Sunday, January 15, 2017
HaitiFlashback: The Theater of Coup Dramatis Personae: Who is Guy Philippe?
The Theater of Coup
Dramatis Personae: Who is Guy Philippe?
by Gibert Wesley Purdy
Thanks to CatalyzerJournal.com for this article
Ever since a small rebel force appeared from across the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic and took the city of Gonaives, the members of the various American media have been asking the question "Who is Guy Philippe?" Philippe is presented as the leader of the rebels. As they have taken one town after another, and turned their attention toward Port Au Prince, the capitol city of Haiti, he has held press conferences, acting as the porte-parole (spokesperson) for the group. He has proved surprisingly deft at both aspects of his dual role.
Like so many adventurers on the Haitian political scene he has become known, to Haiti insiders, for a patchwork of activities - the most recent being the present coup. Like so many, his allegiances are unclear from one day to the next. Having begun in the ranks of the Haitian army (the FAD'H), his work has been mostly for the right-wing of the political spectrum. The FAD'H's raison d'être was to enforce the will of the tiny elite of wealthy Haitians who ruled the country.
To his credit, it does not appear that he was ever a member of the infamous Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). In an attempt to prevent any return to a popular government, after the first successful coup of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991, FRAPH was formed. During the presidency of Rauol Cedras, from 1991 to 1994, thousands were murdered by the organization. Sadly, the leadership of FRAPH had a particularly close relationship with U. S. Intelligence, which had infiltrated it, in its early stages, at the cost of facilitating the efforts of an organization it knew to be a right-wing death squad.
When the army was disbanded, upon the return of Aristide to office, in 1994, Philippe was made the chief-of-police of the Delmas section of Port-Au-Prince. It is unclear, by whose influence the appointment was accomplished. It is widely reported that he had been flown to Ecuador, after the first Aristide coup, in 1991, where he was trained by U. S. Intelligence Special Forces, and that U. S. officials recommended him for the position. During the period of time that he is alleged to have received the training, he met and married Nathalie Philippe, a United States citizen, in Ecuador.
He is alleged to have been brutal in his effort to police the Delmas slums. The claim does not come to much by itself. Haiti is a violent country. The good guys only tend to be less brutal than the bad. He was later made assistant-chief of Cap Hatien: a key port city in the north of the country.
It was late in the year 2000 that Guy Philippe embarked upon the path that would make him a well-known figure on the Haitian political scene. Haitian authorities discovered a group of ex-military officers in the midst of planning a coup. Many among the group were arrested. Among the members of the coup that managed to escape was the assistant chief of police Guy Philippe. He probably escaped over the border into the Dominican Republic where he has a brother and where the Haitian opposition group Democratic Convergence maintains a Dominican branch office.
Philippe was back in the news late the next year. On December 17th, 2001, shots were fired into the presidential palace of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Security forces fired back and the perpetrators scattered. Neither President Aristide nor his family were harmed.
One of the perpetrators, Pierre Richardson, an ex-sergeant in the Haitian army, was captured as he tried to escape by car into the Dominican Republic. Under interrogation, he named his co-conspirators in what he himself admitted had been an attempted coup. Among the names he mentioned was that of Philippe. Also implicated, by Richardson, were: Antoine Saati, a millionaire U. S. citizen of Haitian descent; Albert Dorelien, at whose house the conspirators had allegedly gathered before the incident, and whose brother, Carl, a particularly virulent ex-member of FRAPH, was in hiding in the United States; a number of recently fired Haitian police chiefs; the U. S. military attaché in Haiti, Major Douyon; and the U. S. Chargé d'Affaires, Leslie Alexander. Richardson, Saati and a Col. Guy Francois were imprisoned awaiting trial. Warrants were issued for the other alleged participants not associated with the U. S. Embassy.
Antoine "Tony" Saati owns a candy manufacturing business headquartered in Miami, Florida. The U. S. Embassy, in Haiti, replied to his sister, Gina's, frantic calls with assurances that they would quietly work to have him released. They advised her not to speak with the media. After three weeks without results, she went public saying that Saati had been beaten and given cleaning fluid to drink. He was innocent, she asserted, and sure to die soon if not released to the U. S. authorities. Saati was free and back in Miami in a matter of days but Gina's impatience meant the story had made the transition from Haitian French to American English.
What didn't make it into the American press was the fact that Antoine is the brother of George Saati, the co-founder of the extreme right-wing Haitian party Movement for National Unity , known by its acronym MOUN, which is closely allied with the Democratic Convergence and the Group of 184 . George Saati also owns the Haitian manufacturing concern Simi Global Corporation and is wealthy in his own right. Antoine explained his arrest as a vendetta instigated by one Eddy Deeb against whom his brother was then taking civil action in the Haitian courts. It turns out that getting to know Guy Philippe will properly involve cameo appearances by many such figures as Antoine and George Saati.
The Democratic Convergence , the Group of 184 , and MOUN, for all intents and purposes, make up the opposition to popular government in Haiti. Their respective leaders - Evans Paul, Andre Apaid and George Saati - are the leadership of the opposition, with Apaid, an American citizen of Haitian descent, clearly having gained precedence over the others. These are each umbrella organizations which claim the membership of scores of Haitian non-government organizations (NGOs).
While some of the organizations under their umbrellas legitimately exist most are little more than registered names under which the opposition in the country can do business. The lists of such organizations under these umbrellas are intended to impress the uninitiated with the upswell of opposition, while, in fact, all of them taken together represent only a tiny minority of the population: the wealthy elites and their paid retinues, members of the leadership of the disbanded army, some few legitimate groups disaffected from Aristides Fanmil Lavalas party. Perhaps more to the point, they serve as entities by which U. S. taxpayers' money can be funneled to the political machine of the wealthy elite of Haiti via the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute.
"The Opposition" as they have recently been called in the American press, is closely advised by the International Republican Institute, in the United States. The IRI is chaired by Senator John McKain and is largely managed by high-level neo-conservative Republicans, many actively serving in the Congress of the United States. It is a private think tank that receives its funding from the U. S. taxpayer via the National Endowment for Democracy. The de facto executive committee of "The Opposition" is the Haiti Democracy Project, also an American NGO largely managed by high-level neo-conservative Republicans
Albert Dorelien's brother, Carl, was living in Port St. Lucie, Florida, at the time of the December 17th coup attempt. Carl, a colonel in the Haitian military, had been a participant in the first coup against Aristide in 1991, and a member of the Haitian team that negotiated the agreement, with Jimmy Carter and General Colin Powell, during the Clinton Administration, to restore Aristide to the presidency. In between, he was a member of the senior leadership of FRAPH. In 1995 he was exiled, by Aristide, to Spain. Shortly thereafter, he was openly living the United States by virtue of a visa he claimed, in an interview with the Boston Globe, to have received, before departing Haiti, from a Lt. Col. Steven Lovasz of the U. S. Army.
In June of 1997, while living in Port St. Lucie, Carl Dorelien was convicted, in absentia, of crimes against humanity perpetrated under his FRAPH command. He was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. On June 28, 1997, he held one of two winning tickets for the Florida Lottery drawing, at which time he began to receive installments of $159,000 per year for 20 years. Florida's Haitian community objected to a convicted violator of human rights in Haiti receiving the lottery prize. The Florida Lottery Commission replied that it was simply its job to disburse the money to the winners. The U. S. Government was silent on the matter.
Not long after the December 17 coup attempt, he was arrested for having overstayed his visa, and became an inmate at the Krome Detention Center, in Miami. On January 28, 2003, after an extended court process, during which he sent letters to John Ashcroft, and other key government officials, claiming, among other things, that he had done work for U. S. Intelligence, he was repatriated to Haiti, and incarcerated in the National Prison, in Port Au Prince. Dorelien had gone public, in an attempt to leverage his release from Krome, posting the letters and other "supporting documents" on an Internet site. The site has since been stripped, along with its cache pages.
The day after Guy Philippe's rebels released the "political prisoners" from the National Prison, American reporter Kevin Pina reported, to the Radio Pacifica program Flashpoints, that he had observed Carl Dorelien "eating a cheese and ham omelet [on the patio of] the Hotel Montana" in Port Au Prince.
As for Philippe himself, he arrived by commercial airline in Quito, Ecuador, on December 18th, after a stopover in Panama. At 2:40 p.m., on December 25, he and his wife arrived by commercial airline in Santo Domingo, capitol city of the Dominican Republic. He was immediately recognized and his presence reported to the authorities. In a highly unusual move, General Fernando Cruz Mendez, director of the Dominican Republic's National Investigative unit, chose to proceed to the airport to arrest Philippe personally. The prisoner mysteriously escaped immediately after being taken into custody by Mendez.
President Hipolito Mejias, of the Dominican Republic, declared that the country would be a laughing stock if it did not recover Philippe. A manhunt was launched. He was captured, again, on the 27th, "at the house of a friend," in the town of Bonao, about 40 miles north of the capitol. There being no extradition treaty between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, he was allowed to remain at large until arrangements could be made to extradite him to Ecuador or Panama. In the end, he remained free inside the Dominican Republic, reportedly living in posh hotels and eating in the finest restaurants although he had no ascertainable means of support.
On January 12, 2002, President Aristide granted an interview to the Listin Diario, a Dominican newspaper. In it he confirmed a list of the persons then in the Dominican Republic that Haiti wished extradited for trial in the matter of the December 17 coup attempt. The list includes: Guy Philippe; Joseph Bagidi, an ex-police chief; Erar Abraham Goulos; George Saati, the brother of Antoine Saati; Guy Francois, now referred to as a Haitian businessman living in Santiago, Chile; and Paul Arcelen, the representative of the Democratic Convergence in the Dominican Republic.
Throughout 2002 there seems to have been little opportunity for adventurers of the armed sort and little is known about the activities of Philippe. The Opposition had created several new front groups to be self-appointed "official observers" of the 2000 election and had all too predictably discovered a range of irregularities. Through their American handlers they had managed to have their "findings" put before the Organization of American States (OAS). The matter was being hashed out during 2002 and a strategy being unfolded.
The Opposition had been assisted by their American handlers in assembling a media machine, as well. Talk radio hosts, newspapers and web-sites had emblazoned the news that "official observers" had declared the elections corrupt and would continue to repeat the story until the coup of February 2004. Members of the IRI and the HDP, and unaffiliated journalists simply too lazy to ascertain the truth of the matter, transferred the claims into the U. S. media as established fact. The Rush Limbaugh school of journalism was actively molding American public opinion in preparation for the time it would be called upon to welcome the ouster of the thug and tyrant Aristide.
The OAS sought to mediate - its point man being U.S. Assistant Secretary General, Luigi Einaudi - and adopted a resolution in which a Provisional Electoral Council was established, upon which both the massively popular government and the tiny combined opposition would serve. Both would have to sign-off in order for elections to proceed. From that point forward, The Opposition refused to sign-off on any election so long as Aristide remained president. At the time of the February 2004 coup, there were many elective offices vacant in the country. Aristide was blamed personally for the resulting failures of government services, for the failure to hold elections and for trying to rule as a dictator. The U.S. media dutifully reported the allegations without providing context.
On May 7, 2003, the hydro-power plant at Peligre, in Haiti's Central Plateau region, was attacked. Two power plant operators were killed and the plant set on fire. The city of Port Au Prince and much of the rest of the country lost power. The perpetrators escaped across the plateau and the Dominican border, wounding two police officers during the ensuing chase. The plateau had recently become a violent place. The attacks always ended in a race to the Dominican border.
As it turns out, the day before, on May 6, Guy Philippe and a group of Haitians, were arrested in the Dominican town of Dajabon, just over the border from the Central Plateau region. The group included: Paul Arcelin, the representative of the Democratic Convergence in the Dominican Republic; Bonivel Alcegard, a Port Au Prince banker; Presler Toussaint, an ex-inspecteur at the Haitian police academy; and Hans Jermain, an ex-member of the Haitian military. The group was reportedly arrested on suspicion of plotting against the Haitian government. They were reportedly held overnight, while the Peligre incident occurred, and were released the next morning for lack of evidence. Philippe told the press that they had merely met for an innocent reunion of old friends.
On May 9, 2003, an American missionary, James Glenn White, was arrested in Gonaives. According to the Haitian spokesman, Mario Dupuy, he was charged with receiving a shipment of assault rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition and other military equipment. According to White, he was arrested for receiving shipment of an AR-15 sport rifle, and a set of fatigues reading "God's Army," as a favor to a friend. According to everyone, the items arrived packaged inside a refrigerator. American Christians of every persuasion prayed for White's liberation from the horrifying conditions of the prison of that tyrant Aristide. White was fined $1000 and deported.
Throughout the summer, some 25 to 50 people would be killed in attacks in the Central Plateau region. On July 25, a delegation from the Haitian Interior Ministry attended a ceremony near the Dominican border. The delegation was ambushed as it left to return to Port Au Prince. Four were killed and one seriously wounded, according to the Associated Press. On July 31, Victor Beniot and Paul Denis, spokesman, and leaders, of the Democratic Convergence , announced that "All Convergence members and supporters must rally to overthrow the constitutional authorities."
In the months that followed, The Opposition organized protest marches in every corner of the country. The marches were designed to be a provocative as possible. Counter marchers and/or bystanders were taunted - often by acts of violence. When the police arrived to intervene, the Opposition media machine announced that Aristide had brutally put down demonstrations against his government. It was yet another indication that he had become a dictator. For all of its efforts, however, The Opposition still could not begin to approach Aristide's popularity with the electorate.
In early February, another demonstration was organized in Gonaives. It was quite small and led by a former FRAPH enforcer. A battle ensued. Blood was shed. On February 5, Guy Philippe arrived with a band of some 300 "patriots," armed with M-16s and grenade launchers, to restore the peace. By some reports, they arrived in light-armored personnel carriers and wearing spiffy new fatigues. Some wore body armor. After "liberating" Gonaives from that tyrant Aristide, they went on to "liberate" the north of the country.
President Aristide appealed to the U.S. government and the international community to come to the rescue of the constitutional government of Haiti. Aristide having, by all accounts, descended to a thug and a tyrant, the Bush administration could find no enthusiasm for dispatching military aid. They did, however, provide a flight out of the country and the hemisphere. Once Aristide was gone, U.S. troops were sent to keep the peace and to protect American interests. Philippe and his men proceeded to Port Au Prince where they spent several "free days" terrorizing and killing members and supporters of Aristides Fanmil Lavalas party and destroying their resources.
Gilbert Wesley Purdy's work in poetry, prose and translation, has appeared in many journals, paper and electronic, including: Jacket Magazine (Australia); Poetry International (San Diego State University); Grand Street; SLANT (University of Central Arkansas); Orbis (UK); XS; Eclectica; and The Danforth Review (Can.). His work in journalism has appeared in The Schenectady Gazette, The Source (Albany, N.Y.) and the Eye on Saratoga. Query to firstname.lastname@example.org.