10. Haiti: Drugs, Thugs, The CIA And the Deterrence Of Democracy

Sources: THE NEW YORK TIMES, Date: 11/1/93, Title: "Key Haiti Leaders Said To Have Been In The C.I.A.'s Pay," Author: Tim Weiner; PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE, Dates: 10/20/93; 11/2/93, Titles: "What's Behind Washington's Silence on Haiti Drug Connection?;" "A Haitian Call to Arms," Author: Dennis Bernstein; SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN, Date: 11/3/93, Title: "The CIA's Haitian Connection," Authors: Dennis Bernstein and Howard Levine; LOS ANGELES TIMES, Date: 10/31/93, Title: "CIA's Aid Plan Would Have Undercut Aristide in `87-88," Author: Jim Mann

SYNOPSIS: After the October 30, 1993 deadline to restore duly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide passed unrealized, observers reported an increasing sense of fear and despair. More than 4,000 civilians have been killed since the 1991 bloody military coup which ousted Aristide. Few Americans are aware of our secret involvement in Haitian politics, nor the impact those policies have had on the U.S.

Some of the high military officials involved in the coup have been on the CIA's payroll from "the mid-1980s at least until the 1991 coup...." According to one government official, "Several of the principal players of the current situation were compensated by the U.S. government."

Further, the CIA "tried to intervene in Haiti's election with a covert-action program that would have undercut the political strength" of Aristide. The aborted attempt to influence the 1988 election was authorized by then President Ronald Reagan and the National Security Council. The program was blocked by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a rare move.

Next, a confidential Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) report revealed that Haiti is "a major transshipment point for cocaine traffickers" who are funneling drugs from Colombia and the Dominican Republic into the United States. The DEA report also revealed that the drug trafficking, which is bringing one to four tons of cocaine per month into the U.S., worth $300-$500 million annually, is taking place with "the knowledge and active involvement of high military officials and business elites,"

According to Patrick Elie, who was Aristide's anti-drug czar, Haitian police chief Lt. Col. Michel Francois is at the center of the drug trade. Francois' "attaches" reportedly have been responsible for a large number of murders and violence since the coup.

The revelations offer a disturbing look into CIA and State Department policy toward Haiti. Elie stated that he was constantly rebuffed by the CIA when he tried to alert it to the military's drug trafficking: "All we were met with was stonewalling, and in fact we were told there was going to be no more cooperation between the U.S. and Haiti, but at the same time... the CIA continued to cooperate with the Haitian military." Elie reported how the CIA-created Haitian National Intelligence Service (NIS) -- supposedly created to combat drugs -- was actually involved with narcotics-trafficking, and "functioned as a political intimidation and assassination squad."

The Clinton administration's silence on the Haitian drug flow has led some congressional critics, such as John Conyers (D-MI), to suggest that this silence reflects de facto support for the drug-trafficking Haitian military and a reluctance to substantively support the democratically-elected Aristide.

SSU Censored Researcher: Sunil Sharma

COMMENTS: Investigative author Dennis Bernstein charges that the U.S. government's ongoing relationship with drug-trafficking dictators and their associated henchmen is perhaps one of the most important and under-reported stories of our time.

"President Clinton's continuing silence on the Haitian military's involvement in a one-billion-dollar a year illegal cocaine operation and the mainstream media's acceptance of this silence -- is causing untold suffering in Haiti and the U.S.," Bernstein said. "In fact," he continued, "it is this silence about the drugs that allows the military to continue to skirt the embargo with massive amounts of drug-money, to torture and assassinate thousands of Haitians, and to wreak havoc in this country by continuing to import tons of cocaine onto U.S. soil. The U.S. created, funded, and trained Haiti's drug-dealing death-squad -- the National Intelligence Service -- which apparently was conceived to destabilize President Aristide.

"Democracy doesn't exist without a free and unfettered press that isn't afraid to ask the difficult questions and then to publish the answers to those questions without checking informally with the state department and the CIA. The press's continuing failure to report adequately on illegal intelligence operations and CIA-sponsored drug-running and assassination coup teams may ultimately lead to the death of democracy, not only in Haiti but in the U.S.

"The only people to gain from the press's limited reporting of the Haiti drug story and related U.S. complicit silence are drug-traffickers and their supporting death-squads and dictators, as well as collaborating smugglers and related criminals involved in a billion dollar drug operation."

Bernstein concludes that "The soaring number of crack addicts in the U.S. and Haiti -- and their families -- and the victims of addict robberies and murders will definitely not benefit from the silence ... and lack of good reporting."

PBS's "Frontline," one of the nation's most acclaimed investigative television programs, produced a well-documented, hour-long special, on November 9, titled "Showdown in Haiti," which examined President Clinton's foreign-policy initiative in Haiti. Ironically, the otherwise hard-hitting documentary didn't mention drugs or the CIA.

 

ORIGINAL ARTICLES:

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While the media tend to focus on the Haitian boat people, little attention is given to the CIA's involvement with the overthrow of Haiti's first freely elected president and the smuggling of cocaine from Colombia and the Dominican Republic into the U.S.

"WHAT'S BEHIND WASHINGTON'S SILENCE ON HAITI DRUG CONNECTION?"

by Dennis Bernstein; Pacific News Service, 10/20/93

At stake in the U.S. confrontation with the Haitian military regime is a cocaine smuggling operation that earns millions of dollars for Haitian military officials while dumping tons of the deadly white powder on American streets. Yet while the country debates the merits of armed intervention in Haiti, the Clinton administration has remained mum on the Haitian "drug connection."

A confidential report by the Drug Enforcement Agency obtained by Pacific News Service describes Haiti as "a major transshipment point for cocaine traffickers" funnelling drugs from Colombia and the Dominican Republic into the U.S.-with the knowledge and active involvement of high military officials and business elites.

The corruption of the Haitian military "is substantial enough to hamper any significant drug investigation attempting to dismantle" illicit drug operations inside Haiti, the report states. Echoing the report's findings, exiled Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide recently blamed the military's role in the drug trade for his ouster.

Despite extensive DEA intelligence documenting Haiti's drug role, neither the Clinton administration, nor the Bush administration before it, have ever raised that role publicly. Now critics of U.S. policy on Haiti, including one Congressman, are questioning that silence, suggesting it reflects de facto U.S. support for the Haitian military and a reluctance to offer unqualified support for Aristide.

"I've been amazed that our government has never talked about the drug trafficking...even though it is obviously one of the major reasons why these people drove their president out of the country and why they are determined not to let him back in. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal profits that are having disastrous consequences for the American people," says Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

Larry Burns, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, claims, "From the moment Aristide was overthrown two years ago, Washington has equivocated on whether it wanted him back or not..." To secure the military "as an anchor to Aristide's sail," Burns charges, Washington "turned a blind eye to the corruption charges, and pretended that it could be reformed through professionalization and U.S. training."

A senior administration official at the National Security Council dismisses the charge but when asked why the administration has failed to publicize DEA allegations of drug trafficking, the spokesman had no comment.

The DEA first established a Country Office (CO) in Port-au-Prince to assist the Haitian government with its anti-narcotics activities in November 1987. Throughout Aristide's brief tenure in office, DEA agents worked closely with Haitian military narcotics services, investigating an illegal cocaine network estimated to be moving some $300-$500 million worth of cocaine into the U.S. per year. Although the DEA office was shut down after the 1991 coup, it reopened in the fall of 1992. But soon after DEA intelligence prompted the arrest of a member of Haiti's ClA-linked National Intelligence, DEA local agent Tony Greco received death threats from a man identifying himself as the National Intelligence member's boss.

A Congressional source familiar with the DEA's history in Haiti told PNS that Greco had also "connected (Lt. Colonel Michel) Francois to the drug trafficking operations in Haiti." Francois, the current chief of police, is alleged to be behind the current campaign of terror.

What disturbs Rep. Conyers is that none of this information ever reached the public. "By turning a deaf ear to what is obviously a prime force behind Aristide's ouster, we raise questions about our own involvement in drug activities," Conyers says. He is currently investigating how it is that the ships and aircraft necessary to sustain such a large operation evade detection and interdiction, while the U.S. government has managed to spot, stop and turn back almost every ramshackle boat carrying refugees.

Indeed the DEA report shows that after the 1991 coup sent Aristide into exile, there were virtually no major seizures of cocaine from Haiti as compared to nearly 4,000 pounds seized in 1990.

Michael Levine, author of "Deep Cover" and a decorated DEA agent with 25 years of experience fighting drugs overseas, says what's going on in Haiti is "just another example of elements of the U.S. government protecting killers, drug dealers and dictators for the sake of some political end that's going to cost a whole bunch of kids in this country their lives.
"I saw the drug traffickers take over the government of Bolivia in 1980, ironically with the assistance of the CIA, and we (the DEA) just packed up our office and went home."

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"THE CIA'S HAITIAN CONNECTION"

by Dennis Bernstein and Howard Levine; San Francisco Bay Guardian, 11/3/93

Although the Clinton administration insists it is making every effort to return ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, covert connections between Haiti's military junta and the CIA may be helping to keep the regime in place.

Confidential government documents obtained by the Bay Guardian show that the CIA helped establish and finance Haiti's powerful National Intelligence Service, which played a key role in the 1991 coup and continues to provide paramilitary muscle for the anti-Aristide dictatorship. As recently as February 1993, a confidential congressional report described the NIS as "working closely" with the CIA.

The documents-along with interviews with members of Congress, senior administration sources, and a high-ranking member of Aristide's cabinet-in-exile-raise troubling questions about Clinton's policy toward the tiny, impoverished Caribbean nation and provide strong evidence to support critics who claim the United States is giving little more than lip service to the cause of Haitian democracy.

Among other things, the Bay Guardian has learned:

Haitian Lt. Col. Joseph Michel Francois-the reputed kingpin behind the military junta-was trained at a clandestine U.S. Army combat facility known as the "coup school," whose alumni also include jailed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and former Salvadoran president Roberto d'Aubuisson.

Paramilitary death squads controlled by Francois and Frank Romain, the former mayor of Port-au-Prince, are carrying out what some critics call a systematic attempt to wipe out Aristide's base of support, making it difficult if not impossible for the ousted president to reclaim political power. The death squads, known as attaches have been linked to roughly 4,000 murders since the coup.

Former Haitian officials and congressional sources link Francois and the NIS to a massive drug-smuggling and money-laundering operation that sends at least a billion dollars worth of cocaine a year to the United States. Aristide's attempt to crack down on the drug ring may have helped spark the coup-and since the military junta took power, cocaine exports have soared.

In fact, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operative who was investigating an NIS officer allegedly involved in drug smuggling had to flee Haiti in 1992 after receiving death threats on a private telephone line with a secret number known only to a few top government officials.

At least two senior members of Congress, Rep. Charles Rangel and Rep. Major Owens, both New York Democrats, told the Bay Guardian they have enough reason to suspect CIA involvement in the Aristide coup that they are calling for a full congressional investigation.

HALF HEARTED EFFORTS

As the crisis in Haiti drags on and the military junta refuses to relinquish power, critics have charged that the United States is making only token efforts to restore Aristide to office.

Larry Burns, an analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Hemispheric Relations, pointed out that the United States has not fully participated in the United Nations embargo of Haiti (unlike most other countries, the U.S. has exempted its own companies in Haiti from the embargo). It's also curious, he told the Bay Guardian, that the Clinton administration has failed to make a public issue of the military regime's role in drug trafficking-a tactic that the Bush administration used extensively to discredit Panama's Manuel Noriega.

"You would think that the White House would want, as one of its major points, to pin the drug tail on the military donkey in Haiti," Burns said. "It would be their best opportunity to rally the American people to a pro-Aristide position. Yet they never used it."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Don Steinberg told the Bay Guardian that "there's nothing halfhearted about our administration's commitment to returning democracy to Haiti and Aristide to power."

"We sent military trainers to Haiti, we've supported the embargo, and we've fully supported the Governor's Island accords," which were supposed to lead to Aristide's return, Steinberg said. "This administration has not for a second coddled Francois or Cedras." Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras heads the military junta.

But Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said he was worried that the administration's silence on the military's connection to the drug trade would only embolden the junta and tighten its grip on power.

"We have turned a very deaf ear to what is obviously a moving force," he said. "It leads you to wonder if our silence is because we knew this was going on and that our complicity in drug activity may parallel the accusations that were raised about our involvement in drug activities-that is, our government and the Central Intelligence Agency's-during the Vietnam conflict."

Although they admit they have no hard evidence, both Rangel and Aristide's exiled interior minister, Patrick Elie, told the Bay Guardian they see shadows of the ClA's hidden hand behind the September 1991 coup, which overthrew Aristide after only seven months in office.

"I don't have a specific answer as to whether the CIA was involved," Rangel said. "But I do know that our feelings against Aristide were made pretty clear before the coup."

Rangel was referring to the Bush administration's open backing of former World Bank official Marc Bizan against Aristide. But in a show of popular support that caught the Bush administration by surprise, Aristide received 67.5 percent of the vote, while Bizan captured only 13 percent.

Elie told the Bay Guardian that the relationship between the CIA and Haiti's National Intelligence Service went far beyond mere cooperation.

"In fact," he said "the NIS was created by the Central Intelligence Agency. It was created by it and funded by it."

Elie, whose job included oversight of the NIS, launched an investigation shortly after taking office that revealed that the CIA had covertly given the NIS $500,000-twice what the U.S. government was providing Haiti overtly for drug interdiction.

He said that although the NIS was supposed to be used to combat drug smugglers, "in fact, all the NIS has done has been political repression and spying on Haitians."

Records of the Drug Enforcement Administration confirm that the NIS operates with CIA assistance. According to a confidential DEA document titled "Drug Trafficking in Haiti," presented to members of Congress in February 1993 and obtained by the Bay Guardian, the NIS "is a covert counter-narcotics intelligence unit which often works in unison with the CIA."

On Sept. 26, 1992, the report states, the DEA itself was driven from Haiti when its main agent was forced to flee the country after receiving death threats. DEA attaché Tony Greco received the threats on his private line in the U.S. embassy, "given out to only a few trusted individuals," the memo says, within a week of his providing information that led to the arrest of a NIS officer for drug trafficking. "The unidentified threat," the report states, "came from an individual who claims to control many Haitian soldiers in the narcotics distribution trade."

Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus task force on Haiti, told the Bay Guardian: "I worry about the CIA having had a role in the overthrow of the Aristide government. The Congressional Black Caucus has joined with congressman Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) in calling for a full-scale investigation. "

Bay Guardian phone calls to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., were not returned. Steinberg said he knew nothing about possible CIA involvement in the coup and was "hearing about it for the first time." He refused to comment on the allegations of drug smuggling.

THE SCHOOL OF COUPS

Rangel, who has traveled several times to Haiti and is close to the deposed administration of Aristide, told the Bay Guardian that although Cedras heads the junta, Francois, who is also Port-au-Prince's chief of police, wields the real power.

Francois, Rangel said, "has been targeted as being directly responsible for the recent murder of [Justice Minister] Guy Malary," who was dragged out of church, beaten, and killed on Oct. 14.

Michel Francois learned some of his skills right here in the United States. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA), which Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch in Columbus Georgia, described as a "combat and counterinsurgency training facility for soldiers from Central and South America and the Caribbean."

White House spokesperson Steinberg didn't deny that Francois had attended the Army training school. "But just because he graduated from SOA doesn't mean he has U.S. government intelligence connections," Steinberg said. "A lot of people graduate from that school."

Bourgeois said SOA was founded in 1946 and operated in Panama until it was kicked out in 1984 as part of the canal treaty. It was reestablished in Ft. Benning, Ga.

"In Latin America," he said, "it's known as La Escuela de Golpes, the school of coups," because of the achievements of some of its 55,000 graduates, including d'Aubuisson; Noriega, who is serving 40 years in federal prison for drug trafficking; Gen. Hugo Banzer, who ruled as Bolivia's dictator from 1971 to 1978; and Hector Gramajo, Guatemala's former defense minister who helped oversee years of

brutal repression in that country and was the guest speaker at SOA's graduation in December 1991.

On March 15, 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission released its report on El Salvador and, Bourgeois said, "about 75 percent of the officers cited in the most serious massacres, including the killing of six Jesuit priests, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the rape and murder of four U.S. nuns, were SOA graduates."

Bay Guardian calls to SOA were not returned.

DRUG MONEY

The coup and resulting embargo may have left thousands of Haitians dead and created terrible hardship for many thousands more, but it's apparently been quite profitable for the drug traffickers.

According to a Feb. 10, 1993, memo from one of Conyers' congressional staffers, a copy of which was obtained by the Bay Guardian, "the wholesale value of Haiti's drug industry on the U.S. market is now equal to $1 billion a year, which equals the entire revenue of Haiti's population of six million.

"Haiti has become the second most important transshipment point, after the Bahamas, for cocaine shipments from Colombia to the U.S.," the memo states.

The DEA's "Drug Trafficking in Haiti" document also says that Haiti is believed to be a main center for laundering of drug money.

One of Elie's key tasks was to have been overseeing the drug interdiction efforts, and he had developed an extensive program that included close cooperation with U.S. agencies. But the program was barely off the ground when the coup drove him into hiding in Haiti-and five months later, into the United States. (He has since fled the U.S., fearing for his life, and called the Bay Guardian from an undisclosed location because he was told there is a $750,000 contract on his head. Three pro-Aristide radio broadcasters have been murdered in Florida.)

"While I was in hiding," he said, "I monitored Michel Francois over the airwaves directing the landing of a [drug smuggling] plane right in the middle of Port-au-Prince. I immediately notified the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince. I was in touch with the CIA main agent there at the time, and I gave him the time and date of that landing.

"I don't know if he did anything with it. Since the coup, despite our repeated attempts to continue this collaboration with the U.S. as the legitimate government of Haiti, we were met with stonewalling."

Elie's account is supported by the memo to Conyers, which stated that after the coup, "all those jailed for drug-trafficking have been released and...Michel Francois has personally supervised the landing of planes carrying drugs and weapons."

And a September 1992 State Department report titled "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Mid-Year Update" noted that "although President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was planning new policies and institutions to combat narcotics trafficking, his ouster...crippled narcotics control efforts in Haiti."

Meanwhile, observers say, the violence continues-targeted largely at the popular organizations that helped bring Aristide to power. As part of the reign of terror, death lists are being posted in small Haitian villages, Liam Mahoney, an independent human rights monitor in Haiti, told the Bay Guardian by phone on Nov. 3.

The military regime so far has ignored the Governor's Island accords that on Oct. 30 called for Aristide's return to power, leading some to speculate that the junta wants to completely destroy Aristide's power base before they allow him to return-if they allow him to return at all.

"If something is not done soon, there will be no Aristide supporters left," said Rep. Owens. "They will all be destroyed."

Dennis Bernstein is coproducer of KPFA's Flashpoints and an associate editor at Pacific News Service. Additional reporting by Greg Saatkamp and Julie Light.