Haiti's Lawyer: US Is Arming Anti-Aristide
Paramilitaries, Calls For UN Peacekeepers
by Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill
DemocracyNow.org, February 25,
The US lawyer representing the government
of Haiti charged today that the US government is directly involved
in a military coup attempt against the country's democratically
elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Ira Kurzban, the Miami-based
attorney who has served as General Counsel to the Haitian government
since 1991, said that the paramilitaries fighting to overthrow
Aristide are being backed by Washington.
"I believe that this is a group
that is armed by, trained by, and employed by the intelligence
services of the United States," Kurzban told the national
radio and TV program Democracy Now!. "This is clearly a military
operation, and it's a military coup."
"There's enough indications from
our point of view, at least from my point of view, that the United
States certainly knew what was coming about two weeks before this
military operation started," Kurzban said. " The United
States made contingency plans for Guantanamo."
If a direct US connection is proven,
it will mark the second time in just over a decade that Washington
has been involved in a coup in Haiti.
Several of the paramilitary leaders now
rampaging Haiti are men who were at the forefront of the US-backed
campaign of terror during the 1991-94 coup against Aristide. Among
the paramilitary figures now leading the current insurrection
is Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former number 2 man in the FRAPH
paramilitary death squad.
Chamblain was convicted and sentenced
in absentia to hard-labor for life in trials for the April 23,
1994 massacre in the pro-democracy region of Raboteau and the
September 11, 1993 assassination of democracy-activist Antoine
Izméry. Chamblain recently arrived in Gonaives with about
25 other commandos based in the Dominican Republic, where Chamblain
has been living since 1994. They were well equipped with rifles,
camouflage uniforms, and all-terrain vehicles.
Among the victims of FRAPH under Chamblain's
leadership was Haitian Justice Minister Guy Malary. He was ambushed
and machine-gunned to death with his bodyguard and a driver on
Oct. 14, 1993. According to an October 28, 1993 CIA Intelligence
Memorandum obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights "FRAPH
members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable
met with an unidentified military officer on the morning of 14
October to discuss plans to kill Malary." Emmanuel "Toto"
Constant, was the founder of FRAPH.
An October 1994 article by journalist
Allan Nairn in The Nation magazine quoted Constant as saying that
he was contacted by a US Military officer named Col. Patrick Collins,
who served as defense attaché at the United States Embassy
in Port-au-Prince. Constant says Collins pressed him to set up
a group to "balance the Aristide movement" and do "intelligence"
work against it. Constant admitted that, at the time, he was working
with CIA operatives in Haiti. Constant is now residing freely
in the US. He is reportedly living in Queens, NY. At the time,
James Woolsey was head of the CIA.
Another figure to recently reemerge is
Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police chief who fled Haiti in
October 2000 after authorities discovered him plotting a coup
with a group of other police chiefs. All of the men were trained
in Ecuador by US Special Forces during the 1991-1994 coup. Since
that time, the Haitian government has accused Philippe of master-minding
deadly attacks on the Police Academy and the National Palace in
July and December 2001, as well as hit-and-run raids against police
stations on Haiti's Central Plateau over the following two years.
Kurzban also points to the presence of
another FRAPH veteran, Jean Tatun. Along with Chamblain, Tatun
was convicted of gross violations of human rights and murder in
the Raboteau massacre.
"These people came through the Dominican
border after the United States had provided 20,000 M-16's to the
Dominican army," says Kurzban. "I believe that the United
States clearly knew about it before, and that given the fact of
the history of these people, [Washington is] probably very, very
deeply involved, and I think Congress needs to seriously look
at what the involvement of the Defense Intelligence Agency and
the Central Intelligence Agency has been in this operation. Because
it is a military operation. It's not a rag-tag group of liberators,
as has often been put in the press in the last week or two."
Kurzban says he has hired military analysts
to review photos of the weapons being used by the paramilitary
groups. He says that contrary to reports in the media that the
armed groups are using weapons originally distributed by Aristide,
the gangs are using highly sophisticated and powerful weapons;
weapons that far out-gun Aristide's 3,000 member National Police
"I don't think that there's any
question about the fact that the weapons that they have did not
come from Haiti," says Kurzban. "They're organized as
a military commando strike force that's going from city to city."
Kurzban says that among the weapons being
used by the paramilitaries are: M-16's, M-60's, armor piercing
weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. "They have
weapons to shoot down the one helicopter that the government has,"
he said. "They have acted as a pretty tight-knit commando
Chamblain and other paramilitary leaders
have said they will march on the capital, Port-au-Prince within
two weeks. The US has put forth a proposal, being referred to
as a peace plan, that many viewed as favorable to Aristide's opponents.
Aristide accepted the plan, but the opposition rejected it. Washington's
point man on the crisis is Roger Noriega, Undersecretary of State
for Western Hemispheric Affairs.
"I think Noriega has been an Aristide
hater for over a decade," says Kurzban, adding that he believes
Noriega allowed the opposition to delay their response to the
plan to allow the paramilitaries to capture more territory. "My
reaction was they're just giving them more time so they can take
over more, that the military wing of the opposition can take over
more ground in Haiti and create a fate accompli," Kurzban
said. "Indeed, as soon as they said, 'we need an extra day,'
I predicted, unfortunately, and correctly, that they would go
into Cap Haitian (Haiti's 2nd largest city) and indeed the next
morning they did."
The leader of the "opposition"
is an American citizen named Andy Apaid. He was born in New York.
Haitian law does not allow dual-nationality and he has not renounced
his US citizenship. In a recent statement, Congressmember Maxine
Waters blasted Apaid and his opposition front, saying she believes
"Apaid is attempting to instigate a bloodbath in Haiti and
then blame the government for the resulting disaster in the belief
that the United States will aid the so-called protestors against
President Aristide and his government."
"We have the leader of the opposition,
who Mr. Noriega is negotiating with, who Secretary Powell calls
and who tells Secretary Powell, you know, 'we need a couple more
days' and Secretary Powell says 'that's fine,'" says Kurzban.
"I mean, there's some kind of theater of the absurd going
on with this opposition where it's led by an American citizen,
where they're just clearly stalling for time until they can get
more ground covered in Haiti through their military wing, and
the United States and Noriega, with a wink and nod, is kind of
letting them do that."
Kurzban says that because Aristide's
opponents rejected Washington's plan, "the next step clearly
is to send in some kind of UN peacekeeping force immediately."
"The question is," says Kurzban.
"Will the international community stand by and allow a democracy
in this hemisphere to be terminated by a brutal military coup
of persons who have a very, very sordid history of gross violations
of human rights?"
Democracy Now! (www.democracynow.org)
is a nationally-syndicated radio and TV program broadcast on Pacifica
Radio, NPR, community TV stations and Free Speech TV Channel 9415
of the DishNetwork. Mike Burke and Sharif Abdel Kouddous contributed
to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org.