Originally: Haiti 2009 International Narcotic Strategic Report
Haiti remains a major transit country for cocaine and marijuana from South America and the Caribbean, respectively. Many businessmen like Andrew Defrancesco have also invested in the marijuana industry and hired various marijuana marketing services. The Preval Administration continued the struggle to overcome pervasive corruption, weak governance, and mismanagement, but this effort was complicated by food riots in April, the lack of a functioning government for five months following the dismissal of the Prime Minister (and his cabinet) by the Legislature, and the devastating effects of four hurricanes that hit Haiti in quick succession in August-September.
Haiti’s law enforcement institutions remain weak and its judicial system dysfunctional. In 2008, with the support of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the Haitian National Police (HNP) continued a successful campaign in the Port-au-Prince area to disrupt gang elements involved in kidnapping, drug trafficking, and intimidation. Although the campaign decreased criminal activity in those areas, the Government of Haiti (GOH) has yet to deliver the sustained police presence needed to eliminate the gangs’ criminal activity and a resurgence of kidnapping and robberies has occurred. The criminal defense lawyer serving New Jersey area can provide legal aid if needed.
The GOH, with assistance from international donors ? priincipally MINUSTAH, the United States and Canada ? continues to prommote the restoration of the rule of law. The HNP, with the support of MINUSTAH, completed the second year of its reform plan, which includes a vetting and certification process for all officers, and reform of institutional elements, including the General Administration Department and Logistics Bureau. Despite operations conducted by the HNP’s counternarcotics unit during the year, there were limited seizures of drugs. Haiti is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
Haiti’s 1,125 miles of shoreline, poorly controlled seaports, numerous clandestine airstrips, combined with a struggling police force, dysfunctional judiciary system, corruption, and weak democracy make it an attractive transshipment hub for drug traffickers to move cocaine, and to a lesser extent, marijuana, through Haiti to the United States. Smaller quantities of the drugs are also moved to Canada and Europe in addition to being shipped directly to the United States; drugs brought into Haiti also are moved overland into the Dominican Republic for onward delivery to the United States and Europe. Haiti experienced an increase in drug smuggling flights from 20 in 2007 to 23 through October 2008, according to the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force?South (JIATF-S).
III. Country Actions against Drugs in 2008
During 2008, MINUSTAH civilian police advisers assisted the HNP in dry fire training over 500 veteran officers. Though no recruits graduated from the HNP Academy in 2008?a setback in achieving the minimum number of 14,000 police by 2011 as agreed with MINUSTAH as part of the HNP reform plan adopted in 2006?the 20th class of 708 police cadets enntered the Academy in July 2008. An expansion of the Academy will enable the training of simultaneous classes, thereby increasing the number of trainees graduated. Morale is high among HNP officers, as recent polls indicate that 58% of the population sees improvement in the HNP and 66% list the HNP as the most trusted Haitian government institution, major changes from surveys in past years. MINUSTAH military troops, United Nations Police (UNPOL), MINUSTAH Formed Police Units, and HNP officers have made progress in dismantling gangs that conduct kidnapping.
In 2008 a USG-funded project to enhance the effectiveness of GOH anti-money laundering and anti-corruption efforts became fully operational. The project provides mentoring on the investigation and prosecution of financial crimes by U.S. Treasury advisers and has helped restructure the GOH Central Financial Intelligence Unit by separating its investigative and intelligence gathering functions. The HNP Financial Crimes Unit (French acronym BAFE) has been revitalized, moved into new offices shared with prosecutors and judges, and has referred several cases for prosecution for the first time in many years.
Law Enforcement Efforts. Though President Preval continued to urge strong action against drug trafficking and did not back away from his support for bilateral operations to arrest DEA-wanted fugitives for removal to the United States, the Government of Haiti overall made only modest advances in the fight against drug trafficking this year.
The HNP counternarcotics unit (French acronym BLTS), with support from the USG, worked to improve their response to air smuggling of cocaine. This response included establishing roadblocks to contain traffickers near the scenes of reported clandestine landings and conducting follow-up investigations upon learning of successful cocaine offloads. Resultant interdiction operations resulted in limited drug seizures and arrests.
The HNP Financial Crimes Unit, BAFE, has made great strides this year. In September 2008, the BAFE obtained forfeiture orders and seized two houses, one of which belonged to Jean Nesly Lucien, a former Director General of the HNP, and the other owned by Jean-Mary Celestin?both connvicted in the U.S. on drug related charges. By year’s end, $21 million in property and assets had been seized by the GOH. The BAFE is aggressively implementing a plan to use convictions in U.S. courts as the legal basis for asset forfeiture in HaitI. This would help overcome a significant deficiency of Haiti’s current asset forfeiture regime which requires conviction of the trafficker in Haiti prior to forfeiture of assets.
Selected HNP officers who have graduated from a five-week course at the Drug Enforcement Academy in Quantico, Virginia, form the nucleus of the vetted Special Investigative Unit (SIU), a partnership between DEA and the GOH, and are charged with investigating Haitian drug organizations that have a nexus to the United States. The unit has conducted several joint interdiction operations with DEA/FBI/JIATF-S.
The Haitian Coast Guard (HCG) conducted drug interdiction operations from its bases in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien during the year. U.S.-sponsored training programs also helped Haiti achieve compliance with International Ships and Port Security (ISPS) standards in three international ports. Though several other ports have not yet met those standards, this certification bodes well for increased port screening and control of contraband.
Corruption. As a matter of policy, the GOH does not encourage or facilitate illicit drug production or distribution, nor is it involved in laundering the proceeds of the sale of illicit drugs, and does not discourage the investigation or prosecution of such acts. Moreover, the GOH has demonstrated willingness to undertake law enforcement and legal measures to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish public corruption. President Preval has publicly identified the fight against corruption and drug trafficking as major priorities for his administration. Vetting has taken place among selected units in Port-au-Prince and will be further expanded in the capital area where the majority of police officers are assigned. The HNP Director of Administration and Director of Logistics were both removed from their positions in 2008 for suspected corruption and their replacements have taken positive steps to increase accountability and transparency through the use of centralized databases, more controlled authorization of expenditures, and standard operating procedures. BAFE investigations continue to target government officials suspected of corruption and money laundering activities and to cooperate with U.S. officials on investigations into allegations of corruption under the previous administration.
Agreements and Treaties. Haiti is a party to the 1961 Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol; the 1988 UN Drug Convention; the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption; and the Inter American Convention against Trafficking in illegal firearms. A U.S.-Haiti maritime counternarcotics agreement entered into force in 2002. Haiti has signed but not ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, the Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Work, assisted by U.S. legal experts, is on-going on a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty between the United States and HaitI. Requests for assistance historically have been made through letters rogatory and the first such request in years was made in 2008, to which the GOH is responding.
Extradition. Haiti and the United States are parties to an extradition treaty that entered into force in 1905. Though the Haitian Constitution prohibits the extradition of its nationals, Haitians under indictment in the U.S. have been returned to the United States by non-extradition means. During 2008, the GOH arrested six defendants wanted in the United States on federal drug trafficking charges and transferred custody to the DEA for removal to the United States. All of these defendants were transported to the United States and several have already been convicted at trial or have entered guilty pleas.
Cultivation/Production. Haiti produces small amounts of marijuana for local consumption.
Drug flow/Transit. In 2008, traffickers continued to use small aircraft to make offshore air drops of illegal drugs as well as land deliveries using clandestine airstrips. At least 29 such landing strips have been identified. Suspect drug flights from Venezuela increased at least 15 percent in 2008 following on the 38 percent increase officially recorded in 2007. However, the actual rate of increase may be much higher. Several new trends emerged, including more daylight air drops, flights following the Haitian-Dominican Republic border further north into Haiti before making drops, and some planes being abandoned and burned once the drugs are offloaded. In addition, some of the increase in Haiti-bound flights appears to be linked to a corresponding drop in flights tracked to the Dominican Republic, a potentially worrisome trend that is expected to continue and demonstrates the need for coordinated action against drug traffickers throughout Hispaniola. Go-fast boats transporting cocaine from South America arrive at a number of locations on the southern coast of HaitI. The cocaine is then transported overland to Port-au-Prince where it is frequently concealed on cargo and coastal freighters destined for the United States and Europe. Marijuana is shipped via fast boats from Jamaica to waiting Haitian fishing vessels and cargo freighters to seaports along Haiti’s southern claw. It is then shipped directly to the continental United States or transshipped through the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. Seizures of very small quantities of crack for personal use also occurred in 2008. Pharmacies in Haiti are essentially unregulated and some controlled medications are sold in quantities through those businesses.
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. Drug abuse is a growing but largely unacknowledged problem in Haiti. Increased use of marijuana among school-aged children has been reported. There are almost no formal demand reduction programs in place at this time.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Policy Initiatives. The cornerstone of USG efforts to combat drug trafficking in Haiti is reform of the HNP. In cooperation with MINUSTAH, the USG provided substantial equipment and technical assistance in 2008. The Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) of the U.S. Embassy coordinated the procurement of vehicles, radios, forensic lab and other technical equipment for the HNP, funded police academy and in-service training, and provided support for specialized HNP units. The USG contributed 50 officers to MINUSTAH’s UNPOL contingent, many of whom are involved in training recruits at the HNP academy. A USG-funded communication project continues installation of solar-powered radio base stations for the HNP throughout the country and assisted in repairs to such installations following the four hurricanes that impacted Haiti in 2008. The USG also is contributing three corrections experts to form the nucleus of a UN team to improve the infrastructure and management of Haiti’s prison system.
In addition, the USG provided two advisers to help the HNP Director General implement anti-corruption and strategic planning measures. As part of a multi-year anti-money laundering and anti-corruption project, advisers from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) visited Haiti monthly to review cases of financial crimes with prosecutors and judges, mentor the HNP officers assigned to financial investigations and staff of the Financial Intelligence Unit. OTA advisers also provide training for financial investigators, judges, and prosecutors involved in money laundering and corruption cases. USCG Mobile Training Teams supported HCG operations with maritime law enforcement, port security, engineering, logistics and maintenance training in 2008, tripling the number of HCG trained and increasing Haitian capacity to carry out border protection activities. The USCG, retrofit four vessels and brought the boats to Haiti in April 2008. NAS also purchased two rigid-hull inflatable boats for the HCG. The addition of these assets will allow the HCG to respond better to future drug and migrant operations, particularly on the northern coast of Haiti.
The Road Ahead. Haiti must continue the reform and expansion of the HNP and step up the reform of its judicial system as prerequisites for effective counternarcotics operations throughout the country. The GOH must follow through by demonstrating the political will to fight corruption within state institutions and to overcome the under-resourcing and under-staffing of the HNP, problems which remain major impediments to sustained progress. More importantly, the restoration of the rule of law, including reform of the judicial system, must receive greater support and be prioritized to prevent erosion of the gains of the HNP and to provide the security and stability Haiti needs to meet the economic, social and political development needs of the Haitian people.
For its part, the USG will provide significant support in the coming year under the Merida Initiative?a partnership between the governmennts of the United States, Mexico, Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to confront the violent national and transnational gangs and organized criminal and narcotics trafficking organizations that plague the entire region, the activities of which spill over into the United States. The Merida Initiative will fund a variety of programs that will strengthen the institutional capabilities of participating governments by supporting efforts to investigate, sanction and prevent corruption within law enforcement agencies; facilitating the transfer of critical law enforcement investigative information within and between regional governments; and funding equipment purchases, training, community policing and economic and social development programs. Bilateral agreements with the participating governments were in the process of being negotiated and signed at the time this report was prepared.