should give information about these
troubling events to people waiting for it, but it limits itself
to hypotheses. There is no new fact, there was no questioning.
This tells us that it is simply a maneuver, a simple declaration
with no value which might shed light on the events." Pierre-
Charles concluded by rehashing opposition charges that the
attacks may have merely been the settling of scores among drug
dealers or an internal conflict, accusations taken seriously by
nobody other than visiting U.S. Republican congressmen.
This week authorities did bring to court 11 people arrested in
Belladères in connection with the attacks. Eight were freed and
three held for further prosecution. In Croix-des-Bouquets, two
former soldiers accused of wanting to participate in an assault
on the police station there appeared in court. The local judge
did not charge them but instead sent them to appear in court in
the capital.

U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran clumsily revealed his
sympathies for the opposition by offering perfunctory disapproval
of attacks and then launching a frontal attack on the Haitian
government's attempts at self-defense, justice, and
reestablishing public order. "These events do not justify the
arbitrary arrests, detentions, and political murders which
followed," Curran said on Aug. 2. "The United States calls on the
Haitian government to stop the illegal and arbitrary arrests and
to put an end to the slaughter."

Such arrogance and trampling of diplomatic protocol prodded
Information Minister Guy Paul to respond. "They have really gone
overboard," Paul remarked. "The embassy or the ambassador should
come indicate to us where exactly the slaughters were committed
and the illegal and arbitrary arrests made."

The rebuke had little effect on the ambassador. On Aug. 8, Curran
held a number of interviews and meetings in Miami's Haitian
community, an unprecedented public relations move by Washington.
But the gambit backfired when Curran enraged the community with
his comments."The Aristide government is arresting and killing
many members of the opposition," he claimed on a morning Haitian
radio program. "That has to stop. He has to stop with this
question of investigating the events of Jul. 28 so that
negotiations [with the U.S. financed CD opposition front] can get
underway again."

At an event later that afternoon Curran reportedly said: "The
U.S. government is going to unblock $70 million for Haiti, but
only non-governmental organizations will receive that money.
Then, we'll see what Aristide is going to do with his police!"

These arrogant remarks ignited such outrage and anger in Miami's
Haitian community that later the same day 200 people held a
boisterous protest outside the North Miami Museum of Art where
Curran held another meeting.

Meanwhile, the former soldiers who carried out the Jul. 28
attacks took refuge with their arms and booty in the Dominican
Republic, where they requested protection from the Dominican
government and army.  Indeed, they received royal treatment. When
three of the assailants, carrying M-14 automatic weapons, arrived
in Elias Piñas (across the border from Belladères), they were
flown by helicopter to the Dominican armed forces headquarters
where functionaries from the Dominican Foreign Ministry paid them
a visit.

Last year, some other would-be coup-makers, a group of police
chiefs called the "Ecuadorians," were also sheltered by Dominican
authorities (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 32 10/25/2000). It
seems that any forces launching attacks against the Haitian
government become the darlings of the Dominican authorities, in
particular the army, which acts in close concert with the
Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA. These agencies of
Washington seem to be conferring on the Dominican Republic the
role of sub-regional policeman. Although Haitian Foreign Minister
 Joseph Philippe Antonio and his Dominican counterpart Alberto
Despradel Cabral are to hold talks, it seems doubtful that the
Jul. 28 assailants will be extradited back to Haiti, since the
Dominican Republic now appears to be a base for regional
destabilization under the direction of Washington.

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