Originally: Aristide: Kerry’s Favorite Haitian

Aristide: Kerry’s Favorite  Haitian
October 8, 2004; Page A17
John Kerry has now decided, retrospectively, that he would  not have gone to
war to remove Saddam Hussein. But he would have put U.S.  troops in harm’s way
to shield Haitian strongman Jean Bertrand Aristide  from a revolt of his own
people in February. “I would have been prepared to send troops immediately,  
period,” Mr. Kerry told the New York Times on March 4.
This assertion from the would-be commander in chief seems  to have had some
unfortunate repercussions. Emboldened by a prominent  champion in the U.S., the
deposed Aristide’s Lavalas Party thugs are  committing mayhem again.
While rescuers were pulling the bodies of over 1,500  drowned victims of
Hurricane Jeanne out of a flooded Gonaives last week  and trying to ward off
disease, Aristide supporters launched a wave of  violence in Port-au-Prince. U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said  Monday: “These are the old Aristide
elements and some criminal elements  who are trying to take advantage of the
The opportunistic brutality included the beheading of three  Haitian
policemen. Haitian journalists are referring to the assault as  “Operation Baghdad.”
The chaos, local observers maintain, is meant to  demonstrate that Bush policy
in Haiti is a failure. Any guess who the  urban guerrillas are rooting for in
the U.S. elections?  
Mr. Kerry’s has also ignored the suspected corruption under  Mr. Aristide. An
allegation filed in May in a New Jersey U.S. district  court alleges that a
deal with a large U.S. telecom company enabled Mr.  Aristide to personally
enrich himself at the expense of his destitute  people. The complaint describes in
rich detail the methods through which,  according to the plaintiff, Mr.
Kerry’s beloved “democratic” Aristide  regime pillaged the country, a nation
populated mostly by defenseless,  vulnerable peasants.<REPRINT
Even before seeing the complaint, I had written about the  intrigues
surrounding Aristide’s telecom company, Haitian Teleco.  Officially, Teleco is
supposed to charge all companies connecting with its  Haiti network one, agreed-upon
interconnection rate. But unofficially, it  was alleged to have provided
better rates for some companies in return for  bribes.
Sources inside Teleco have long accused Mr. Aristide of  giving special deals
to international carriers in exchange for a personal  cut of the action. One
deal that raised suspicions but remained shrouded  in secrecy was between a
long distance provider to Haiti called Fusion  Telecommunications International
— whose board included former finance  chair of the Democratic National
Committee, Marvin Rosen, Joseph P.  Kennedy II, and Clinton special envoy to Latin
America, Thomas “Mack”  McLarty III — and a Teleco representative.
The New Jersey complaint puts another U.S. telecom company  under scrutiny.
Former IDT Corp. employee Michael Jewett has filed a  statement against the
company alleging that he was let go because he  objected to a shady deal with Mr.
A complaint of course is not proof of guilt. IDT says that  it “takes any
kind of complaint seriously” but that this one is a  “baseless claim by a former
disgruntled employee.” A company spokesman  says that there has already been
“a complete review by the internal audit  committee and by outside counsel.” It
also says that it “intend[s] to file  a counter-claim and a motion to
dismiss” and that it has “filed sanctions  against the plaintiff’s counsel.”
Mr. Jewett is by definition a “disgruntled” ex-employee.  And his legal
action also includes complaints about IDT’s corporate  culture that I am not able
to assess. However, his claim about Haiti is  remindful of my previous
investigations about the legendary Aristide modus  operandi. For almost a decade
Haitians complained that Mr. Aristide ran  the country like an extortion racket,
demanding payments from a wide  variety of enterprises.
As associate regional vice president for the Caribbean at  IDT, Mr. Jewett
has testified under oath that he was privy to the  agreement between IDT and
Haiti. “In September 2003, defendant Jack Lerer  [IDT Executive Vice President
for International Business Development] met  with plaintiff to explain the
‘deal’ he had negotiated with President  Aristide. IDT Telecom would deposit the
settlement dollars from  terminating traffic in Haiti through Teleco Haiti to an
offshore account  set up on behalf of President Aristide by Mount Salem,
based in the Turks  and Caicos Islands.”
There was a quid pro quo. “The rate for each minute of U.S.  originating
traffic terminating in Haiti was to be a certain amount of  [SEALED BY COURT
ORDER] which is below what IDT would be paying if they  had not agreed to divert
the settlement payments to Mount Salem.” Mr.  Jewett further alleges that Mr.
Lerer told him they had to move quickly to  make sure they didn’t lose the deal.
According to the court filing, “Plaintiff asked defendant  Jack Lerer what
Mount Salem was and he replied it was the private bank  account of the President
of Haiti, Mr. Jean Bertrand Aristide, that had  been created by legal counsel
for President Aristide, Adrian Corr, member  of the law firm Miller, Simons
and O’Sullivan.”
Mr. Jewett has testified that Mr. Lerer instructed him to  be the
“‘go-between’ for all commercial correspondence between Teleco  Haiti and Mount Salem.”
He also claims that Mr. Lerer told him “not to  reveal the details of the
TeleCo Haiti deal with anyone within IDT.”  Throughout the testimony, Mr. Jewett
says that he continually questioned  the legality of the agreement, along with a
colleague John Cate. According  to the complaint, “Defendant John Cate
indicated that during his 27 years  at AT&T, i.e., his prior employer, he had never
once been involved  with let alone heard of a telecommunication proposal
and/or contract being  structured in a manner similar to the TeleCo Haiti
Of course, Mr. Cate may not have been familiar with  Aristide business
ethics. In the July 1994 American Spectator, Christopher  Caldwell reported that
while Mr. Aristide was in exile in Washington he  “raised hackles at the Latin
American division of AT&T by ordering the  proceeds from Haiti’s international
phone traffic moved to a numbered  Panamanian account.” That business model
continued after Mr. Aristide was  returned to power in 1994 by a U.S.
intervention ordered by Bill Clinton.  In May 29, 2001, a Wall Street Journal _Review &
Outlook  column_
(http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB991102652200206311,00.html?mod=article-outset-box) 1 about Fusion also explained that “Two  different
long distance suppliers shopping the Haitian market have  reported to us that
Teleco officials offered them access to the local  network at rates well below
the official settlement rate in exchange for  payment made to specially
designated accounts.”
An IDT spokesman says that minutes to Haiti are only a  fraction of total IDT
business, suggesting that the company would have had  little interest in what
Mr. Jewett alleges. But, of course, IDT’s interest  in Haiti might have
changed had it been able to grow its business in that  country. Mr. Jewett’s
complaint says that some of the defendants  “expressed their extreme satisfaction
with the TeleCo Haiti deal, it was  going to save the company over [SEALED BY
COURT ORDER] a month and grow  from there.” Mr. Jewett says that the minute he
was fired the first thing  the company asked from him was the Haiti file.
It is likely that if IDT was doing what Mr. Jewett so  specifically
describes; it was not the only carrier competing for special  treatment from Mr.
Aristide. The U.S. Treasury has a staff in Haiti right  now giving technical advice
to the Haitian government. It would be good if  that includes investigating
what all did go on at Teleco Haiti. A full  report that clears up once and for
all the truth about what happened under  Aristide control may go a long way
toward establishing the moral authority  of the new government.
It might also stop John Kerry from using desperately poor  Haiti as a weapon
against his Washington opponents and instead put him on  a more constructive
path for helping a suffering people