The Invasion of Haiti

In late March, the International Action Centre [] organized a delegation to the Dominican Republic to investigate the US role on the February 29th, 2004 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas government. The Haitian “rebels” are known to have trained and in and entered Haiti from the neighbouring Dominican Republic. 

Retired US Army Master Sergeant and author of Hideous Dream and Full Spectrum Disorder, was one of the investigators.

Fenton: What kind of background should one be familiar with when undertaking this type of investigation?

Goff: There’s been a longstanding relationship between the Dominican military and the old military apparatus that developed after Papa Doc had his rapprochment with the Americans.

A lot of people think that Papa Doc was vaulted into power by the Americans, but actually, the opposite was true. The ideology of Papa Doc was one that grew out of a very xenophobic and nationalistic resistance against the Americans, and they in fact plotted a coup against him early on. There were two factions of the ruling class: one was was very much based on the old share-cropping land system and then there were the up and coming compradore class that were much more international and cosmopolitan in their outlook and they were the ones that were gaining the most from the military occupation – the 19 year military occupation from right after World War I, all the way up until the mid-30s, by the United States.

For 19 years the US Marines basically ran Haiti directly, and Papa Doc was vaulted into power in reaction  to that because the Capitalist form of agriculture that was brought into Haiti was a real threat to this land tendency system, this share cropping system. This is really the social base of Papa Doc’s movement was this landed class, the big land owners. One of the origins of the tonton macoutes was that this was a militia that he used to protect himself from an army that was still in many ways loyal to this competitor class, the compradors, and were politically unreliable until Papa Doc had time to affect his own transformation  in the military.

This military that developed under Papa Doc had a relationship with the Dominican military. In fact , they sort of existed with one another as their raison d’etre. They both collaborated in a lot of ways: they collaborated in criminal enterprises, they collaborated in security issues, they collaborated politically, because both of them were sort of the armed enforcement wing of their respective states, and had a direct interest in stability on both sides of the border, and this relationship has lasted. The Dominicans themselves, the dominant Dominican elites, were not at all happy about Aristide, just as many members of the Dominican military were unhappy about Aristide dissolving the military {Aristide dissolved the military when he came back the first time}.

Fenton: So when it comes to the recent activities, was this just a matter of friend helping friends?

The question became: how did these guys – especially people like [Louis] Jodel Chamblain, who was probably the tactical mastermind of this whole thing, and Guy Philippe: how did these guys manage to hang around in the Dominican Republic for ten years with Chamblain already having been sentenced to two life sentences for the murder of Guy Malory and Anoitne Izmewry? And he was convicted…there should have been no problem with an extradition order. Instead, they gave him asylum over there.

We spoke to  customs agents who facilitated their passage back and forth across the border numerous times and showed us where the apartment was where Jodel Chamblain stayed…he had a girlfriend right there in Santo Domingo.

Then we spoke with a general who had just retired; one who’s sort of dissident general, a Dominican general. His name is Nobel Espejo. He had spent some time with the Venezuelans in the past as a part of his professional development. He was very interested in Venezuela, he was very interested in how the military has played a socially transformative role, and how it has effectively used civil military operations to increase the identification and contact with just plain people, as opposed to being something that’s out there over and above the people; it’s something that’s more “of”  the people. He’s very interested in that, and very interested in progressive change in the Dominican Republic. I spoke with him for about half an hour.

Fenton: What were you able to glean from General Espejo?

Our question was: how did these guys get the equipment and training that they needed to come back across the border?  Because, you know, Haitians that are doing this in the Dominican Republic, they’re going to stand out; they’re going to stick out like a sore thumb, because the DR is not a place where people just run around with firearms. A lot of people have firearms but it’s very controlled and its normally police or military…Haitians stand out also because they’re watched very closely, and its easy to identify they’re accent.

It turns out that according to Espejo, that a military base not too far from the border, called Constanza, was normally home to a battalion of what they call Castasdores, which is like “Rangers” or “Shock Infantry”.  One battalion was stationed here. At one point in the year 2000, they amplified that; they transferred two additional battalions of Castadores over to Constanza. They did this because the people of the town of Constanza already knew the people that were assigned there. Any new faces would stand out but by bringing in two additional battalions from, other bases into Constanza, they overwhelmed the community with a bunch of new soldiers and mixed in with those soldiers were the Haitian paramilitaries, who were wearing Dominican uniforms, integrated into the Dominican units, and receiving training with the Dominican military.

Fenton: This began happening back in 2000? Did anyone else know about this?

There was a military attaché at the US Embassy at the time, and this military attaché was upset about this. Not upset that it happened, but upset that nobody told him about it…there’s a sort of colonial mentality up there at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo. He attempted to go down there and see what was going on and he was turned away from Constanza; he became enraged and tried to bully his way in. Apparently, someone from the Dominican general’s staff, according to Espejo, contacted the US Embassy. It’s very, very much a violation of  protocol for a military staff officer in a host nation military, to go directly to the Chief of Station. They always go through their liaison, which is the military attaché, or the military attaché at the US Embassy.

It would be a complete violation of protocol for them to go over their head, but in this case that’s exactly what they did; they went around this guy to an interim ambassador, and this guy was fired. Obviously this was something that was very politically sensitive at the time, but it sort of confirmed everything we’d been hearing about the Haitians receiving training while they were there. I think that pretty well married with all of the other things we were hearing.

Fenton: What about the issue of American weapons finding their way into these Haitian paramilitaries hands?

This is far too detailed and tedious to go into here, but there’s a specific linear practice for the importation of American weapons into the Dominican Republic, that are then passed on to the Dominican military. All arms procurement in the Dominican Republic is done by a private company and then all weapons that are military in character can only be resold to the Dominican military, they’re not allowed to be resold in the private market. Shotguns and hunting rifles, etc. that’s fine, but assault weapons no. The biggest arms procurement company [Ejelio Peralte] in the Dominican Republic received a consignment of 20,000 weapons, Espejo told us that there were 20,000 M16s that never arrived at the Dominican military, so they did come in and they did go to this company, but all of the sudden there’s this disconnect. Well, where did they go? I’ve been told on the civilian market; that would be a violation of Dominican law. We strongly suspect that a lot of those ended up in the hands of Haitians, and may very well be in Haiti right now.

Fenton: So these “rebels” were definitely trained and probably armed by the United States and the Dominican Republic, dating back to 2000. What are these “rebels” doing now and where does this information fit in to the context of the recent coup?

From all the reports we’re hearing right now, these FRAPH paramilitaries are now basically running around doing anything they want, anywhere they want, in Haiti. The same people who were guilty of all these crimes against humanity from 1991-1994; these right-wing paramilitary death squads are now traveling around, armed, and not being interfered with in the least by French, Canadian, or American troops, and basically taking over town after town after town, and basically imposing themselves as local governments. In fact there’s a contingent of French foreign legions in Cap Haitien right now. The last we heard Chamblain was with all his guys was drinking beer in the Mt. Jolie hotel, with their uniforms on. That’s kind of the situation.

This is a situation that nobody really understands right now. It was a coup that had been planned and facilitated for the last four and a half years by the United States government, clearly, and explicity, and demonstrably done by the US government, if you look at the millions of dollars that’s been funneled by the NED and IRI to this fake political opposition that created the “political crisis”. It was the United States that also compounded that with an economic crisis by withholding almost a half a billion dollars in loans and entitlements to the Haitian government in order to make sure that Aristide’s government could not deliver on any of its political promises.

And then [they] followed up by a security crisis that was created by this invasion of Haitian paramilitaries coming directly from the Dominican Republic, and with the knowledge and probably the complicity of the US Embassy there as well. Because it’s important to understand that the Dominican government does not do anything militarily that the United States does not allow it to do.   The Dominican government is a colonial government, and nothing else, because they would suffer incredible and punitive economic sanctions of they bucked the Washington Consensus. This is a context that a lot of people don’t understand when looking at what’s going on over there. None of this could have happened without the complicity of the United States, without the facilitation by the United States, without the funding  and support of the United States, and the icing on the cake is the fact that at the last minute, American military personnel, with weapons, enter the Presidential residence and tell the President – the democraticaslly elected President of Haiti, elected with 92% of the vote, that he has to leave. Not that ‘we’re here top proptect you because there’s paramilitaries marching here coming to get you right now’, but that ‘the paramilitaries are on their way: they’re going to kill you and your family. Your option is to stay here and die, or to leave with us on an airplane, to god knows where’. For Colin Powell and some of the other Administration Servants to sit there and say that this constitutes a voluntary departure or not coercion….it defies belief. That’s sort of the nutshell version.

Fenton: Describe the current  political climate

Most of the country has just been abandoned to the Macoutes. This is one anecdote of hundreds. Completely off of everybody’s radar screen there’s an incredible atrocity that is taking place in Haiti right now. People are being killed every single day, and not just a few. This is really very similar to what happened under the Cedras-Francois de facto government, except now thaere’s not even any direction to it, it’s all over the place. There’s no government there at all, Latortue is a buffoon, he has no control over anything, and in fact he is caught in a very unenviable position right now of being caught between these two ruling facitons. These two ruling factions will draw blood against one another in the not too distant future. People are going to scratch their heads and say “oh, those crazy Haitians, what are they doing?”

It’s the fact [these factions] have antithetical economic interests. When push comes to shove…The thing that put them together, this “coalition” that was developed and supported by the United States Embassy down there, was the intense fear of Haitian popular sovereignty, a fear of the Haitian masses; not because Aristide did establish that kind of popular sovereignty, but the fact that he had the capacity to. The fact that Aristide had established a rapport with the Haitian masses, with the poor, the peasants, the slum dwellers. That’s what made him a threat, and that’s what made Aristide, regardless of how many times he capitulated to the demands of the Washington Consensus, the IMF, or anyone else, he would never outlive that because he still maintained the capacity to rise these masses. It was the fact that he could do this, that he couldn’t escape. Aristide’s own government offered elections to the opposition, which I think was a craven act of cowardice. Still, they offered, and the reason the opposition rejected that, even as the US press was reporting that Aristide was so unpopular, is because they knew damn well that Aristide would have won in a landslide, again.

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