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Originally: U.S.: Officials allow use of country as stopover from Colombia

By Andrea Mitchell


U.S.: Officials allow use of country as stopover from Colombia


NBC News


Updated: 7:55 p.m. ET Feb. 23, 2004


In Miami last week, U.S. customs agents
arrested the crew of a freighter from Haiti after finding more than 500
pounds of cocaine on board with an estimated wholesale value of $4.4 million.


 


In fact, U.S. officials fear that Haiti is already becoming a “narco” state
– a country without a functioning government ruled by drug traffickers.


 


“You begin to lose the rule of law, you begin to lose the very premise of a
democracy,” said Robert Charles, assistant secretary of state for
international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, U.S. investigators say 8 percent of the drugs in the United States come
through Haiti, a convenient stopover from Colombia into the United States


 


“You have the perfect setup: no police, no arrests, no fear of interdiction.
If you get right down to it, there’s not a better place in all the
Caribbean,” said Thomas Cash, formerly of the Drug Enforcement Administration.


 


Despite all the drug activity, the United States will report next week that
Haiti has not arrested or prosecuted a single major trafficker in the past
year.  How is that possible?  U.S. officials say it’s because of widespread
corruption in President Jean-Claude Aristide’s government.


 


The State Department report cites repeated accusations that “…members of
the government and Haiti National Police, most notably the Presidential Security
Unit and Palace Guard, were actively involved in drug trafficking.”


 


Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey was President Bill Clinton’s drug czar.
“It’s hard to imagine that Aristide himself isn’t taking part in this
enormously lucrative form of criminal activity,” McCaffrey said.


 


A lawyer representing Aristide’s government angrily refused to discuss the
State Department accusations. In the past, the same lawyer said, the United
States engaged in a political war against Aristide.