OUR PAYROLL, HAITIAN HIT
by Allan Nairn
from The Nation magazine, October 9, 1995
A notorious gunman charged in the 1993 murder of Haiti's justice
minister has been sprung from jail there-with help from U.S. officials.
the current justice minister charges-after telling investigators
that at the time of the assassination, he was secretly on the
payroll of the U.S. Embassy. Much of his story has been confirmed
by U.S. officials who worked in Haiti, who say that the gunman,
Marcel Morissaint, worked with U.S. intelligence while serving
as an attache for national police chief and 1991 coup leader Lieut.
Col. Michel Francois.
Morissaint's release, which has stunned and angered President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, came days before he was due to give new
evidence to a presidential investigation team probing the assassination
of Justice Minister Guy Malary as well as the slayings of pro-Aristide
businessman Antoine Izmery in 1993 and out- spoken priest and
peasant leader Father Jean-Marie Vincent in 1994.
The current Haitian Justice Minister, Jean-Joseph Exume, reached
in his office on September 18, said that Morissaint has been "under
the protection" of U.S. agencies; Exume complained bitterly
that "they don't have the right to interfere like this in
The revelations come a year after U.S. troops arrived in Haiti-restoring
Aristide on the heels of a TV speech in which President Clinton
said that Haitians should not have to "accept the violence
and repression as their fate."
Morissaint worked in Francois's "Anti-Gang" unit, which,
according to human rights groups, routinely tortured prisoners
to death. Morissaint told investigators that he began working
for the U.S. Embassy in 1991, the year of the coup that toppled
Aristide. Though the United States claimed after the coup that
it had severed ties with Haiti's killer forces, it is now known
that the Defense Intelligence Agency then encouraged Emmanuel
Constant to form what became the terrorist hit squad FRAPH, and
that while running FRAPH, Constant was being paid by the C.I.A.
Morissaint said that at the embassy he reported to various officials,
among them Ben Butcher and Leduc Obas of the Drug Enforcement
Administration and another man for whom he gave a first name and
a specific description. He said he received cash payments of roughly
$300 to $500 per meeting. Butcher-now out of Haiti-confirmed that
Morissaint worked with the D.E.A. and said that agents met him
roughly "every other week" (at least into 1995) and
that he might have been paid "expenses" (though he said
Morissaint's drug information was vague and never produced any
cases). Obas, reached at the embassy, declined to discuss Morissaint
and quickly switched the call to Chuck Gardner, the D.E.A. chief
for Haiti, who said that he was "not authorized" to
comment on Morissaint.
The third man Morissaint cited as being among his recent embassy
liaisons does not seem to match the profile of any of the D.E.A.
men there at the time. There was, however, a C.l.A. man who could
not be reached for comment who fits Morissaint's description and
made frequent visits to Haiti during those years. Operating out
of Jamaica (and occasion ally presenting himself as a U.S. drug
investigator), he worked closely with Haitian officers in the
circle around Colonel Francois. Earlier this year, a senior Francois
confidant showed me the agent's business card and displayed a
gift he said the C.I.A. man had given him to celebrate the birth
of his son.
Morissaint had been jailed on common crime charges of conspiracy,
car theft and murder when he was further accused in a March 3
court warrant of having "participated in the assassination
of [Justice] Minister Malary." (Morissaint has denied the
charges.) In July, he began talking to investigators from an international
legal team convened by Aristide to investigate Haiti's highest-profile
assassinations. But on September 4-unbeknownst to the investigators
and apparently the justice minister-he was released from the Petionville
jail after having been summarily acquitted of the common crimes
(in the five-hour non jury trial, no outside witnesses were heard;
Morissaint's lawyer said the case was "easy-the prosecution
offered no evidence").
The presidential investigators learned that Morissaint was gone
only when they arrived to question him, and were astonished to
hear from the jailers that the accused assassin had been freed.
They had seen him as a pivotal witness who could lead them "to
the top" not just in the Malary killing but also those of
Izmery and Vincent, cases in which other witnesses had already
implicated Morissaint. Prosecutor Jean Auguste Brutus, who signed
Morissaint out of jail, now says it was all a mistake and that
at the time he didn't realize that Morissaint had been charged
with killing the justice minister. (Brutus is ostensibly in charge
of the Justice Ministry's Malary investigation; Aristide's special
legal team is working on another track.)
Justice Minister Exume-who is supposed to oversee the work of
prosecutors-said that Morissaint's release was "wrong"
and that Haitian authorities are now trying to recapture him.
He said that he had been told that the United States paid Morissaint's
legal expenses, that it "provided backup" (in ways he
declined to specify) to arrange the gunman's release, that after
his release they gave him "total protection" (at one
point bringing him, under guard, to a hotel) and that the United
States also "made arrangements to have [Morissaint] leave
the country," although it was not clear whether he has done
so. Exume said that when he called the embassy to complain on
behalf of the Haitian government, he was told by Robert Felder,
the charge d'affaires, that the United States was also now looking
for Morissaint. Reached for comment, Felder said he was "not
aware of any
[U.S.] assistance" to Morissaint, that he did not know if
the embassy had been in touch with him since his release, that
last year Morissaint was given a United States visa (now expired),
that he was also unaware that Morissaint had been charged in Malary's
death, and that he "certainly can't answer" as to whether
Morissaint has been paid by the D.E.A. or the C.I.A.
Exume said that Morissaint was "obviously someone they [the
United States] were taking care of." (He added, "This
has happened before," citing the case of Herve Victor, an
interim policeman charged with car theft who-for reasons never
explained-was supposedly taken up by the embassy and "sent
to the United States.") Morissaint, of course. is just another
functionary among the murderous United States-sponsored paramilitaries
in Haiti. His boss, Colonel Francois, NBC reported last fall,
was paid by the C.I.A. A U.S. intelligence official who recently
served in Haiti in a senior position argued to me this week that
although Francois dealt drugs, had people "eliminate"
and "was a tyrant," "he was only able to function
because . . . [the Haitiansl knew that that was the best thing
for them at that time. He was able to control the country."
Allan Nairn, who broke the story of US. ties to FRAPH, has covered
US. operations in Latin America and Asia since 1980.