HAITI'S NIGHTMARE: THE COCAINE COUP & THE CIA CONNECTION
by Paul DeRienzo
[FROM The Shadow no. 32, April/June 1994, pp. 8, 18.]
* * *
It was a day before the scheduled return of Haiti's exiled president
Jean Bertrand Aristide and it was clear that the October 30, 1993 deadline
for a return to democratic rule in the western hemisphere's poorest nation
could not occur. A Roman Catholic priest, Aristide, who had been elected
neraly three years before with 70 % of the vote in Haiti's first free
election, was speaking to a packed session of the United Nations General
In a dramatic move, Aristide told diplomats that the military government
of Haiti had to yield power in order to end Haiti's role in the drug trade.
A trade financed by Colombia's Cali cartel that had exploded in the months
following the coup. Aristide told the UN that each year Haiti is the transit
point for nearly 50 tons of cocaine worth more than a billion dollars,
providing Haiti's military rulers with $200 million in profits.
Aristide's electrifying accusations opened the floodgate of even more
sinister revelations. Massachusetts senator John Kerry heads a subcommittee
concerned with international terrorism and drug trafficking that turned up
collusion between the CIA and drug traffickers during the late 1980s Iran-
Kerry had developed detailed information on drug trafficking by Haiti's
military rulers that led to the indictment in Miami in 1988 of Lt. Colonel
Jean Paul. The indictment was a major embarrasment to the Haitian military,
especially since Paul defiantly refused to surrender to US authorities.
Only a month before, thousands of US troops invaded Panama and arrested
General Manuel Noriega who, like Col. Paul, was also under indictment in
In November 1989, Col. Paul was found dead after he consumed a traditional
Haitian goodwill gift--a bowl of pumpkin soup. Haitian officials accused
Paul's wife of the murder--apparently because she had been cheated out
her fair share of a cocaine deal by associates of her husband who were
involved in smuggling through Miami.
The US Senate also heard testimony in 1988 that then-Interior Minister
Gen. Williams Regala and his DEA liaison officer protected and supervised
cocaine shipments. The tesimony also charged then-Haitian military
commander Gen. Henry Namphy with accepting bribes from Colmbian traffickers
in return for landing rights in the mid 1980s.
In 1989, yet another military coup brought Lt. Col. Prosper Avril to
power. Under US pressure, Avril, the former finance chief under the 30
year Duvalier family dictatorship, fired 140 officers suspected of drug
trafficking. Avril, who is currently living in Miami, is being sued
by six Haitians, including Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul, who claim
they were abducted and tortured by the Haitian military under Avril's
orders in November 1989. According to a witness before Senator John
Kerry's subcommittee, Avril is in fact a major player in Haiti's role
as a transit point in the cocaine trade.
Four years later, on the eve of Aristide's return as Haiti's elected
president, a summary of a confidential report prepared for Congress
and leaked to the media says that "corruption levels within the (Haitian
military-run) narcotics service are substantial enough to hamper any
significant investigation attempting to dismantle a Colombian organization
in Haiti." The report says that more than 1,000 Colombians live in Haiti
using forged passports of the neighboring Dominican Republic.
[The blind, enfeebled 89 year old dictator of the Dominican Republic was
recently "reelected" there.]
Dominican Republic leader Joaquin Balaguer opposes the UN blockade of Haiti
and maintains close ties with the Haitian military. The road connecting
Port-au-Prince witht the border town of Jimini in the Dominican Republic
is the only well-paved route for oil tanker trucks breaking the embargo,
but the major route for cocaine shipments as well.
Furnando Burgos Martinez, a Colombian national with major business interests
in Haiti has been named in congressional record as a major cocaine trafficker
brazen enough to do business with other Colombian drug dealers on his home
telephoe. One DEA source says both the US embassy and Haitian government
have been pressed unsuccessfully to authorize wiretaps, despite DEA
allegations that Martinez has been involved in every major drug shipment
to aiti since 1987.
The Kerry report claims Martinez is the "bag man" for Colombia's cocaine
cartels and supervises bribes paid to the Haitian military. According to
Miami attorney John Mattes, who is defending a Cuban-American drug trafficker
cooperating with US prosecutors, Martinez was paid $30,000 to bribe Haitian
authorities into relasing two drug pilots jailed in Haiti after the engine
in their plane conked out, forcing them to land in Port-au-Prince.
Martinez claims innocence from his lavish home in Petion-Ville, an ornate
suburb where Haiti's ruling class live overlooking the slums of the capital.
He runs the casino at the plush El Rancho Hotel that, prior to the embargo,
realized nearly $50 million in business each week. A cash flow agequate to
conceal a major money laundering operation.
But the most disturbing allegation has been of the role played by the CIA
in keeping many of the coup leaders on the agency's payroll as part of an
anti-drug intelligence unit set up by the US in Haiti in 1986. Many of
these same military men have had their US assets frozen and are prevented
from entering this country because of their role in overthrowing Aristide
and subsequent human rights violations, including torture and murders of
poltical opponents, raising the question: Was the US involved in a
cocaine coup that overthrew Aristide?
WAR ON DRUGS AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
When thousands of US soldiers stormed into Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega
on December 20, 1989, the Bush administration touted the action as a major
victory in the war on drugs. The cost of that victory was played down in
the rush of propaganda hailing a rare accomplishment. The White House
claimed casualties were low--200 Panamanians killed, along with about 20
US soldiers. Bush declared the price worth the achievement of ending Panama's
role as banker and transit point for cocaine smuggled for the cartels of
But the human cost turned out to be a great deal larger than the official
figures. A lawsuit brought by New York-based Center for Consitutional Rights
(CCR) on behalf of 300 victims of the Panamanian invasion charges that there
were actually more than 2,000 killed, and that the assault left 20,000
homeless with damages exceeding $2 billion. Mass graves were unearthed
after the invasion and hundreds of victims buried in US-made body bags were
discovered. Eyewitnesses testified that they saw US troops throwing the
bodies of civilians into trenches. These revelations moved the OAS
(Organization of American States) to open an investigation into possible
human rights violations by the United States during its invasion of Panama.
This is the first such investigation of a US intervention mounted by an
The gunfire had barely subsided in Panama and General Noriega hardly
settled into his new digs in federal prison when another battle in the
war on drugs seemed won. In Haiti, decades of brutal dictatorship seemed
to be passing with the election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to
lead the Caribbean nation of six million. It was a time when dreams of
a better future by Haiti's impoverished people seemed within reach.
But it wasn't long before the dream was transformed into a nightmare.
Less than a year after the election, on September 30, 1991, Haiti's army
launched a ruthless coup d'etat that forced Aristide into exile. The coup
ushered in yet another period of military repression in Haiti's tortured
history--a history marked by twenty years of US military occupation
begining with the 1915 crushing of a popular revolt by US Marines.
human rights groups report that Haitian killed in the repression following
the coup may exceed 3,000. More than 2,000 others were seriously injured,
including victims of gunshots and torture. The OAS imposed an embargo
that failed to topple the coup leaders but forced negotiations brokered
by the UN at Governor's Island in New York last July. There, coup leader
General Raoul Cedras agreed to allow Aristide to return in exchange for
an end to the embargo.
Yet, as the date for Aristide's return grew near, the military began a
campaign of terror against their opponents. The killings peaked in the
days before the scheduled return of Aristide with the brazen murder of
Antoine Izmery, a businessman and key Aristide backer who was abducted
from a cathedral and gunned down on a busy city street. Later, Guy
Malary, Aristide's justice minister, was also killed and his body left
by a roadside.
President Clinton publicly expressed his support for Aristide's return
to Haiti and sent the transport USS Harlan County with hundreds of troops
to insure the transition to democracy. But at the port where the ship
was to dock, pro-military government thugs staged a demonstration prompting
the ship to turn back. This was shortly after the images of dead US soldiers
dragged through the streets in Somalia had shocked the American public and
provided an excuse for the Clinton administration to back off from what
promised to be another open-ended intervention.
THE BOYS FROM THE COMPANY
Meanwhile, the CIA was openly running a full-scale disinformation campaign
against Aristide. Ultra-conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms,
a leading opponent of Aristide, brought CIA analyst Brian Latell to Capital
Hill in October to brief selected senators and representatives on allegation
that Aristide had been treated for mental illness. The time during the
CIA report alleges Aristide was treated at a Canadian hospital falls within
the same period that Aristide was studying and teaching in Israel. Latell
also said he "saw no evidence of oppressive rule" in Haiti.
While Helms was a long time backer of the brutal dictatorship of Jean Claude
Duvalier, the Democrats have their own ties to the human rights violators
and drug dealers who rule Haiti.
Former Democratic party head and current secretary of commerce Ron Brown
headed a law firm that represented the Duvalier family for decades. Part
of that representation was a public relaitons campaign that stressed
Duvalier's opposition to communism in the cold war. United States support
for Duvalier was worth more than $400 million in aid to the country before
the man who called himself Haiti's "President-for-Life" was forced from
the country in February, 1986.
Even Duvalier's exit from Haiti is shrouded in covert intrigue and remains
an unexplored facet of the career of Lt. Col. Oliver North. Shortly after
Duvalier's ouster, North was quoted as saying he had brought an end to
"Haiti's nightmare." A cryptic statement that was never publicly pursued
during the Iran-Contra hearings.
THE CIA AND THE COCAINE CONNECTION
As Jesse Helms was using the CIA to slag Aristide in the media, an
intelligence service in Haiti set up by the agency to battle the cocaine
trade had evolved into a gang of political terrorists and drug traffickers.
Three former chiefs of the Haitian National Intelligence Service (SIN)
are now on the list of 41 Haitian officials whose assets in the United
States were frozen for supporting the military coup.
The CIA poured millions into the SIN as "a covert counter-narcotics
intelligence unit which often works in unison with the CIA." Although most
of the CIA's activities in Haiti remain secret, US officials accuse some SIN
members of becoming "enmeshed" in the drug trade. A US embassy official in
Haiti told the New York Times that the SIN "was a military organization
that distributed drugs in Haiti."
Aristide's exiled interior minister Patrick Elie says the relationship
between the CIA and SIN involves more than drugs. Elie told investigative
reporter Dennis Bernstein that "the SIN was created by the CIA." Created,
Elie said, to "infiltrate the drug network." But, Elie adds, the SIN,
which is staffed entirely by the Haitian military, spends most of its
resources in "political repression and spying on Haitians."
After the 1991 coup, Elie maintains that the drug trade made a "quantum
leap," taking control of the national Port Authority through the offices
of Port-au-Prince police chief Lt. Col. Michel Francois. It was Francois'
thugs, called Attaches, who are primarily responsible for the waves of
political killings since the coup.
United States government sources say the SIN never provided much narcotics
intelligence and its commanding officers were responsiblefor the torture
and murder of Aristide supporters and involved in death threats that forced
the local DEA chief to flee the country. Connecticut Senator Christopher
Dodd, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and has received extensive
CIA briefings, said the drug intelligence the US was getting came "from the
very sam people who in front of the world are brutally murdering people."
LEGACY OF CORRUPTION
In the early 1980s, when Haiti was still under Duvalier's rule, the drug trade
in Haiti was the province of individually corrupt military men associate with
Duvalier's powerful father-in-law. By 1985, the cocaine cartels began to seek
transit points for the booming cocaine industry. A natural candidate was
Haiti, lying just south of the Bahamas--another favorite transit point.
Haiti is particularly attractive to the drug smugglers because the most
direct route from the Colombian coast to Florida lies through the Windward
passage between northern Haiti and eastern Cuba. [Approximately 60 miles.]
Port-au-Prince is approximately 500 nautical miles north of Colombia and 700
miles southeast of Miami. Thomas Cash, a former agent in charge of the Miami
DEA, told Senator Kerry's committee that Haiti's attraction to smugglers
is aided by dozens of small airstrips, the lack of patrols over Haitian
airspace and the total lack of any radar monitoring approaches to the country.
Combined with the legendary corruption of public officials, these conditions
make Haiti a "very fertile ground" for drug traffickers.
In fact, infamous drug trafficker George Morales told Kerry that during
the mid 1980s, "I used the isle of Haiti mainly as a parking lot, as a
place that I would place my aircraft so they could be repaired." When
asked if he shipped drugs through Haiti, Morales replied, "Yes, I did,"
adding, "it is something which is done fairly commonly."
Since then, the role of Haiti in the drug trade has grown and the profits
to the Haitian officals involved have skyrocketed. This may explain the
difficulty Aristide experienced during his short rule in trying to interdict
drug shipments. A confidential DEA report provided to Michigan Representative
John Conyers told of the case of Tony Greco, a former DEA agent in Haiti
who fled for his life in September 1992, following the arrest of a Haitian
military officer charged with drug running.
Patrick Elie says e got no assistance from the Haitian military in attempts
to stop drug shipments. And when Greco received information in May 1991 that
400 kilos of cocaine were arriving in Haiti, the DEA man watched helplessly
as the drugs were delivered to waiting boats. Greco told Elie that the
military was "coonspicuously absent" at a moment when they knew the drugs
were coming in.
Greco said he finally gave up and fled the country after he received a
telephone death threatagainst his family from a man who identified himself
as "the boss of the arrested officer." Greco says only army commander
Raoul Cedras and Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois, leaders of
the 1991 coup, had his private number.
Despite Tony Greco's experiences, the DEA defends their continued presence
in Haiti. There are currently [prior to the landing of US troops in late
September] two DEA agents still stationed in te country. The DEA has
continued its contacts with the military following Aristide's ouster,
despite the DEA's admission that over 26,400 pounds of cocaine entered
the United States in 1993, transshipped through Haiti with the cooperation
of the military.
The DEA remains defensive of its contacts with the Haitian military.
Agency spokesperson Willian Ruzzamenti says, "Quite frankly and honestly,
we have gotten reliable and good support in the things we're trying to do
there." He acknowledged that the DEA has received reports of Haitian
army officers involvement in the drug trade but said that the reports
"have not been verified."
The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released in April by
the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics Matters
says the "current level of detected air and maritime drug-related activity
in Haiti is low."
THE SHADOWY WORLD OF COL. FRANCOIS
Most Haitians believe the Port-au-Prince police chief, Col. Michel Francois
and his elder borther Evans currently run the drug trade. Col. Francois
has gained that control and become one of Haiti's most powerful men by
recruiting hundreds of police auxilliaries or "attaches" to control and
eliminate his rivals. Francois commands his own independent intelligence
service that spies on opponents and allies alike while running a protection
racket for local drug traffickers.
Francois and his men have a history of involvement in the torture of
opponents and death squad style murders of Aristide supporters. In one
recent incident, attaches mobbed Port-au-Prince City Hall to prevent the
capital's mayor, Evans Paul, an Aristide supporter, from entering his
One person was killed and 11 wounded during the September 8th incident
when the mob opened fire on Aristide supporters. Witnesses say the
attack began when attaches dragged two of Paul's aides from a car, viciously
beating Aristide Information Officer Herve Denis. Francois is also considered
responsible for the murder of Justice Minister Guy Malary.
Journalist Dennis Bernstein writes that Francois was trained at the US Army's
School of the Americas (SOA) known in Latin America as La Escuela de Golpes,
the school of coups. Originally based in Panama, the SOA was moved to Fort
Benning, Georgia in 1984. In its 40 year history, the SOA has trained 55,000
military personnel from Latin America including the late Salvadoran death
squad leader Roverto d'Aubuisson.
On April 21st, 1994, a convicted Colombian drug trafficker, Gabriel Taboada,
who is in the fifth year of a 12-year sentence in a Miami federal prison,
fingered Francois at a Senate Foreign Relations subcommitte hearing chaired
by Senator John Kerry. Taboada testified that Lt. Col. Francois collaborated
in shiping tons of cocaine to the United States during the 1980s.
Taboada said he met Francois while he was in the Medellin, Colombia office
of drug king Pablo Escobar in 1984. During a thirty minute conversation,
Taboada told Francois he was a car importer. Francois, he said, asked "why
wasn't I in the drug business sincesince the drug business made good money?"
Speaking through an interpreter, Taboada said: "I asked him what his
business was and he said that at the time he was in Medellin arranging a
cocaine deal." Taboada said he later learned that Francois was chief of
police in Haiti.
Taboada told the subcommittee that the cartel "took planes out of Colombia
and landed in Haiti, protected by the Haitian military. Michel Francois
protected the drugs in Haiti and the allowed the drugs to continue to the
United States." Taboada also told the subcommittee that Haitian military
figures often met Medellin cartel members in Colombia, including strongman
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