Archived: Nairn: Behind Haiti's Paramilitaries

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Rich Winkel

May 11, 2004, 12:55:54 AM5/11/04
Behind Haiti's Paramilitaries
Allan Nairn
The Nation, October 24, 1994

Emannuel Constant, the leader of Haiti's FRAPH hit squad, is a
protege of U.S. Intelligence. Interviews with Constant and with
U.S. officials who have worked directly with him confirm that
Constant recently worked for the C.I.A. and that U.S. intelligence
helped him launch the organization that became the FRAPH. Documentary
evidence obtained from other sources and confirmed in part by
Constant also indicate that a group of attaches - some of them
implicated in some of Haiti's most notorious crimes - have been
paid for several years by a U.S. government funded project that
maintains sensitive files on the movements of the Haitian poor.

In my October 3 Nation article ("The Eagle is Landing") I quoted a
U.S. intelligence official praising Constant as a "young pro-Western
Intellectual ... no further right than a Young Republican" and
saying that U.S. intelligence had "encouraged" Constant to form
the group that emerged as the FRAPH. Reached at his home on the
night of September 26, Constant confirmed the U.S. official's
account. He said that his first U.S. handler was Col. Patrick
Collins, the U.S Defense Intelligence Agency attache in Haiti, whom
he described as "a very good friend of mine." (Constant spoke of
dealing later with another official he called "[the United States']
best liaison," but he refused to give a name.) Constant said that
Colonel Collins had first approached him while Constant was teaching
a training course at the headquarters of the C.I.A.-run National
Intelligence Service (SIN) and building a computer database for
Haiti's notorious rural Section Chiefs at the Bureau of Information
and Coordination in the General Headquarters of the Haitian coup

Giving an account that dovetailed closely with that of the U.S.
official, Constant said that Collins began pushing him to organize
a front "that could balance the Aristide movement" and do "intelligence"
work against it. He said that their discussions had begun soon
after Aristide fell in September 1991. They resulted in Constant
forming what later evolved into the FRAPH, a group that was known
initially as the Haitian Resistance League.

Constant at first refused to go beyond his usual public statements
on the FRAPH, but opened up after I told him that I understood that
he knew Colonel Collins. Our initial interview took place on the
first day of the bold anti-FRAPH protests on the street of
Port-au-Prince. Constant said that he wanted to offer his men as
"guides" for the occupation force, saying that "I've participated
in the stabilization of this country for the past three years, and
the United States knows it very well, no matter what agency you
talk to."

Two days after that, as a crowed marched past FRAPH headquarters,
FRAPH gunmen opened fire, killing one demonstrator. Five days
later, in the wake of the embarrassing media coverage of the continued
mayhem by the FRAPH and of a U.S. raid on a supposed pro-Aristide
terrorist camp that turned out to be a world famous dance school,
U.S. occupation forces raided the FRAPH's downtown Port-au-Prince
headquarters, carting away two dozen street-level gunmen (and women)
as live cameras and cheering crowds looked on. Some U.S. reporters
proclaimed that this was the death of the terror system, and CNN's
Richard Blystone, announcing that there was more crackdown to come,
said that Constant was not "at large" (a claim also made by the
next morning's New York Times).

Five minutes after Blystone's CNN broadcast, I reached Constant by
telephone at his Port-au_prince home. He said that the arrests had
been only of low-level FRAPH, and that he still intended to put his
men at U.S. disposal. He said that there were no U.S. troops outside
his house and worried that it might be set upon by mobs. Then he
said that he had to leave for a meeting "on the street" with a U.S.
Embassy staffer who was hitherto unknown to him but who he thought
might be from the CIA.

He said that he would call back after the meeting, but he didn't
and I couldn't reach him again. But the next day Constant appeared
in public guarded - for the first time - by U.S. Marines. He stated
his fealty to the occupation and his support for the return of

Much of the U.S., press played this as a stunning about-face, but
Constant had been saying those things in public and to me all week.
He had told me that the Carter/Powell/Nunn-Cedras accord was "the
last chance for Haiti," and had expressed no worry about the return
of Aristide, saying that the new Parliament, to be chosen in December,
would be constituted in a way that would hem him in.

Colonel Collins is now back in Haiti (his last tour ended in 1992).
The Clinton Administration has brought him back for the occupation,
and he has refused to comment on the record. But a well-informed
intelligence official (speaking before the FRAPH furor broke)
confirmed that Collins had worked with Constant and had, as Constant
says, guided him and urged him on. Collins has, in recent weeks
spoken quite highly of Constant and has said that Constant's mission
from the United States was to counter the "extreme" of Aristide.
Collins has also stated that, when he first approached him, Constant
"was not in position to do anything ... [but] things evolved and
eventually, he did come up, [and] what had been sort of an idea and
technically open for business - all of a sudden, boom, it takes on
national significance."

When the relationship started, Constant was working for the C.I.A.,
reaching a course at the the agency-run SIN on "The Theology of
Liberation" and "Animation and Mobilization." At that time, the SIN
was engaged in terrorist attacks on Aristide supporters, as were
Constant's pupils, army S-2 field intelligence officers. The targets
included, among others, popular church catechists. Constant says
that the message of the SIN course was that "though communism is
dead, "the extreme left," through ti legliz, the grass-roots Haitian
"little church," was attempting to "convince the people that in the
name of God everything is possible" and that, therefore, it was
right for the people to kill soldiers and the rich. Constant says
he taught that "Aristide is not the only one; there are tens of

Collins has recently acknowledged that the FRAPH has indeed carried
out many killings, but he has said that they have not been as
numerous as the press and human rights groups claim. He has said,
in reference to Haiti's political problems, "The only way you're
going to solve this is ... [that] it'll all end in some big bloodbath
and there'll be somebody who emerges from it who will establish a
society of sorts and a judicial system and he's going to say: 'O.K.,
you own the land, you don't - that's it,' whether it's fair or not."

Though most U.S. officials would never speak that way, it's universally
acknowledged that the FRAPH is an arm of the brutal Haitian security
system, which the United States has built and supervised and whose
leaders it has trained, and often paid. When I asked Constant, for
example, about the anti-Aristide coup, he said that as it was
happening Colonel Collins and Donald Terry (the C.I.A. station chief
who also ran the SIN) "were inside the [General] Headquarters." But
he insisted that this was "normal": the C.I.A. and D.I.A. were
always there.

A foreign diplomat who knows that system well says that it is from
those very headquarters that Haiti's army, with the police and the
FRAPH, has run a web of clandestine torture houses) (one of them
in a private home at No. 43 Fontamara), some of which are said to
still be working as this article is written on the occupation's
seventeenth day. According to the diplomat - who quoted internal
documents as he spoke - the walkie-talkies of the house personnel
are routinely monitored by the U.S. Embassy, which he said, also
listened in on conversations of the U.N Civilian Mission. Some
interrogators wear shirts emblazoned "Camp d'Application" (an army
base). The diplomat also detailed a command structure of seven
chief attaches who have arranged killings and brought victims to
the torture houses.

Four of those senior attaches (as well as other, lower-raking ones),
according to documents and interviews, appear to have worked out
of the Centers for Development and Health (C.D.S.), a large
multiservice clinic funded mainly by the U.S. Agency for International
Development. One of them, Gros Sergo (who was killed in September
1993), listed C.D.S. on his resume, writing that he worked in its
archives and was a "Trainer of Associates" there. Another, Fritz
Joseph - who, Constant says, is the key FRAPH recruiter in Cite
Soleil and who, according to official records, has been a chief
attache since the coup - is acknowledged by the C.D.S. director to
have worked at C.D.S. for many years. The two others, Marc Arthur
and Gros Fanfan (implicated by the U.S. in the September 1993 murder
of prominent pro-Aristide business man Antoine Izmery), have been
named in sworn statements as having regularly received cash payments
from C.D.S. Constant confirms that FRAPH leaders and attaches are
working inside C.D.S. (and specifically that Marc Arthur has worked
there) and says he speaks often on the phone with the clinic's
director, Dr. Reginald Boulos. Boulos denies that he speaks to
Constant. He says that Sergo's resume is wrong, that he does not
knowingly employ attaches, and that he did not know until recently
that Fritz Joseph was a FRAPH leader and that he fired him when
critics pointed out that he was. Boulos said that C.D.S. files
track "every family in Cite Soleil" but insisted that, as far as
he knows, attaches don't have access to the archives. Boulos said
he hadn't seen Sergo in years, and when told of an entry from Sergo's
calendar that appeared to contradict that, he said it was mistaken.
He alo downplayed that fact that Sergo had listed him as a personal
reference, along with coup leader Raul Cedras. (Another A.I.D.-funded
unit in Haiti, Planning Assistance, has also said that it employs
FRAPH personnel.)

Sergo's papers indicate that he reported to the now-exiled Police
Chief, Lieut. Col. Michel Francois (he had a pass, written on the
back of Francois's card, authorizing him and Marc Arthur "to see
the Chief of Police at all hours of the day and night), and that
he and his hit squad organized anti-Aristide demonstrations, that,
just before his work for C.D.S., he was in the Interior Ministry's
"intelligence police," and that he has appointments to meet with
the C.I.A.'s SIN chief, Col. Silvain Diderot, and with the Mevs,
one of Haiti's ruling families.

Though some Haitian officials claim that Francois was on the C.I.A.
payroll, this is denied by Lawrence Pezzullo, the former U.S. special
envoy to Haiti. But Pezzullo did reveal that the C.I.A. paid
Francois's brother, Evans, now a diplomat in the Dominican Republic.
(Pezzullo joked, regarding the colonel himself, "You couldn't pay
him enough to buy him.")

The FRAPH emerged as a national force in the latter months of 1993,
when it staged a series of murders, public beatings and arson raids
on poor neighborhoods. In one such attack, Mrs. Alerte Belance had
her right hand severed by a machete.

Later when it was convenient for him, President Clinton used photos
of these macabre assaults to (accurately) brand Haiti's rulers as
"armed thugs [who] have conducted a reign of terror." but in the
moment when that terror was actually at its height, Clinton used
the FRAPH killings to pressure Aristide harshly to "broaden" his
already broad Cabinet in a "power-sharing" deal. Pezzullo, in part
echoing Collins's original vision for Constant (though he denies
any knowledge of the arrangement), says that the FRAPH wa "a political
offset to Lavalas" and that as the "bodies were starting to appear"
"we said [to Aristide]": "the only people seen operating politically
now are the FRAPHistas," and that he and the United States had to
"Fill that gap with another force with the private sector - otherwise
these FRAPH people will be the only game in town."

It is often pointed out that the FRAPH embarrassed the United States
by chasing off the transport ship Harlan County last year, but in
that case U.S. officials could not agree about whether the ship
should even be there. Constant says he go not U.S. guidance, but
he had openly announced his dockside rally the day before and
apparently did not get any U.S. warning to call it off.

On the fundamentals though, U.S. officials have been united in
pressing Aristide from the right. Constant said in our first
interview (well before his Marine press conference) that he might
now be "too high profile" for the united States. But even if he
is, U.S. intelligence is a system, not dependent on any single
individual. And - as Constant once taught about Aristide - there
are others in the wings.

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