From Thu Aug 2 19:13:36 2001
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2001 23:52:22 -0500 (CDT)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Haiti_Progr=E8s?= <>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 19:20 08/01/01
Article: 123858
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Coup d'état? Destabilisation? Pressure? What lies behind last weekend's assaults?

This Week in Haiti, Haïti Progrès, Vol.19 no.20, 1–7 August 2001

Heavily armed men dressed in the olive green uniforms of the disbanded Haitian Army launched simultaneous attacks on police stations around Haiti on the night of Friday, Jul. 27 and the early morning hours of Saturday, Jul. 28. The toll was heavy: five policemen dead, 14 wounded, and many arms and documents stolen. Of the policemen, three died in Port-au-Prince, one in Mirebalais, and one in Hinche. Thirteen of the wounded were police cadets.

Although the authorities have unconvincingly claimed that some attackers were killed and wounded, only police casualties have been confirmed. This has led some, like Deputy Simson Libirus, to question the ease with which the former soldiers were able to rout the Haitian National Police (PNH) and then flee across the border to the Dominican Republic. Up until now, the police have arrested some 40 people, about twenty of them around Haiti's Central Plateau.

The offensive began on the evening of Jul. 27. Starting around 9 p.m., there were some gunshots heard around Pitionville. Then around 3 a.m. on Jul. 28, five or six men in uniform attacked the Pitionville police station. They overran the building and held it for a short time during which they ordered prisoners in their holding cells to chant Long Live the Army. Despite police denials, eyewitnesses claim that the attackers were able leave with many weapons and documents from the station.

Shortly thereafter before 5 a.m., five or six heavily armed men, possibly the same ones who attacked the Pitionville police station, easily entered the grounds of the Police Academy, located off the Frhres Road, where they took hostages and held the compound for over an hour. During that time, they executed Jean Eddy Cantave, the administrator of the Police Academy, which is the base for the PNH's elite SWAT team unit. The attackers also killed a SWAT team officer, James Gazmard, and a police cadet, Milfleur Michel. According to authorities, the attackers sprayed a police academy dormitory with machinegun fire. Among the wounded was SWAT officer Fleurantin Jean-Claude, who at press time was in critical condition with a neck wound.

As police reinforcements rolled toward the Academy around 6 a.m., five of the attackers commandeered a passing car driven by a doctor with her two childen, and drove off toward the Dominican Republic. Authorities claim the attackers crossed the border in the mountains above Kenscoff.

Meanwhile, several simultaneous attacks were launched against police stations on the Central Plateau. At 9 p.m. on Jul. 27, seven heavily armed men, again dressed in Haitian Army uniforms, took over the police station in Belladhres, near the Dominican border. A similar attack occurred in Mirebalais, 37 kilometers to the west, and the department's seat, Hinche. During the attacks, policemen mostly fled out the back door of the stations, but a few offered resistance. In Mirebalais, Officer Adonais Bruno was killed and another officer was wounded in the foot. The attackers abducted three other policemen, whose fates are still unknown.

In a press conference following the events, the PNH's Western Department director Hermione Lionard declared that it is now that operation 'zero tolerance' is going to begin across the country. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announced in June that the police should adopt a policy of zero tolerance for law breakers.

In the flurry of official outrage following the attacks, the Interior Ministry put out a press release which simply reiterated news reports without offering any new information. The statement even omitted any mention of the attacks in Mirebalais, Hinche and Belladhres, where policemen were killed, taken hostage, and their stations occupied. Police measures have been taken to continue to protect lives and property and to allow the population to freely go about their business, read Interior Minister Henry- Claude Minard, who sought to reassure the population although the police force had just demonstrated its inability to protect even itself.

As news of the attacks spread, the population and policemen from the stations in areas like Carrefour, Martissant and Croix-des- Bouquets erected hodgepodge barricades to block traffic. Nonetheless, there was not the massive popular uprising as in times past when coup d'itats and other plots, serious and not, have been announced. The population did not mobilize to thwart this new attempt to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as presidential press spokesman Mario Dupuy requested.

Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency announced that four former Haitian policemen, who may have been involved in the assaults, had requested political asylum in the Dominican Republic last weekend. According to the Dominican newspaper El Listin Diario, these policemen were former soldiers, of which there are many in the PNH.

From Lima, Peru, where he was taking part in the inauguration of the new Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, Dominican President Hipolito Mejia declared: I have spoken to the vice-president, Ms. Milagros, and to the secretary of the Armed Forces. They have informed me that everything is quiet and under control and when I return to the country, I will have better information. The fugitive policemen, who are being held by Dominican authorities, crossed at the northern border towns of Ouanaminthe-Dajabon.

Without making any comments on the events, President Aristide and Prime Minister Jean-Marie Chirestal visited the wounded policemen and police cadets in the hospital on the afternoon of Jul. 28. Numerous popular organizations and groups close to the government such as +Rache kou poul, Popular Power Youth (JPP) of Reni Civil, the September 30 Foundation of Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, and the Little Church Community of St. Jean Bosco all denounced the attacks.

Although calm has returned to the country, many burning questions remain. Who is behind the assaults? What was their goal? Did they succeed? How many weapons did they capture? Was there complicity from within the police? This remains a mystery to me, said Deputy Libirus. Because I cannot understand that in the wee hours of the morning two or three zenglendos (criminals) can take over the police academy, and then they can leave with the same ease with which they came in. I think that there should be a serious investigation in the very heart of the police force.

The President of the Chamber of Deputies Pierre Paul Cotin also wants explanations. He decided to form a parliamentary commission of inquiry and to summon Justice Minister Gary Lissade and PNH director Jean Nesly Lucien.

Always quick to denounce real or perceived overthrow attempts, Senate President Yvon Neptune not surprisingly called the Jul. 28 offensive an attempted coup d'itat and associated it, without naming names, to the Democratic Convergence (CD) opposition front. We do not disassociate what happened Saturday from the political climate, from the political tension, from the efforts to overturn the population's decisions from May 21 [legislative and municipal elections] and Nov. 26 [presidential elections], 2000. Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL) swept both contests.

As usual, spokesmen for the CD, such as Evans Paul and Micha Gaillard, called the attacks theatre. Another CD leader, Reynold Georges, declared on Radio Signal FM that the attackers have not really gone to the Dominican Republic. That is a lie. The people are here in the country with us. Given that we do not know who they are... but they are friends of the current rulers. They know one another and carried out and set up their affair jointly.

Coup d'état or not, these simultaneous attacks show that the insurgents are well organized. They operated in unison at several points around the country, using similar tactics and obtaining similar results. Such actions require military intelligence, planning, vehicles, radio equipment, and heavy arms.

Could former members of the notoriously anarchic, cowardly, and ill-disciplined Haitian Army have pulled off such an offensive on their own? On the contrary, the attacks have all the hallmarks of foreign support from the laboratory, as the Pentagon-CIA axis is called in Haiti. Could Washington be pressuring the FL to make even more dramatic concessions to the CD in the on-again off-again negotiations of the past year? Could Washington be firing a shot across Aristide's bow after his five-day visit to Cuba, during which he warmly praised Cuban President Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution? This attack clearly demonstrates that the laboratory and its agents can strike with relative impunity at the present time.

Of course, diplomats assigned to strong-arm the Haitian government have sought to downplay the attacks. I think people should not speak of a coup d'etat, declared Sergio Romero Cuevas, the special representative of Organization of American States (OAS) secretary general Cisar Gaviria. I believe that it is not the time for talking about that now. I believe that they [the political players] should return to the negotiating table... I do not believe that there is the possibility to believe that there will be a coup d'etat in Haiti.

But last weekend's attacks bear remarkable resemblance to last year's attempted coup by the Ecuadorians, a circle of Haitian police chiefs so named for the country where they were trained (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 32, 10/25/2000). They too found refuge in the Dominican Republic before receiving safe passage back to Equador. A Haitian government investigation determined that the Ecuadorians were encouraged and supported by certain laboratory sectors within the U.S. Embassy (although others in the U.S. Embassy denounced the plot, Haitian officials say).

In any case, President Aristide and the FL should reflect whether all their concessions have satisfied the enemies, both foreign and local, of the original Lavalas movement in any way. Instead, the weekend's attacks seem to confirm the Creole proverb and warning made many times by progressive sectors like the National Popular Party (PPN): Say good morning to the devil or not, he is still going to eat you. Or at least try to.

As we go to press, Prime Minister Chirestal released the following official information:

Port-au-Prince et Pition-Ville:
1) Number of assailants: about 15;
2) Number of wounded: PNH:
a) 13 police cadets,
b) 1 police officer.
Several wounded among the assailants according to the testimony of doctors.
Number of deaths:
PNH: a) 1 cadet; 2 policemen.
Among the assailants: undetermined.
Arrests: 10
Number of deaths: PNH: 2 policemen.
Arrests: 5 in Hinche.
1) Number of deaths: 1 assailant
20 arrests