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8946: Andresol/LA Times Story (fwd)
From: Constantin Severe <email@example.com>
Aristide Foes Decry Lawman's Arrest
Haiti: Critics say move underscores police force's decline under president.
Mario Andresol speaks from behind bars to his wife and lawyer.
Aug 24, 2001
By MARK FINEMAN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Mario Andresol is probably the closest thing the
Haitian National Police ever had to a super-cop.
As chief of investigations, Andresol relentlessly probed the many political
slayings that have rocked Haiti in recent years, sometimes implicating
ruling party officials. He jailed Colombian drug traffickers and pursued the
corrupt Haitian cops who protected them.
He escaped assassins' bullets at least twice, received dozens of death
threats and won the praise of law enforcement officials from Washington to
Buenos Aires. In one of the hemisphere's most corrupt and politicized police
forces, he seemed a rare Haitian hybrid of Frank Serpico and Eliot Ness. Now
Andresol is in jail, charged with masterminding a coup attempt and murder in
a bizarre series of attacks on police targets that some Haitians instead
link to followers of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The case starkly defines Haiti's perilous political landscape and the sad
state of its national police force, which U.S. taxpayers spent more than $50
million to build, train and arm.
Under a series of grants, the U.S. Justice Department took the lead in
creating the force after Aristide disbanded the Haitian army that overthrew
him in 1991. The U.S. law enforcement specialists, working closely with
Haitian authorities, spent years vetting the Haitian recruits and training
them here and at a U.S. military camp in Missouri.
But diplomatic observers say Aristide has been removing those officers from
key positions since he returned to power early this year after elections
marred by irregularities, replacing them with ruling Lavalas Family party
Among those replaced was Andresol, a former army captain who rose steadily
through the ranks of the military and then the police in his 20-year career.
Aristide's government has yet to detail Andresol's alleged involvement in
last month's attacks; analysts theorize that prosecutors will claim that he
masterminded the assaults out of professional indignation or revenge.
But some Aristide critics have suggested that Andresol was jailed because he
was too independent--and because he knows too much about too many powerful
people in Haiti.
When asked during a recent visit to his jail cell why he thought he had been
locked up, Andresol, 40, looked away, shrugged and then smiled.
"They know I am uncorrupted," he said finally. "I think I have many people
against me in the police force. I hurt many of their careers while enforcing
the rule of law. I have many enemies, everywhere."
Since July 31, Andresol has shared a sweltering 10-by-15-foot cell with
seven other men, despite an Aug. 7 court order that he be released
immediately. He lives in such fear of assassination, his wife says, that he
sleeps only during the day, when the other inmates protect him. His
cellmates, she says, are former Haitian army officers who say they have been
held for seven months without charges.
The charges against Andresol, which he stridently denies, stem from a string
of attacks in late July. A heavily armed commando team of six to eight men
clad in the uniforms of Haiti's disbanded army attacked a suburban police
station in Port-au-Prince, the capital, shouting pro-army slogans, then
seized the nation's police academy for six hours. The attackers left the
academy, unchallenged, at dawn and besieged two police stations in central
Haiti before disappearing.
Aristide's government and a commission that investigated the incident said
it was a coup attempt, a conclusion few Haitians accept.
The assaults continued for 16 hours before police commando units were
dispatched to restore order, and none of the actual attackers have been
named or arrested.
Aristide's opponents allege that the operation was staged as a pretext for
the president to crack down on the political opposition that has hamstrung
his party since his inauguration. At least 40 opposition figures were
arrested in the aftermath, although most were later released.
It was also a foil, they assert, to further consolidate the president's
control over the national police force, which many Lavalas supporters fear
has been commanded by officers more loyal to Washington than Port-au-Prince.
The man Aristide installed as the Haitian National Police chief in March is
variously described as the president's former caretaker and his driver.
Among Chief Jean Nesly Lucien's first acts: stripping Andresol of his
position as the department's chief investigator. Other key officers also
have been replaced.
Although these changes offer a motive for the charges against Andresol, not
even Haitian analysts sympathetic to Aristide accept the government's
Others have an even more chilling take on the affair.
"To me, the purpose of the whole exercise was to prove how incompetent the
police are and to show that the police are incapable of protecting even
themselves," said Michele Montas, director of Radio Haiti Inter. Montas is
the widow of the most prominent victim of Haiti's recent bloodshed,
broadcaster and peasant activist Jean Leopold Dominique, a longtime Aristide
Montas said she suspects that the attacks may have been a rehearsal for a
coup to be launched by some of Haiti's former military dictators.
"At the very least," she said, "the whole thing is an embarrassment for the
police and for Aristide."
Even the U.S. State Department, which funded the Haitian National Police,
gives its creation low marks.
"Allegations of corruption, incompetence and narcotics trafficking are
leveled against members at all levels of the force," the department
concluded in its annual report on human rights in Haiti in February.
"The Haitian National Police continued to beat, torture and otherwise
mistreat detainees. Methodical investigations by the HNP are rare, and
impunity remains a problem."
One U.S. official, requesting anonymity, said Andresol was among the force's
few bright lights before his removal from the investigative post.
Montas suggested that the arrest of Andresol was the result of "sheer
"If they are holding Mario, it's because Mario is one of the few people who
knows the most," she said.
Andresol says he could be killed for what he knows--or for what he has done
as an investigator through the years.
He reported an alleged assassination plot in detail in a May 23 letter to
He described a meeting 10 days earlier in which some of those enemies--he
didn't name them--planned a three-stage operation to kill him.
The first step was to ensure that his personal security was removed; all
seven of Andresol's bodyguards already had been transferred to the
Second, Andresol wrote, they planned to ambush him after an official meeting
at police headquarters.
Failing that, they intended to kidnap him or a member of his family from
The chief police investigator took no action, and, 10 weeks later,
Andresol's wife, Monette, asserts, her husband's enemies actually attempted
their plan. She and Andresol's lawyer allege that his July 31 "arrest" was,
instead, an aborted execution.
Andresol had been summoned to the Justice Ministry that afternoon,
ostensibly to assist in the investigation into the July 28 attacks, said his
As he left the ministry with his wife and driver that evening, they were
chased by two trucks carrying heavily armed men in black ski masks.
Andresol's driver spun his vehicle into a well-lighted gas station, where
the men ordered Andresol and his wife to lie face down at gunpoint, she
"I'm sure they meant to kill us on a darkened road," Monette Andresol
recalled in an interview. "But there were too many witnesses at the gas
station. And one of the masked men--Mario recognized his voice--protected
him from the others.
"Then the leader of the group had to call someone on his mobile phone to ask
what to do with us. They had no plan for that. Then they decided to arrest
all of us."
Monette Andresol and the driver were released the next day.
Mario Andresol's lawyer, Osner Fevry, took the case to court, where, after a
long hearing, Judge Jean Perez Paul ruled Aug. 7 that Andresol's arrest was
"illegal and arbitrary." The judge ordered that all charges against him be
dropped and that he be released immediately, regardless of a government
Haitian Justice Minister Gary Lissade declined several requests for an
interview, but a deputy prosecutor told local reporters that Andresol's
continued detention is based on the government's appeal to a higher court.
"They want to punish him for the way he talks, the way he works, the way he
thinks," concluded his wife, who brings her husband breakfast and dinner
each day because Haiti's prisons have too little food for their thousands of
"He only tried to respect the law and follow the rules all the time," she
said. "They don't seem to like that kind of attitude here."
When asked by a visitor to his cell how he was faring, Andresol said: "So
far, so good. I'm still alive."
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