Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt
Haiti Toward Chaos
by Walt Bogdanich and Jenny Nordberg
www.nytimes.com, January 29, 2006
As his plane lifted off the runway here
in August 2003, Brian Dean Curran rewound his last, bleak days
as the American ambassador in this tormented land.
Haiti, Mr. Curran feared, was headed toward
a cataclysm, another violent uncoupling of its once jubilant embrace
of democracy more than a decade before. He had come here hoping
to help that tenuous democracy grow. Now he was leaving in anger
Seven months later, an accused death
squad leader helped armed rebels topple the president, Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Haiti, never a model of stability, soon dissolved into
a state so lawless it stunned even those who had pushed for the
removal of Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who rose
to power as the champion and hero of Haiti's poor.
Today, the capital, Port-au-Prince, is
virtually paralyzed by kidnappings, spreading panic among rich
and poor alike. Corrupt police officers in uniform have assassinated
people on the streets in the light of day. The chaos is so extreme
and the interim government so dysfunctional that voting to elect
a new one has already been delayed four times. The latest date
is Feb. 7.
Yet even as Haiti prepares to pick its
first elected president since the rebellion two years ago, questions
linger about the circumstances of Mr. Aristide's ouster - and
especially why the Bush administration, which has made building
democracy a centerpiece of its foreign policy in Iraq and around
the world, did not do more to preserve it so close to its shores.
The Bush administration has said that
while Mr. Aristide was deeply flawed, its policy was always to
work with him as Haiti's democratically elected leader.
But the administration's actions in Haiti
did not always match its words. Interviews and a review of government
documents show that a democracy-building group close to the White
House, and financed by American taxpayers, undercut the official
United States policy and the ambassador assigned to carry it out.
As a result, the United States spoke with
two sometimes contradictory voices in a country where its words
carry enormous weight. That mixed message, the former American
ambassador said, made efforts to foster political peace "immeasurably
more difficult." Without a political agreement, a weak government
was destabilized further, leaving it vulnerable to the rebels.
Mr. Curran accused the democracy-building
group, the International Republican Institute, of trying to undermine
the reconciliation process after disputed 2000 Senate elections
threw Haiti into a violent political crisis. The group's leader
in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed Aristide opponent from the
Haitian elite, counseled the opposition to stand firm, and not
work with Mr. Aristide, as a way to cripple his government and
drive him from power, said Mr. Curran, whose account is supported
in crucial parts by other diplomats and opposition figures. Many
of these people spoke publicly about the events for the first
Mr. Curran, a 30-year Foreign Service
veteran and a Clinton appointee retained by President Bush, also
accused Mr. Lucas of telling the opposition that he, not the ambassador,
represented the Bush administration's true intentions.
Records show that Mr. Curran warned his
bosses in Washington that Mr. Lucas's behavior was contrary to
American policy and "risked us being accused of attempting
to destabilize the government." Yet when he asked for tighter
controls over the I.R.I. in the summer of 2002, he hit a roadblock
after high officials in the State Department and National Security
Council expressed support for the pro-democracy group, an American
aid official wrote at the time.
The International Republican Institute
is one of several prominent nonprofit groups that receive federal
funds to help countries develop the mechanisms of democracy, like
campaigning and election monitoring. Of all the groups, though,
the I.R.I. is closest to the administration. President Bush picked
its president, Lorne W. Craner, to run his administration's democracy-building
efforts. The institute, which works in more than 60 countries,
has seen its federal financing nearly triple in three years, from
$26 million in 2003 to $75 million in 2005. Last spring, at an
I.R.I. fund-raiser, Mr. Bush called democracy-building "a
These groups walk a fine line. Under federal
guidelines, they are supposed to nurture democracy in a nonpartisan
way, lest they be accused of meddling in the affairs of sovereign
nations. But in Haiti, according to diplomats, Mr. Lucas actively
worked against President Aristide.
Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state
at the time, said that the American policy in Haiti was what Mr.
Curran believed it to be, and that the United States stood by
Mr. Aristide until the last few days of his presidency.
But in a recent interview, Otto J. Reich,
who served under Mr. Powell as the State Department's top official
on Latin America, said that a subtle shift in policy away from
Mr. Aristide had taken place after Mr. Bush became president -
as Mr. Curran and others had suspected.
"There was a change in policy that
was perhaps not well perceived by some people in the embassy,"
Mr. Reich said, referring to Mr. Curran. "We wanted to change,
to give the Haitians an opportunity to choose a democratic leader,"
said Mr. Reich, one of a group of newly ascendant policy makers
who feared the rise of leftist governments in Latin America.
Told of that statement, Mr. Curran said,
"That Reich would admit that a different policy was in effect
totally vindicates my suspicions, as well as confirms what an
amateur crowd was in charge in Washington."
Bridging the divide between Mr. Aristide
and his opponents would have been difficult in even the best of
circumstances. But what emerges from the events in Haiti is a
portrait of how the effort to nurture democracy became entangled
in the ideological wars and partisan rivalries of Washington.
"What you had was the constant undermining
of the credibility of the negotiators," said Luigi R. Einaudi,
a respected veteran diplomat who led the international effort
to find a political settlement on behalf of the Organization of
The I.R.I. did not permit The New York
Times to interview Mr. Lucas, but in a response to written questions,
he denied trying to undermine American policy. "I never told
the opposition not to negotiate," Mr. Lucas said in an e-mail
Georges A. Fauriol, the I.R.I.'s senior
vice president, said that his group faithfully tried to represent
"the ideals of the American democratic system," and
that he personally pressed the opposition to compromise. Mr. Fauriol
blamed "innuendos and political interests" for the complaints
of Mr. Curran and others. He also said Mr. Curran never gave him
the specifics that he needed to act against Mr. Lucas, whom he
called "one of our best political party trainers."
In Haiti, Mr. Lucas's partisan activities
were well known. Evans Paul, a leader of the anti-Aristide movement
and now a presidential candidate, said Mr. Lucas's stand against
negotiating was "a bit too harsh" even for some in the
Jean-Max Bellerive, an official in three
Haitian administrations, including Mr. Aristide's, added, "He
said there was a big plan for Haiti that came from Washington,
that Aristide would not finish his mandate." As for the ambassador,
Mr. Bellerive said, "he told me that Curran was of no importance,
that he did not fit in the big picture."
Micha Gaillard, a former spokesman for
the main anti-Aristide coalition, the Democratic Convergence,
said Mr. Lucas went so far as to act as its representative in
With Washington's approval, Mr. Lucas
used taxpayer money to fly hundreds of opposition members - but
no one from Mr. Aristide's Lavalas party - to a hotel in the Dominican
Republic for political training that began in late 2002. Two leaders
of the armed rebellion told The Times that they were in the same
hotel during some of those meetings, but did not attend.
The I.R.I. said the sessions were held
outside Haiti because Lavalas had physically threatened its staff,
including Mr. Lucas. But another American democracy-building group,
the National Democratic Institute, said it was able to work successfully
with Mr. Aristide's party in Haiti.
Mr. Curran left Haiti in August 2003 for
a new assignment, and by fall, Mr. Aristide's political opponents
had decided there was little point in negotiating. Still, there
was one last hope. Mr. Einaudi persuaded some opposition leaders
to meet with Mr. Aristide at the home of the new American ambassador,
James B. Foley. But while the president was prepared to give up
much of his power, Mr. Einaudi said, American officials "pulled
the rug out," abruptly canceling the meeting without consulting
Several months later, the rebels marched
on Port-au-Prince and Mr. Aristide left Haiti on a plane provided
by the American government. Since then, Haiti has become even
more chaotic, said Marc L. Bazin, an elder statesman of Haitian
"I was suspicious that it would not
be good," Mr. Bazin said. "But that bad - no."
Added Mr. Einaudi, "Building democracy
in Haiti now is going to take a very long time."
A Voice for the Poor
After two centuries of foreign occupiers,
dictators, generals, a self-appointed president for life and the
overthrow of more than 30 governments, Haitians finally had the
chance in 1990 to elect the leader they wanted. The people chose
Mr. Aristide, a priest who had been expelled from his Roman Catholic
order for his fiery orations of liberation theology.
"He was espousing change in Haiti,
fundamental populist change," said Robert Maguire, a Haiti
scholar who has criticized American policy as insufficiently concerned
with Haiti's poor. "Right away, he was viewed as a threat
by very powerful forces in Haiti."
President Aristide promised not only to
give voice to the poor in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,
but also to raise the minimum wage and force businesses to pay
taxes. He rallied supporters with heated attacks on the United
States, a tacit supporter of past dictatorships and a major influence
in Haitian affairs since the Marines occupied the country from
1915 to 1934.
"He wasn't going to be beholden
to the United States, and so he was going to be trouble,"
said Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a Democratic
critic of Bush administration policy on Latin America. "We
had interests and ties with some of the very strong financial
interests in the country, and Aristide was threatening them."
Those interests, mostly in the textile and electronic assembly
businesses, sold many of their products cheap to the United States.
When the Haitian military, with the support
of the business elite, overthrew Mr. Aristide after just shy of
eight months in office, the administration of George H. W. Bush
criticized the loss of Haiti's first democracy, but did not intervene
Raymond A. Joseph, the current interim
government's ambassador to the United States, recalls a speech
that Mr. Aristide gave in September 1991. "That's the speech,"
Mr. Joseph said, "that triggered the coup d'état against
him, where he said, 'Whenever you feel the heat under your feet,
turn your eyes to the mountains where the wealthy are, they're
responsible for you. Go give them what they deserve.' "
After the coup came repression. In the
first two years, the United States Coast Guard intercepted 41,000
Haitians at sea. Pressured by the Congressional Black Caucus,
President Bill Clinton sent troops to help restore Mr. Aristide
to power in 1994.
Mr. Aristide quickly disbanded the country's
most powerful institution - the military. It did not help that
Mr. Aristide - and for that matter, Haiti - had little experience
with the give and take of democracy.
"He was not trained to be a politician,
he was trained to be a priest," Mr. Einaudi said. "So
that when he got involved heavily in politics, he didn't know
very much about the games politicians play."
Mr. Aristide returned with only one year
left in his term, and because the Haitian Constitution barred
him from consecutive terms, his ally René Préval
was voted into office.
But the international community believed
that Mr. Aristide remained a real power, and it had grown frustrated
with the government's shortcomings. That frustration built to
the parliamentary elections of 2000. Mr. Aristide's party declared
victory in 18 of 19 Senate races, even though international observers
said runoffs were required in 8 of them because no one had won
a clear majority. Angry Lavalas opponents, in turn, boycotted
presidential elections in November; Mr. Aristide won overwhelmingly.
Tensions rose further as international
lenders withheld aid from the Aristide government. "We could
not deliver any goods, services to the people," said Leslie
Voltaire, a former minister under Mr. Aristide.
Even Mr. Bazin, a former World Bank official
who ran against Mr. Aristide in 1990, criticized the cutoff. "The
poorer you are, the less democratic you are," he said.
Indeed, the combination of a strengthening
opposition, a weaker government and an attempted coup drove Mr.
Aristide deeper into the arms of his most fervent supporters in
the slums. "The urban gangs received money, logistical support
and weapons from the national police because the government saw
them as a bulwark against a coup," the International Crisis
Group, a conflict resolution organization that studies Haiti and
other trouble spots, said in a 2005 report.
When some Aristide supporters engaged
in criminal acts, including killings and drug trafficking, the
president was often unwilling or unable to stop them. That eroded
his popular support.
A simple dispute over a handful of Senate
seats had now morphed into a showdown over the very legitimacy
of Mr. Aristide's presidency.
It was in these months that two ingredients
were added to the roiling Haitian stew: a new American ambassador,
Brian Dean Curran, arrived in Port-au-Prince and a Republican
administration was inaugurated in Washington.
An Ambassador's Mission
Mr. Curran began his assignment at the
start of 2001. To understand the country better, he made a point
of learning Creole, the language of the poor, even though diplomats
and the ruling elite conversed in French.
"He was amazing to watch," one
former government official said. "He would walk in a classroom
with Haitian children and take over from the teacher."
Mr. Curran said he wanted to believe in
Mr. Aristide but slowly became disillusioned. "I had many
conversations with him about the police, about human rights abuses,"
Mr. Curran said. "And in the end, he disappointed me."
Even so, Mr. Curran said, his mission
was clear. "The promotion of democracy was at the very heart
of what I was doing in Haiti," he said. Clear, too, was how
to go about that: supporting Mr. Aristide's right to office while
working to foster a compromise. "That was the officially
stated policy," Mr. Curran said. "Those were my instructions."
Mr. Curran was supposed to have help from
the I.R.I., which had been active in Haiti since 1990. Along with
the National Democratic Institute, the I.R.I. was formed in the
early 1980's after President Ronald Reagan called on Americans
to fight totalitarianism.
Its board includes Republican foreign-policy
heavyweights and lobbyists, and its chairman is Senator John McCain,
the Arizona Republican, who did not answer requests for an interview.
The group's financing comes from the Agency for International
Development, as well as the State Department, foundations and
corporations like Halliburton and Chevron.
More than its sister group, the International
Republican Institute tends to work in countries "it views
as being strategically important to U.S. national foreign policy
interests," according to a 1999 report by the international
The I.R.I.'s Republican affiliations did
not go unnoticed on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Graffiti condemning
the I.R.I. had been showing up for some time, the work of Aristide
supporters. "I think they distrusted I.R.I. as an organization
because they were affiliated with the Republican Party, and Lavalas
just felt the Republican Party was out to get them," said
David Adams, a former A.I.D. mission director in Haiti.
And there was one more reason, he said:
Stanley Lucas, the I.R.I.'s leader in Haiti.
Mr. Lucas, who said he grew up in the
United States and Haiti and worked as a part-time Haitian civil
servant, came from a land-owning family. That background, along
with his politics, "sends a very provocative message, I think,
to those supporting Aristide," said Mr. Maguire, who runs
the international affairs program at Trinity University in Washington.
Mr. Lucas joined the I.R.I. in 1993 and took over its Haiti program
five years later.
With his good looks, sociability and
fluency in Creole, French and English, he moved easily between
Port-au-Prince and Capitol Hill. "He's the Denzel Washington
of Haiti," one A.I.D. official said. That he was a karate
champion only added to his aura.
The anti-Aristide message had currency
around Washington. Mr. Einaudi, the veteran diplomat, recalled
attending the I.R.I.'s 2001 fund-raising dinner and being surrounded
by a half-dozen Haitian businessmen sounding a common cry: "We
were foolish to think that we could do anything with Aristide.
That it was impossible to negotiate with him. That it was necessary
to get rid of him."
A year later, the I.R.I. created a stir
when it issued a press release praising the attempted overthrow
of Hugo Chávez, the elected president of Venezuela and
a confrontational populist, who, like Mr. Aristide, was seen as
a threat by some in Washington. The institute has since told The
Times that praising the attempted coup was wrong.
Mr. Lucas had been to Venezuela seven
times for the I.R.I., but he was not there at the time of the
coup. Instead, he was focusing on Haiti, where his work was creating
another stir for the institute.
No Negotiations, No Compromise
In early 2002, Mr. Curran said, he began
receiving troubling reports about Mr. Lucas. As he urged the opposition
in Haiti "to show flexibility," the ambassador said,
Mr. Lucas was sending the opposite instructions: "Hang tough.
Don't compromise. In the end, we'll get rid of Aristide."
As his concern mounted, Mr. Curran asked
that Mr. Lucas be removed from the I.R.I.'s Haiti program. The
Mr. Fauriol, the institute's senior vice
president, said Mr. Curran had not been forthcoming with information
about Mr. Lucas. "Specifics we've never been given,"
he said, adding that Mr. Lucas's critics probably did not know
him very well.
"We don't have any questions about
the quality of his work," Mr. Fauriol said. "There is
something of a cottage industry that's sort of built around what
he has or hasn't done, perceptions, rumors, whisperings. And it
has sort of created a profile of an individual that is, shall
we say, greatly exaggerated - simply not true."
Mr. Curran countered that he had ample
witnesses to Mr. Lucas's behavior. And opposition leaders said
in interviews that Mr. Lucas had actively opposed a political
"Mr. Lucas was of the opinion negotiations
would be a bad idea; I was of the opinion we should have negotiated
to show our good faith," said Mr. Paul, a former mayor of
Port-au-Prince, who nonetheless praised Mr. Lucas's support for
the opposition against Mr. Aristide.
Mr. Gaillard, the former spokesman for
the Democratic Convergence, the main anti-Aristide coalition,
said he also did not like that Mr. Lucas was acting as the Haitian
opposition's representative in Washington. "That really disturbed
us, because we didn't know exactly what he was saying," he
Mr. Bazin added that Mr. Lucas "was
prepared to act aggressively to get Aristide out of power."
Mr. Einaudi said he found Mr. Lucas's
"Stanley Lucas is a very bright
man, very able man," he said. But, he said, "I thought
it was a mistake the way Dean Curran did, I think, that he should
become the person in charge of I.R.I.'s policies and activities."
At the A.I.D. office in Port-au-Prince,
the agency's director, Mr. Adams, said he found Mr. Lucas difficult
to deal with.
"When Stanley tells you something,
it's kind of hard to know exactly what the kernel of truth is,"
Mr. Adams said.
With the I.R.I. standing behind Mr. Lucas,
Mr. Curran complained to his superiors in Washington - through
cables, e-mail messages and, he said, in meetings.
In a July 2002 cable, he wrote: "I
continue to have grave misgivings about the participation of an
individual whose questionable behavior could be to the detriment
of U.S. interests. The USAID director shares my concerns."
Mr. Curran also cautioned that Mr. Lucas's
continued participation "will, at best, lead to confusion
as to U.S. policy objectives, which continue to eschew unconstitutional
acts and favor negotiations and, at worst, contribute to political
destabilization in Haiti."
The Old Policy Makers Return
Mr. Curran sent his cables to the Bush
administration's Latin American policy team, records show. In
addition to Mr. Reich, then assistant secretary of state for Latin
American affairs, that group included Elliott L. Abrams, a special
assistant to the president and senior director for democracy and
human rights, and Daniel W. Fisk, a deputy to Mr. Reich.
These men were veteran fighters against
the spread of leftist political ideology in Latin America, beginning
with Fidel Castro and Cuba. Mr. Fisk's former boss, Jesse Helms,
then a Republican senator from North Carolina, had once called
Mr. Aristide a "psychopath," based on a C.I.A. report
about his mental condition that turned out to be false.
In the 1980's, Mr. Reich and Mr. Abrams
had become ensnared in investigations of Reagan administration
activities opposing the socialist government of Nicaragua. The
comptroller general determined in 1987 that a public diplomacy
office run by the Cuban-born Mr. Reich had "engaged in prohibited,
covert propaganda activities." In 1991, Mr. Abrams pleaded
guilty to withholding information from Congress in connection
with the Iran-contra affair. He was pardoned by the first President
Now, with the advent of the second Bush
administration, Mr. Reich, Mr. Abrams and their colleagues were
back in power. The Clinton era, they felt, had been a bad one
for United States interests in Latin America.
"The United States had squandered
a good deal of its credibility by its support for Aristide during
the Clinton years," said Roger F. Noriega, a former senior
Helms aide who replaced Mr. Reich at the State Department in 2003.
"We essentially held his coat while stuffing millions of
dollars in it while he terrorized the opposition."
At the time of Mr. Curran's complaints,
the I.R.I.'s current president, Mr. Craner, was running the State
Department's democracy and human rights program. He questioned
the charges leveled by Mr. Curran, who goes by his middle name,
"I'm curious about why Dean has a
very different opinion of Stanley from his bosses," Mr. Craner
said. He added that neither Mr. Noriega nor Mr. Reich had come
to him or the institute and complained, and he urged The Times
to call them.
Mr. Noriega said Mr. Curran had not worked
for him, but offered that he had seen no evidence of misconduct
by the I.R.I. Mr. Reich was more specific about Mr. Curran.
"He never expressed any problems
with Stanley Lucas to me, and I was his boss," Mr. Reich
said. Asked why his name showed up on cables as having received
Mr. Curran's complaints, and why Mr. Curran's cables detailed
discussions with him, Mr. Reich replied: "I have absolutely
no recollection of that. I'm not questioning it, I just have no
recollection of that."
Mr. Reich said he could not understand
why Mr. Curran would focus on "some low-level bureaucrat"
at the I.R.I. rather than the misconduct of Mr. Aristide. That,
he asserted, was why the United States had gradually backed away
from Mr. Aristide. "The crime is the Clinton administration
supported him as long as it did," Mr. Reich said.
Mr. Curran said it was "a patent
lie" that he had never complained to Mr. Reich.
Records show that in the summer of 2002,
Mr. Curran sought tighter control over the I.R.I. before signing
off on a politically delicate program that Mr. Lucas had organized
in the Dominican Republic to teach the opposition the art of campaigning.
Washington officials opposed Mr. Curran's
request. Not only was there pressure from Congress, according
to an e-mail message from Mr. Adams of A.I.D., but "there
were senior State/N.S.C. officials who were sympathetic to I.R.I.'s
position as well."
Mr. Curran did secure several concessions
suggested by Mr. Reich, including that Mr. Lucas would be barred
from participating in the program for 120 days and would be dismissed
from the I.R.I.'s Haiti program if he misbehaved, records show.
Even so, Mr. Curran thought the grant was a bad idea if Mr. Lucas
The Training Next Door
Haiti has had a long, tense relationship
with the Dominican Republic, its more affluent neighbor on the
island of Hispaniola. Haitians who work there are often mistreated,
human rights groups say, and the country has been a haven for
those accused of trying to overthrow Haitian governments.
In December 2002, the I.R.I. began training
Haitian political parties there, at the Hotel Santo Domingo, owned
by the Fanjul family, which fled Cuba under Mr. Castro and now
runs a giant sugar-cane business.
The training was unusual for more than
its location: only Mr. Aristide's opponents, not members of his
party, were invited.
Institute officials said this was because
the opposition parties were less powerful and needed more help.
The goal, Mr. Fauriol said, "was to broaden, if you will,
the ability of various actors to participate in the political
They also said they were not required
to work with Lavalas because its members condoned violence and
the institute's workers were threatened, which was why the meetings
were held outside Haiti. And they pointed out that no American
officials had objected to excluding Lavalas.
There were perhaps a dozen sessions, spread
over a year, the institute said. Hundreds of opposition members
"The training programs were really
run-of-the-mill political party programs," Mr. Fauriol said.
To the Dominican ambassador who issued the travelers' visas in
Haiti, though, the meetings "clearly conveyed a confrontation,
not a dialogue."
"For the opposition, it was interesting
to know that the American government, or people from the American
government, supported and validated its politics," the former
ambassador, Alberto Despradel, said last fall at the Hotel Santo
Among the trainers brought in was Brian
Berry, who worked on George W. Bush's 1994 primary campaign for
Mr. Berry had an interest in the Caribbean.
He said he had a small bag of sand from the Bay of Pigs; he said
he looked forward to returning it to "a free Cuba beach"
when Mr. Castro was gone. Mr. Berry said he volunteered for I.R.I.,
to further the cause of democracy.
Mr. Bazin, a moderate Aristide opponent,
sent representatives to the Hotel Santo Domingo. They came away
believing that more was going on than routine political training.
"The report I got from my people
was that there were two meetings - open meetings where democracy
would be discussed and closed meetings where other things would
be discussed, and we are not invited to the other meetings,"
said Mr. Bazin, who is now running for president as the candidate
of a faction of Lavalas.
Mr. Bazin said people who had attended
the closed meetings told him that "there are things you don't
know" - that Mr. Aristide would ultimately be removed and
that he should stop calling for compromise.
Afterward, he said, he spoke with Mr.
Curran. "I asked him, "How many policies do they have
in the U.S.?' " Mr. Bazin said.
Mr. Lucas said Mr. Bazin's comments should
be viewed in light of his alliance with some former Aristide supporters.
And Mr. Fauriol denied that secret meetings had occurred. Also,
A.I.D.'s inspector general said in a 2004 report that the training
sessions did not violate government regulations.
But by attending the first training session,
Mr. Lucas violated his 120-day prohibition.
Mr. Curran sent a blistering message to
Washington. "I.R.I. has set us on a collision course today,"
he wrote, adding, "I am afraid this episode brings into question
the good faith of I.R.I. in promising to control Stanley's renegade
activities of the past."
He asked that the institute's program
be canceled or Mr. Lucas dismissed. Neither happened.
Mr. Fauriol apologized, attributing the
violation to a simple misunderstanding of when the exclusion period
began. Besides, one American official said, Mr. Lucas had only
a minor role in the meetings.
To Mr. Curran, however, any involvement
was a problem. "How can we control what is said in private
conversations?" he wrote to Washington, "Or what is
conveyed by winks and nods?"
It turns out there was another matter,
one that federal officials apparently did not know about: two
leaders of the armed rebels told The Times they were spending
time at the Hotel Santo Domingo while the training was under way.
Guy Philippe, a former police commander
who had fled Haiti after two failed coup attempts, said in an
interview that he had seen Mr. Lucas at the hotel.
"I was living in the hotel, sleeping
in the hotel," Mr. Philippe said. "So I've seen him
and his friends and those guys in the opposition, but we didn't
talk politics." He said he had not attended any I.R.I. meetings.
Paul Arcelin, an architect of the rebellion,
said he, too, had seen Mr. Lucas at the hotel during the training
sessions. In an interview there last fall, Mr. Arcelin said, "I
used to meet Stanley Lucas here in this hotel, alone, sitting
down talking about the future of Haiti." But he said they
had not discussed overthrowing Mr. Aristide.
Mr. Lucas said Mr. Arcelin showed up at
an I.R.I. meeting and was told to leave. He also disputed Mr.
Several opposition activists said they
wanted nothing to do with the armed rebels. "Participation
in our seminars was from a very restricted list of people,"
Mr. Fauriol said.
The seminars were still under way in September
2003 when the Bush administration sent a new ambassador to Haiti.
Mr. Curran wanted to stay longer, Mr. Reich said. But he said
Mr. Curran was replaced because "we did not think the ambassador
was carrying out the new policy in the way we wanted it carried
Mr. Powell disputed that, saying he recalled
that Mr. Curran was not removed because of a change in policy,
but as part of a normal rotation.
Before leaving, Mr. Curran met with Haitian
business leaders. "He made a remarkable speech," Mr.
Bazin said, recalling that Mr. Curran admonished them not only
for doing things "that are not acceptable, including dealing
with drug dealers," but also for listening to people who
only pretended to represent United States policy.
Mr. Curran called them "chimères
of Washington" - invoking a word commonly used to describe
gang members loyal to Mr. Aristide.
"The Haitians, in their marvelous
language, which is so full of allusions and metaphor, have created
this term for these people - the chimères, the ghosts,"
Mr. Curran explained. "Because they're there and they do
things and they terrify you. And then they fade away."
Time Runs Out
The fall of 2003 was a perilous time for
Haiti. In the north, the police fought gun battles with a gang
called the Cannibal Army. In the capital, gangs professing loyalty
to the Aristide government attacked journalists and protesting
university students. Across the Dominican border, the rebels waited
for the right moment to attack.
Over four years, Mr. Einaudi, a former
acting secretary general of the Organization of American States,
had made some 30 trips to Haiti trying to prevent such a moment.
Yet he had failed. Mr. Aristide was finally willing to share power,
Mr. Einaudi said, but the opposition, emboldened, felt no need
to deal with him.
With time running out, Mr. Einaudi hit
upon a new approach - one he hoped would take advantage of the
arrival of the new American ambassador, Mr. Foley. Mr. Einaudi
invited Mr. Aristide and his opponents to meet at the ambassador's
home - a clear signal that the United States wanted negotiations,
not regime change.
When members of both sides agreed to come,
there was a glimmer of hope, Mr. Einaudi said.
Terence A. Todman, a retired American
diplomat who also worked in Haiti for the O.A.S, said: "We
knew there would be shouting. But at least they were together."
Then, suddenly, it was over. In a move
that stunned Mr. Einaudi, the United States canceled the meeting,
killing "what was in fact my last move," he said.
His colleague was more blunt. "That
blew it," said Mr. Todman, who like Mr. Einaudi was speaking
publicly about the scuttled meeting for the first time. "That
was the end of any effort to get them together."
Mr. Noriega, who had replaced Mr. Reich
at the State Department, said in an interview that the administration
called off the meeting after talking to Aristide opponents. It
was "going to be a failure for us and wreck our credibility,"
Representative Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts
Democrat who monitored Haitian elections in 2000, had a different
reaction when told of the canceled meeting.
"If there was a last opportunity
and it wasn't acted upon and we did not pursue it, then that would
be a stain upon the United States," he said.
The Rebels' Final Push
Several months later, the rebels crossed
into Haiti and began their final push. There were perhaps 200
in all, many of them former soldiers in the army Mr. Aristide
had disbanded years before. Leading the final assault were Mr.
Philippe and Louis-Jodel Chamblain.
Rights groups have identified Mr. Chamblain
as the leader of death squads when the military ran Haiti after
Mr. Aristide's first ouster in 1991. He had twice been convicted
in absentia - for his role in a massacre in Gonaïves in 1994
and in connection with the 1993 killing of an Aristide supporter.
As for Mr. Philippe, Mr. Curran said he
was suspected of having had ties to drug traffickers before leaving
Haiti after a failed coup attempt.
Mr. Philippe, who is now running for president
of Haiti, denies any connection to the drug trade, pointing out
that he has never been charged with such a crime.
On Feb. 19, 2004, the rebels attacked
the jail in Fort-Liberté, near the border. Without the
military to defend the country, the government had to rely on
the poorly equipped police, its ranks weakened by corruption.
Jacques Édouard, the jail supervisor, said he was forced
to release 73 prisoners, including convicted murderers.
Some prisoners joined the rebels, while
others took over the city, robbing residents and burning homes
until the United Nations arrived a month later, said Andrea Loi
Valenzuela, a United Nations worker there.
When rebels reached the city of Cap Haitien
on Feb. 22, the police chief, Hugues Gabriel, told his 28 officers
to flee. "They had machine guns," he said. "We
have little handguns with little ammunition."
In Washington, the Bush administration
voiced its official policy. "We cannot buy into a proposition
that says the elected president must be forced out of office by
thugs and those who do not respect law and are bringing terrible
violence to the Haitian people," Secretary of State Powell
But when Mr. Aristide asked for international
troops, he did not get them.
Mr. Powell said he continued to press
for a political settlement to keep Mr. Aristide in office. "We
were doing everything we could to support his incumbency,"
he said in a recent interview. Only in the last days, when Port-au-Prince
appeared "on the verge of a serious blood bath," he
said, did the United States explore other options. "There
comes a point when you have to make a judgment as to whether you
should continue to support President Aristide or whether it is
better to try another route," he said.
On Feb. 29 - Mr. Philippe's birthday -
the United States flew President Aristide to exile in South Africa.
Almost immediately, Congressional Democrats
and Caricom, the association of Caribbean nations, called for
an independent inquiry into Mr. Aristide's ouster and why Haiti's
neighbors had not come to its aid.
"It doesn't add up for the greatest
country in the world to be fearful of 200 thugs, my goodness,"
said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California.
The State Department said there was nothing
to investigate. "I think the U.S. role was clear," a
spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, said at the time, adding, "The
focus needs to be on moving forward."
Two years later, there has been no inquiry.
Caricom refuses to recognize Haiti's interim government. And questions
about Mr. Aristide's fall remain unanswered.
Among them is what the Bush administration
knew about the rebels, who plotted in the Dominican Republic,
a country friendly to the United States.
Their activities there had not gone unnoticed
by Haitian authorities. Edwin M. Paraison, a former Haitian diplomat
in the Dominican Republic, said his government contacted authorities
there three times to express concern "about subversive actions
that were being planned on the Dominican territory." But,
he said, little was done.
American officials said they did not take
the rebels terribly seriously. "Our sense was that they were
not a large force, not a well-trained force, and not in any way
a threat to the stability then in Haiti," said Mr. Foley,
the American ambassador at the time. "Now that proved to
Mr. Despradel, the former Dominican ambassador,
said American authorities had to have known what the rebels were
"Given the intelligence the United
States has in place throughout the Caribbean and their advanced
technology that lets them hear a mosquito in outer space - I think
Guy Philippe is bigger than that," he said.
At a Senate hearing in 2004, Mr. Noriega
was asked if he knew of any ties between Mr. Philippe and the
I.R.I. - specifically Mr. Lucas - during the training meetings
in the Dominican Republic. He said he did not.
"If it were the case, we would certainly
stop it," Mr. Noriega said. "We knew who Guy Philippe
was and that he had a criminal background."
The inspector general of A.I.D. also said
that, based on interviews with American officials and a review
of federal records, it found no evidence of contacts between the
men during the year or so the sessions were taking place, a view
echoed by Mr. Fauriol. "If they occurred, they would have
been against any sense of responsibility of the I.R.I. and any
guidance from us," he said. "I don't think those meetings
And in his e-mail response, Mr. Lucas
himself said, "To be clear, I do not know Guy Philippe."
He added that he might have met him once in the 1990's when Mr.
Philippe was a police commander in Port-au-Prince.
Mr. Philippe tells a different story.
In interviews with The Times, he called Mr. Lucas "a good
friend" whom he has known much of his life. "He used
to be my teacher in Ping-Pong," Mr. Philippe said.
Not only did he say he saw Mr. Lucas during
the training at the Hotel Santo Domingo; he said he met with him
once or twice in 2000 or 2001, while in exile in Ecuador. "He
was working for I.R.I.," Mr. Philippe said. "It was
not a planned meeting." They did not discuss politics, he
said, adding, "It's like someone I knew when I was young."
Mr. Voltaire, the former minister in the
Aristide administration, recalled meeting Mr. Lucas at a diplomatic
reception in Lima, Peru, in September 2001. He said Mr. Lucas
told him he was headed to Ecuador to meet with a small group of
former Haitian policemen who had trained there. Mr. Philippe was
known to belong to that group.
Mr. Craner, the I.R.I. president, said
Mr. Lucas might have been in a bar in Ecuador when Mr. Philippe
was present, though Mr. Lucas could not be sure. Mr. Lucas said,
"We dug down deep into scenarios where Guy Philippe was potentially
present in the room, even if I could not confirm that." He
did acknowledge being in Peru during the time frame cited by Mr.
Dashing Hopes for Calm
One day last August, Haiti's interim prime
minister, Gérard Latortue, invited a Times reporter into
a private cabinet meeting. With his ministers seated around a
long wooden table, Mr. Latortue said he wanted to deliver a personal
message: Haiti was safe to visit now.
"I really would like people to know
now that there is an improvement," said the prime minister,
a former Florida businessman and United Nations official. "Go
where you want to go and after, report what you have seen - whatever
it is." And he added, "We are living in very exceptional
Several days later, in a Port-au-Prince
neighborhood, uniformed riot police officers swept through a crowd
at a soccer match, singling out people to kill - with guns and
machetes - outside the stadium. Unable to leave, people screamed
and huddled on the ground. An estimated 10 people were killed
at the event, which had been financed by the United States to
promote peace in the area.
Things have only deteriorated from there.
Kidnapping gangs hungry for ransom money have waged an expanding
war on the capital. Several months ago, the Haitian police chief,
Mario Andrésol, said a quarter of his force was corrupt
or tied to the kidnappers. Assassinations, mob violence, torture
and arbitrary arrests have created a "catastrophic"
human rights problem, a top United Nations official said in October.
After Mr. Aristide left, expressions of
hope for a more stable, peaceful Haiti came from Haitian business
leaders and officials in other countries, including the United
States. "The Bush administration believes that if we all
do our part and do it right, Haiti will have the democracy it
deserves," Mr. Noriega told the American Enterprise Institute
in April 2004.
Those hopes have fallen short at nearly
every turn, and for reasons that go beyond Haiti's desperate poverty.
The interim government is widely viewed as politicized and inept.
The local and international security forces are undermanned and
overmatched by the proliferation of guns and drugs. The United
States, which sent in troops to help stabilize the country immediately
after Mr. Aristide's ouster, pulled them out several months later,
even though they command unparalleled respect in Haiti.
Mr. Latortue's government, set up as an
unelected caretaker, dashed any hope of reconciliation when the
prime minister praised the rebels as "freedom fighters."
Then, Mr. Chamblain, the rebel convicted twice in absentia for
his role in political killings, was acquitted of one murder in
a retrial that rights groups called a sham. His other conviction
was dismissed as well.
At the same time, Mr. Aristide's former
prime minister, Yvon Neptune, was jailed for a year without charges,
prompting an international outcry. Only after a hunger strike
left him near death did the government bring murder-related charges.
Another prominent Aristide supporter, the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste,
has been repeatedly arrested; Amnesty International calls Father
Jean-Juste, who has leukemia, "a prisoner of conscience."
Still, the Latortue government cannot
be blamed for all Haiti's immediate problems.
Juan Gabriel Valdés, a Chilean
who leads the United Nations mission in Haiti, said the country
needed 25,000 to 30,000 police officers, more than three times
the current number. International aid - $1.08 billion has been
pledged - has been slow to arrive in the slums, where violence
"If Haiti underscored anything it
is that security and development must go hand in hand," said
Caroline Anstey, director of the World Bank's Caribbean unit.
"Better security would have meant faster development results
on the ground. Faster development would have contributed to better
The United States has played a diminished
role since its troops left in mid-2004. It pledged $230 million
to Haiti from July 2004 to September 2006, A.I.D. said.
But Mark L. Schneider, senior vice president
of the International Crisis Group, said the United States pulled
its forces out too soon, turning the job over to United Nations
peacekeepers while the country was still in the grip of armed
On Jan. 24, a State Department spokesman,
Sean McCormack, said United Nations forces "are doing a good
job," adding, "I take issue with this idea that somehow
the United States has not been deeply involved."
Yet the violence in Haiti, especially
the kidnappings, is eating away at society.
A reporter for The Times was with United
Nations troops in Bel Air, a Port-au-Prince slum, when they found
and freed André Boujour, 41, who said he had been kidnapped
two weeks earlier and held in a 10-by-10-foot hut, accessible
only by a narrow path through a warren of tightly packed shacks.
Mr. Boujour said he was abducted after
delivering several thousand dollars he had raised from friends
and family to free his kidnapped sister.
'A Tragedy of Partisanship'
When Mr. Curran and Mr. Einaudi went
to Haiti, they said, they believed that working with the elected
government, whatever its flaws, would help a young but already
sputtering democracy take hold. They said they believed that the
people making policy in Washington shared that hope. Then, they
said, they ran into something larger.
"Haiti is a tragedy, and it is a
tragedy of partisanship and hate and hostility," Mr. Einaudi
said. "These were divides among Haitians and they are also
divides among Americans, because Haiti came to symbolize within
the United States a point of friction between Democrats and Republicans
that did not facilitate bipartisanship or stable policy or communication."
Mr. Fauriol said that the I.R.I., too,
was frustrated with the interim government. "We've got to
deal with reality and the reality is rather imperfect," he
said. Even so, he wrote last spring that "Haiti's democratic
hopes have been given another chance." The institute's activities
in Haiti no longer include Mr. Lucas. He now works for the group's
Both Mr. Reich and Mr. Noriega have left
the government. Before Mr. Noriega departed, he said America "will
continue to be a firm supporter of democracy in Haiti."
Mr. Maguire, the Haiti expert, is skeptical.
"I don't see that the U.S. is exporting democracy,"
he said. "I think it's more exporting a kind of fear, that
if we don't do the things the way the U.S. and powerful interests
in our country want us to do them, then perhaps we'll be as expendable
as Mr. Aristide was."
Mr. Curran has left the Foreign Service
and is working for NATO. In the final analysis, Mr. Einaudi said,
the former American ambassador was simply no match for the anti-Aristide
lobby in Washington.
"The difficulty," Mr. Einaudi
said, "is that he took on a battle that he couldn't win."