This article was last modified on June 20, 2008.

Empire Strikes First: Haiti

While I am less than proud of this — not my best work — it has been accepted for publication and appears in the July 20089 issue of The Scene.

President Bush has “made it clear to all nations that if you harbor terrorists, you are just as guilty as the terrorists, you are an enemy of the United States, and you will be held to account.” Furthermore, “If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you’re a terrorist.” Taking his assertion to its logical conclusion, one could rightly claim that America is a terrorist nation and guilty of spreading terror. A well-known case is Luis Carriles Posada who currently resides in Florida and, among other criminal acts, blew up an airplane carrying over seventy passengers. Lesser known is Emmanuel Constant, currently of New York, the leader of rape and death squads in Haiti. Despite repeated calls for his extradition, both Presidents Clinton and Bush have refused to take action.

Constant’s story begins where another man’s ends. Haiti’s first democratically-elected president, Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown in a violent coup on September 29, 1991 after serving only eight months. Counter-revolutionary groups arose to help return Aristide to power, or elect a new leader, but were repeatedly kept down by the military and vicious paramilitary groups.

One such group was FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti), established by Emmanuel “Toto” Constant. Constant entered the CIA payroll as an informant in early 1992, having been recruited by Colonel Patrick Collins. FRAPH inflicted violence on democratic activists, utilizing machine guns and machetes. Systemic abuse was common and extortion became ubiquitous. Gang rapes in front of victims’ children were not unheard of, and the Organization of American States claims Haitians were attacked “with complete impunity”. Members of FRAPH were funded through social service agencies, which were in turn funded by the Agency for International Development (US AID). Constant took control of Haiti’s radio stations and opened scores of outposts.

Despite their knowledge of FRAPH’s violent tendencies, the State Department and Pentagon called them a legitimate political party. “When they kill and rape people, we are forced to sit and watch,” reads one of the thousands of cables from the American embassy in Haiti, since declassified. Constant was not only tolerated by America, but celebrated, having attended at least one inaugural ball for President Clinton.

In October 1993, Constant organized a mob through one of his regular radio addresses, turning away a warship containing US military sent to “retrain” the violent Haitian military. He had warned America ahead of time about his plans, and once they arrived they did nothing more than turn around and go home. With Constant still on CIA’s payroll, one wonders how serious America’s democratic intentions were.

The most vicious incident in FRAPH’s history came in April 1994, in the neighborhood of Raboteau. Dozens of protesters were beaten and gunned down by FRAPH and some were even shot as they fled in to the sea. Door to door raids lead to arrests, torture and in some cases Aristide supporters were drowned in sewage. The attackers followed escapees in fishing boats to shoot anyone they could not arrest. Relatives of the victims were not allowed to claim the bodies, leaving the death toll unknown. Estimates range between 26 and 50 people killed in this one incident. Human rights groups blame FRAPH for roughly 4,000 murders over their three year reign.

Constant’s employment with the CIA ended mid-1994. However, after Aristide’s return in October 1994, Constant became employed by the American embassy, the same people sending cables denouncing him earlier. He escaped to the U.S. on Christmas Eve 1994 by fleeing on foot into the Dominican Republic and flying to the United States.

He walked free in America for five months where, according to Mother Jones magazine, he was seen “chain-smoking Newports on his aunt’s porch in Queens” before the INS detained him in Maryland. He was to be deported to stand trial for involvement in the Raboteau Massacre. Constant played his ace during a December 1995 interview with 60 Minutes, threatening to reveal details of his relationship with the CIA, including his $700-a-month payments. Seemingly not much, this is a small fortune in Haiti. According to Diane Farsetta, Senior Researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy and a reporter for WORT-FM, Madison, “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, [yet] it pays about one million dollars a week in debt repayments.” The country is so poor that “some Haitians have resorted to eating mud to ease their hunger pains.”

Secretary of State Christopher advocated Constant’s deportation, acknowledging the list of human rights violations by Constant, and concluded that not deporting Constant would signal America’s tacit consent of his crimes. Although a judge issued a deportation order, twelve years later it has not been executed. Constant filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful detention and the American government agreed to let him out on the condition he stayed away from the press, which he has failed repeatedly to do.

Legal troubles continued at home and abroad. In November 2000, Constant was convicted in absentia in Haiti for his involvement in the Raboteau Massacre. All 37 defendant who were tired in absentia were convicted with life sentences of hard labor. Under Haitian law, however, those convicted in absentia have a right to a retrial if they ever surrendered or are arrested. In 2004 he was sued on behalf of three women, one of whom became pregnant, who claimed his soldiers beat, tortured and gang-raped women in Haiti. Constant was ordered to pay the women $19 million, but the case has been tied up in appeal.

Constant was arrested in 2006 and indicted for grand larceny, forgery, falsifying business records and mortgage fraud totaling more than $1 million. Today, he sits in Coxsackie Correctional in New York state awaiting trial, currently scheduled for this month (July 2008) after a two-year delay due to Constant’s rejection of a plea bargain. He has written to me in his own defense, though his sugary words contradict past statements and are largely unconvincing. When his sentence expires, or he is acquitted, the only rational thing to do would be to deport Constant to Haiti in order to stand trial. If innocent, he deserves every right to clear his name. If guilty, the people of Haiti deserve justice. But in the words of Farsetta, “The people of Haiti have long been held hostage to the political interests of such Western powers as France, Canada and the United States.” Our government shows no signs of turning Constant over but rather chooses to quietly continue the harboring of a convicted terrorist. One can debate the intricacies of policy, but our refusal to practice what we preach is nothing more than Janus-faced hypocrisy. Contact your legislator and help end this shameful tradition.

Also try another article under Political
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

One Response to “Empire Strikes First: Haiti”

  1. mizner park apartment Says:

    here’s the unemployment rate for the U.S. in your lost decade. 2000 – 4.0% 2001 – 4.7% 2002 – 5.8% 2003 – 6.0% 2004 – 5.5% 2005 – 5.1% 2006 – 4.6% 2007 – 4.6% 2008 – 5.8% Dec. 2009 – 10% In the past two years, the private sector has lost 8.7 million jobs. The # of government jobs has increased by about 100,000 in that same time. President 8 Ball is running our country now.

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