Originally: Multi-Front Strategy Seeks to Oust Aristide Before 2004

March 26, 2003

Multi-Front Strategy Seeks to Oust Aristide Before 2004

(Second of two articles)

The U.S. government is sponsoring an effort to drive President Jean-Bertrand

Aristide from power before the end of his term in 2006, and even before

Haiti’s bicentennial celebrations in 2004. The offensive involves three

fronts: diplomatic, media, and military.

Last week, we examined how arch-reactionary Reagan administration veterans of

the “dirty war” against Nicaragua in the 1980s, in particular George W.

Bush’s “Special Envoy” for Latin America Otto Reich and Assistant Secretary

of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, are spearheading the

diplomatic attack.

From Mar. 19-21, Reich and Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant

Secretary General Einaudi, a long-time State Department hack, took a

20-member international delegation to Haiti to speak with both the government

and opposition leaders. The “mediators” delivered an ultimatum to the Haitian

government that it had ten days (until Mar. 30) to form a new electoral

council (CEP). But it can’t possibly meet the deadline because the opposition

and allied “civil society” refuse to nominate their CEP representatives or to

take part in elections without Aristide’s departure or foreign military


The delegation also commanded Haitian authorities to finish implementing OAS

Resolution 822 (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 20, No. 26, 9/11/02), whose

conditions the government has already largely fulfilled, or tried to. The key

remaining requirements are that 1) the government disarm its opponents and

partisans around the nation and 2) arrest and prosecute the leaders of

pro-government urban popular organizations which engaged in mob violence 15

months ago (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 40, 12/19/01). Both measures are

all but impossible, technically and politically, for the government to carry

out, and the “mediators” know it. The consequences of non-compliance were not

specified, but Einaudi said that if the OAS was not satisfied with Haitian

government efforts, “we will be in a different ball game.” The OAS permanent

council will meet on Apr. 2 to discuss Haiti.

According to the right-wing weekly Haïti Observateur, Reich told Aristide in

a private meeting to arrest within one week all security officers, government

officials, parliamentarians, and activists “implicated in drug trafficking,”

a partial list of whom was supposedly delivered by a visiting U.S.

congressman in February. “The ultimatum transmitted by Otto Reich will be

accompanied by coercive conditions,” the paper said. (While Observateur is

renowned for stories based on gossip or purely fabricated, its very close

ties to Washington make this report worth noting.)

(As we go to press, there are reports that Police Chief Jean Nesly Lucien,

who has been accused of drug connections, has been fired and replaced by

Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, a member of Aristideâ??s personal cabinet. Inspector

General Victor Harvel Jean-Baptiste, an anti-drug trafficking crusader, will

be returned to the diplomatic service. Also, numerous warrants have been

issued for the arrest of popular organization leaders like Amiot Métayer in

Gonaïves and mayors, particularly in the North, like Moïse Jean-Charles of


Saying the Haitian government is just short of “illegitimate,” Bush

administration officials are demonizing Aristide and blocking the release of

some $500 million in approved aid and loans to the country, although Res. 822

called for the “normalization of economic cooperation between the Government

of Haiti and the international financial institutions.” (The U.S. contends

that Haiti has yet to “resolve the technical and financial obstacles” for aid

release, as 822 outlines.)

Meanwhile, Washington is funneling millions of dollars to the Democratic

Convergence opposition front and the newly created “Group of 184” so-called

civil society organizations.

Secretly, U.S., Canadian and French diplomats have met to discuss Aristide’s

removal and the establishment of a new foreign military occupation, according

to a Canadian magazine (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 20, No. 51, 3/5/03).

This report forced meddling diplomats into a defensive posture, but most of

the U.S. commercial media forms, consciously or not, the second front in the

campaign to destabilize Haiti.

The Media Front

The U.S. mainstream press by and large acts as the public relations

department of the U.S. State Department and the Haitian opposition.

Journalists and their editors spin, shade, and shape their stories to

reinforce the message that Aristide is the aggressor and the U.S.-coached

opposition the victim, when the opposite is true. An analysis of two recent

mainstream articles illustrates the technique.

On Mar. 20, the Associated Press reported on the visit of the OAS “mission to

help resolve Haiti’s political stalemate.” In fact, there is no “stalemate,”

at least not between forces within Haiti. Aristide is hugely popular while

the opposition is not. Only Washington’s meddling, largely through the OAS,

has caused blockage. The very agency which created and maintains the

“stalemate” is presented as wanting to resolve it.

But the AP argues that “Haiti has been in crisis since flawed 2000

legislative elections swept by Aristide’s Lavalas Family party [FL].” In

fact, almost all election observers and Haiti’s electoral council, the

polling’s final arbiter, found the May 2000 elections exemplary in

participation, order, and lack of violence. Only two weeks later, when an FL

sweep was apparent, did an OAS official come up with a “flaw” (a minor

calculation dispute), which the opposition and Washington have blown up into

what Haiti’s National Popular Party (PPN) calls a “false crisis.”

The AP goes on to blame ensuing violent political clashes on one side –

Aristide’s partisans. So it is not surprising when the report claims that “as

the delegation met with officials, police fired tear gas and used nightsticks

to disperse about 300 anti-government demonstrators near the National

Palace.” In reality, about 200 anti-government protestors insisted, over

police objections, in changing their march itinerary to the National Palace

where hundreds of pro-government protesters were rallying. Predictably, a

melee ensued, which the police broke up. The AP closed their account with a

quote from the opposition’s main leader Gérard Pierre-Charles: “The

government is more repressive than ever.”

In the same vein, on Mar. 17, the Miami Herald ran a story which sought to

cast doubt on the provenance, or even the existence, of Duvalierist guerillas

which have carried out deadly strikes throughout Haiti, but primarily on the

Central Plateau. After perfunctorily citing Police spokesman Jean Dady Siméon

that “they are former soldiers and they are part of the opposition” and “want

to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,” the Herald also turns to

Gérard Pierre-Charles. “We consider this whole thing a fake,” he says.

The story quotes U.S. filmmaker David Murdock, who was held at gunpoint by

the guerillas on Dec. 19. Murdock corroborated police accounts saying the

guerrillas boasted that they were former soldiers and lectured him “on how

they would overthrow Aristide.” But in the next paragraph, the Herald says

the “origin” of the band is “unclear because of difficulties confirming

police versions of events.”

The Herald summarizes the many indisputable killings of the guerillas – “a

judge, a police officer and five civilians” – with the qualifier “according

to Siméon.” It cites Siméon’s account of a police raid in which two guerillas

were killed, weapons and vehicles recovered, and six men arrested, but notes

“he did not supply their names… Journalists have not seen the men allegedly

arrested, the weapons recovered or the bodies of the victims.” The message:

this all may be bunk.

In fact, this insinuation is bunk. The six captured men whom “journalists

have not seen” were presented in a cover photo of the Feb. 12 edition of

Haïti Progrès – over a month before the Herald piece – along with their

names. The police presented them, along with the “unseen” captured weapons,

at a very public Feb. 10 press conference.

The Herald piece closes by giving the last word about a Dec. 17, 2001 assault

on the National Palace (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 40, 12/19/01) to the

OAS, which claimed it was not an “attempted coup d’état” as the government

says, but a piece of theater because “there was police complicity.” All

evidence indicates, however, that it was carried out by the same Duvalierist


Ironically, David Murdock, in a letter to the U.S. Embassy about his

encounter with the guerrillas wrote: “It struck me that the sole press notice

I read regarding reports of ex-military activity in central Haiti – a Miami

Herald article from December 21, 2002 entitled, “Haitian Government Says

Ex-soldiers Mount Insurgency” – was largley devoted to airing the views of

those who doubted that such incidents were occurring.”

The Military Front

In reality, there is clearly a Dominican Republic-based guerilla force of

Duvalierist ex-soldiers playing the same role that the Honduran-based Contra

force of Somozista ex-soldiers did in the low-intensity war against Nicaragua

in the 1980s. Their purpose is to harass, demoralize, and destabilize

Aristide’s government. There now is quite a dossier of evidence which refutes

the Herald’s assertion that “little is known” about their “allegiances.” A

brief recapitulation of the past 20 months, compiled from press accounts (not

just the police) shows the growing strength of this military front.

The guerillas first spectacular operation was on Jul. 28, 2001 when they

attacked the Haitian National Police Academy and three police stations,

simultaneously around the capital and on the Central Plateau, leaving five

police officers dead and 14 injured (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 20

8/1/01). At one attacked police station, the assailants forced prisoners to

shout “Long live the Army,” which was disbanded by Aristide in 1995. The

attackers escaped with weapons back towards the Dominican Republic.

Five months later, on Dec. 17, 2001, some 30 heavily-armed uniformed

commandos seized the National Palace for several hours with the help of

50-millimeter machine guns bolted into pick-up trucks.

“They also rented two helicopters for that operation,” explained radio

journalist Ernest Edouard, known as Konpè Mòlòskòt, who was invited to a

meeting with the assailants in Miami two weeks before the assault. “There

were about 17 of them [at the meeting], including two Americans. They have a

lot of money, a whole lot.”

Mòlòskòt explained that the group includes many former soldiers and has

members infiltrated into the heart of the Presidential security forces.

“Their strategy was well prepared,” he said. “Everything discussed in the

Palace, they were following. That’s how they knew to strike when Aristide was

going to sleep at the Palace. But as he was leaving [a meeting] in Belair,

Aristide changed his mind and made a deviation which they didn’t hear about.

So they didn’t find him, which is why they riddled his portrait with


Two policemen and one assailant, a former Haitian soldier, were killed in the

attack. The gunmen escaped from the Palace grounds due to police

incompetence, cowardice, or complicity. Again, they fled back towards the

Dominican border, shooting up the gate at Aristide’s Tabarre residence and

wounding and killing several people along the way. “One of the helicopters

they rented in Santo Domingo also evacuated some of them,” Mòlòskòt said.

Several months passed before the guerillas struck again. On Apr. 30, 2002,

they attacked the Belladère police station in the Central Plateau, stealing

firearms, setting the town hall on fire, and killing the town’s Lavalas

Coordinator Jean Bronchette, according to Radio Métropole.

Then last August, during routine checks of vehicles, police in

Croix-des-Bouquets arrested two individuals and seized over 20,000 rounds of

ammunition for Galil, M-14, and M-1 rifles. Four military weapons were

confiscated, including an MP-5, a T-65 and two dismantled M-1s. The police

also seized large quantities of explosive devices. One of the men arrested

was identified as a former member of the Haitian Armed Forces (Signal FM

Radio) On Nov. 28, the Lame San Manman [Motherless Army], as the guerrillas

were beginning to be called, shot and killed Christophe Lozama, a judge from

the FL, in Belladère. Two men were arrested and jailed in the nearby

Lascahobas police station.

On Dec. 10, the guerrillas attacked the station freeing four prisoners,

including the two arrested for killing Lozama. They stole 12 rifles and the

sole police vehicle, later burning it. Four civilians, two of them FL

members, were killed in the attack. The San Manmans are also responsible for

killing five members of Lozama’s family in the Belladère area (Signal FM,

Haïti Progrès, and Vision 2000). In the week following the jail break, the

guerillas begin to emerge from the shadows. Several dozen of them,

self-proclaimed former soldiers, set up their headquarters in the village of

Pernal, located between Belladère and Lascahobas. They raised the red and

black flag of the Duvalier dictatorship and invited journalists, saying they

want to reconstitute the former Haitian army.

The leader is Andres Billy, a former Haitian army captian who now runs a

business in Santo Domingo, according to the Dominican daily Hoy. The rebels

have been training on a mountain in the San Cristobal Province of the

Dominican Republic, west of Santo Domingo, Hoy reports, and are said to be

receiving financial aid from Frantz Merceron, who was Jean Claude Duvalierâ??s

powerful finance minister. He moved several months ago from France to Miami.

Mòlòskòt also asserts that either Merceron or Duvalier himself (still in

exile in France) have a hand in funding the San Manmans, and that it is the

same group that carried out the Dec. 17 attack.

“We will overthrow Aristide in a military manner,” the guerillas declared in

a Dec. 19 press conference held for some journalists in Pernal. “We are now

asking all the military men who have gone into hiding and all the competent

citizens in the country to come out, to return and join us so we may fight

the Intervention and Maintenance of Order Company (CIMO) created by Aristide,

to fight the Youth for People’s Power (JPP), to fight the Grassroots Church

Communities (TKL), the Cannibal Army [a popular organization in Gonaïves] set

up by Aristide… We will dismantle Aristide as well as all Lavalas members

who do not want to understand that they are Haitians and that the country

does not belong to them alone. We are going to do it and we want Aristide to

know that we are going to do it.”

During this time, David Murdock, the filmmaker mentioned in the Herald’s Mar.

17 report, was held up by the guerrillas while helping transport a patient to

the clinic of Dr. Paul Farmer in Cange, near Lascahobas. On Dec. 22, special

police units attacked the San Manman camp in Pernal (see Haïti Progrès, Vol.

20, No. 41 12/25/02). The guerrillas have “perpetrated acts of terror with

the purpose of destabilizing the government,” the police said. The police

SWAT team arrested four men and seized several weapons, ammunition, and other

military equipment. They also found documents that they said “give us an idea

of the men’s affiliation,” according to Radio Signal FM. In January 2003,

heavily armed commandos attacked the Plaisance police station in northern

Haiti, Signal FM reported. After surrounding the building and cutting off all

communications, they captured it and tied up the police face down on the

ground. They escaped with all the station’s weapons and ammunition.

February was a busy month for the Duvalierist guerrillas. In early February,

men identifying themselves as members of the San Manman Army seized a

mountain top near the southern town of Petit Goâve for a few days, raising a

U.S. flag on a house on top of the mountain. They also killed two FL members

from Petit Goâve, Myrtil Fleurilus and Samuel Polo, who died from burns after

his house was set on fire (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 20, No. 48 2/12/2003). In

response, the Departmental Police Unit (UDMO) arrested eight people found

with heavy arms in the Fort Liberté locality near Petit-Goave.

Police also suspect that the San Manmans assassinated Presidential security

agent Irandal Pierre-Louis on the airport road in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 6

(see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 20, No. 49 2/19/2003). Around the same time, the

guerrillas took over the police station in Baptiste on the Central Plateau,

chasing the police out, freeing the prisoners, and taking arms and

ammunition, according to Radio Haiti Inter. The San Manmans also shot up the

home of Lascahobas Deputy Villier Barbeau, when he was not home, according to

the Haitian Press Agency.

On Feb. 16, the guerrillas ambushed the vehicle of two policemen near

Belladère, killing SWAT Team agent Patrick Samedi (see Haïti Progrès, Vol.

20, No. 49 2/19/2003). The assailants captured the car and held the body of

the dead officer for several days, trying to lure the police into another


The police counter-attacked in the days just before the Mar. 2-4 Carnaval,

killing two guerrillas and recovering Samediâ??s vehicle as well as one stolen

during a previous police station attack. In one of the trucks police also

found inflammatory flyers aimed, they said, at provoking violence during

Carnaval. The police also recovered Uzi’s, T-65s and a lot of ammunition, as

well as documents and photographs connecting the men with the former Haitian

armed forces. Some guerrillas were identified as men being actively sought by

the Police. The documents also connected them to the killing of Lozama and

his five family members. “We have found other vehicles belonging to private

individuals including a truck belonging to the Comme Il Faut tobacco company

which had been stolen,” police spokesman Siméon said. “We have also found a

number of materials such as an M-14 rifle and one Galil. We found former

military helmets, homemade explosive devices and a flag on which was written:

Force for Citizen’s Protection.â?? Several of [the guerrillas] have been

killed. The rest have run away to the Haitian-Dominican border. On their way,

they burnt several peasants’ houses. They killed animals belonging to several


A police helicopter was used in the several days of operations against the

guerrillas and may have been shot at by the guerrillas.

Sources close to the government say that authorities are now in full control

of the area, where there is a heavy police presence. However, according to

Mòlòskòt, the San Manmans are planning a resurgence over the next month. “My

sources tell me they are planning something very dramatic, very terrible, for

April 22,” he said. April 22 is the anniversary of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc”

Duvalier’s ascension to power after the death of this father François in


In short, these are the parameters – diplomatic, media, and military – of the

offensive to overthrow the Haitian government. Like the “regime change”

campaign against Iraq, it is costing the lives of many Haitians.