by John Yewell
There were new suggestions this week that a raid 10 days ago by Haiti's police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration may have been an attempt to silence one of the leaders of a 2004 coup that toppled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide - a coup many believe was orchestrated by the United States.
Guy Philippe, the target of the raid, avoided capture and is now in hiding. He has since been heard on Haitian radio claiming his attempted arrest was for political reasons.
Between his alleged drug affiliations and human rights abuses, Philippe has few friends in the government of current Haitian President Rene Preval or in the United States. But according to a report this week by Kevin Pina, writing for the Haiti Information Project, there may be another explanation for the DEA grab.
According to Pina, on May 27, after the arrest of Wilfort Ferdinand, another coup participant, Philippe went on Haitian radio and "began to name names of business and political leaders who backed the paramilitary insurgency against Aristide's government by providing arms, ammunition and logistical support."
"High on (Philippe's) list," Pina continued, "was Andy Apaid, the leader of the civil society organization called the Group 184."
Seven weeks after Philippe's radio broadcast, the DEA went after him.
In July 2004, Salon reported that Group 184, along with a group called the Democratic Convergence, was supported by the International Republican Institute, dominated by Bush loyalists and funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Agency for International Development and conservative groups.
Aristide's supporters have long suspected American support in the overthrow of his democratically elected government. Now here
is Philippe, a man they had vilified, pointing a finger that leads to the U.S. government.
Salon quotes Thayer Scott, then communications director for the IRI, saying that the "IRI played an advisory role in Group of 184's formation." Hardliners in Group 184, Salon reported, "tapped Guy Philippe, a U.S.-trained former Haitian police chief with a dubious human rights record," to lead a coup.
The IRI's liaison to the Haitian opposition was Stanley Lucas, who, according to the New York Times, was accused by U.S. Ambassador Dean Curran of undermining diplomatic efforts in Haiti. The IRI denies this.
"Stanley Lucas was not IRI's 'point man in Haiti,'" said Lisa Gates, IRI press secretary, in an e-mail to The Herald. "In fact, IRI was not operating in Haiti during the time in question."
That's not what the Bush administration was saying. During a Senate hearing on March 10, 2004, 10 days after Aristide's overthrow, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., asked Roger Noriega, then assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, about a USAID grant to the IRI that specifically limited Lucas' activities.
"The approval of the new grant was conditioned on the IRI (Haiti) director, Stanley Lucas, being barred from participating in this program for a period of time because the U.S. ambassador in Haiti had evidence that he was undermining U.S. efforts," according to Salon. "Is that not true as well?" Dodd asked Noriega.
"Yes, sir," Noriega said.
"Is Stanley Lucas still involved?" asked Dodd.
"As far as I know, he is still part of the program," Noriega replied.
The connection between Lucas and Philippe is less clear. Philippe says they are old friends, and the Times suggests there is circumstantial evidence the two worked together. The IRI says the USAID investigated their alleged connection in 2004 and found "no evidence."
But USAID, which has international skeletons in its own closet, shares political sympathies with the IRI. Claiming it exonerates the IRI is a little like Bush's 2000 election being certified by Katherine Harris, who was Florida's secretary of state at the same time as she served as the co-chairwoman of Bush's Florida campaign.
Without question, Philippe and Lucas shared contacts among Aristide's opponents, and Andy Apaid may have been the fulcrum. Within 24 hours of Apaid rejecting a political compromise with Aristide, according to Salon, Philippe launched his coup, which ended with the U.S. hustling Aristide out of the country against his will.
And if Pina is right, Aristide's opponents, including the IRI, might be plenty nervous with a talkative Philippe on the run.
The Haiti Information Project (HIP) is a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti.
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