HAITI UNDER THE GUN
by Allan Nairn
the Nation magazine, January 8 / 15, 1996
In the face of rising outrage in Haiti that paramilitaries are
still armed and at large, the U.S. government has again denied
collaborating with the perpetrators, including FRAPH, the hit
squad whose leader, Emmanual Constant, worked for the C.I.A. But
evidence just discovered indicates that, starting in mid-1993,
FRAPH was launched on its reign of terror with secret shipments
of U.S. arms, and that still-active FRAPH members have been used
recently in U.S. occupation operations, sprung from hail with
This information comes from interviews in Haiti and the United
States with military, paramilitary and intelligence officials,
including Green Beret commanders and also from internal documents
from the U.S. and Haitian armies. Pieces of the story also come
from Constant himself, who called me from his Maryland jail cell
last September and again on December 7, shortly before he was
due to be deported to Haiti. Constant, who has said that he started
the group that became FRAPH at the urging of the Defense Intelligence
Agency (D.I.A.) -- an account confirmed last year by a U.S. official
who worked with him -- now says that even after the U.S. occupation
got under way in September 1994, "other people from my organization
were working with the D.I.A.," aiding in operations directed
against "subversive activities." Constant claims that
U.S. forces still use FRAPH members for "crowd control"
and also "to understand the neighborhoods, what Lavalas [the
political movement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide] is doing."
Constant's assertion has been confirmed by U.S. officials involved
in Haiti, who note that U.S. military intelligence and the C.I.A.
are also continuing secret work with FRAPH. Within the first week
of the occupation a C.I.A. contingent arrived and, breaking down
into two-person teams, fanned out across the countryside. The
operatives, on temporary duty from headquarters in Langley, Virginia,
approached Special Forces field units and asked for their help
in identifying Haitians who could be recruited to work secretly
for the C.I.A. Those placed-or continued-on the payroll include
FRAPH leaders and attaches, according to U.S. officials closely
familiar with the operation. When reached for comment, one of
the C.I.A. men from Langley, Ben Stubenberg, would say only that
he was in Haiti "looking at general conditions, political
Senior U.S. officials have also intervened to free FRAPH leaders
from jail after they have been arrested by Haitian authorities
or by field-level U.S. troops. Constant claims that the early,
high-profile arrests of FRAPH men were done by U.S. forces "for
publicity," and that after being held briefly and released,
many of his men were given "a card telling them they were
arrested by mistake"; he said he had one of the cards. Nyll
Calixte, the chief financier for FRAPH in Haiti's northeast sector,
was sprung within a day of his arrest on what the Special Forces
were told was a direct order from Washington, according to U.S.
sources who saw the message traffic. When I asked the former Special
Forces chief for Haiti, Gen. Dick Potter, about Calixte, he said
he didn't recall the case. But when asked about FRAPH and attaches,
Potter remarked that often "people we had picked up and taken
back to [U.S. occupation headquarters in] Port-au-Prince-and they
had been reviewed and questioned and so forth-many times they'd
show up back in the same villages where we'd picked them up."
Asked why this happened, he said "I guess poor evidence,"
but he said that such decisions are made by higher-level U.S.
officials. As to Constant's claim that the D.I.A. was still using
FRAPH, Potter-himself a veteran of operations in Laos and northern
Iraq-said, "Hell, I wouldn't even comment." On C.I.A.
recruitment of FRAPH and attaches, he said, "I think anything's
U.S. Army facilitation of FRAPH-particularly with regard to arms-has
been established U.S. policy. One Green Beret operations chief,
who is still on active duty, says that in early October 1994,
just days after many units had arrived in the rural zones, "we
started getting message traffic saying, 'Come up off the FRAPH."'
His account meshes with that of Col. Mark Boyatt, one of the national
Green Beret commanders, who told me last spring, while he was
still in charge of a Special Forces Group in Haiti, that "when
we first came in we went after the FRAPH real hard"-particularly,
he said, searching FRAPH leaders' homes for hidden weapons-"but
after that we were told to 'back off."' He said the order
came from the Pentagon, down "through the chain of command,"
and that the Special Forces were told to deal with FRAPH as the
"loyal opposition." Colonel Boyatt said he remembered
the "back off" order coming in "mid- to late October,"
but Special Forces documents and interviews with field level commanders
suggest that in fact it may have been earlier, in the first two
weeks of October.
These officers' accounts and the documents suggest that the early
move against FRAPH came not from Washington-level U.S. policy
but from a quick, retaliatory Special Forces response to an October
3, 1994, incident in Les Cayes in which a Green Beret sergeant
was shot and wounded by four Haitian soldiers thought to be linked
to FRAPH. General Potter, then Colonel Boyatt's boss, says one
tenet of the Haiti mission was, "Make sure everybody knows:
'Don't harm a hair on the head of one Special Forces soldier or
we'll have to get rough."' When the soldiers violated this
commandment-creating an environment of potential disrespect for
U.S. authority-Potter says he called in reinforcements and "got
tough," an effort that he says was suspended in ten days,
after "the crisis was over."
When asked about the back-off order described by Colonel Boyatt
and others, General Potter first said, "I don't know if the
order was to 'back off'; I'm not sure that's true." But he
later added that after the shooting crisis was over, "of
course we eased off." As to the weapons confiscation policy,
he said the emphasis was on military caches and big "crew-served
weapons." Also, "if weapons appeared on the street,
they were taken," but "if someone reported so-and-so
was a FRAPH member, and he had a pistol in his house, no."
The whole point of FRAPH, of course, is that it is not a military
fighting force but rather a paramilitary group organized to kill
unarmed civilians. This means that its weapons are small and dispersed-essentially
one per killer-and that, therefore, under occupation policy FRAPH
gunmen remain armed unless they are impolitic enough to parade
their weapons publicly. Indeed, in late September 1994, right
after the U.S. troops arrived, Special Forces teams systematically
sat down with local FRAPH heads and told them (as team leaders
in Hinche, in the Central Plateau, explained it to me) that as
long as they kept their guns out of view they would "get
no trouble" from the Green Berets.
The Green Beret operations chief, who oversaw a vast sector of
the countryside, says, "People would ask, When are you going
to take their weapons away? The answer was, They won't let us.
Well, they [the Haitian people] got sick of waiting for us, and
now they're doing it on their own, and I don't blame them."
The arms shipments so crucial to the launching of FRAPH began
around July 1993, according to a Haitian army officer who helped
arrange the deals. The officer, a longtime U.S. protege whose
walls are hung with diplomas from U.S. military courses (at infantry
school, special training in Texas and, last spring, a six-day
"human rights" course), served as a confidant and arms
procurer for coup leader and police chief Lieut. Col. Michel Francois.
He was among those who kept detailed records on the deals, some
of which he still has. Other papers were apparently seized in
1994 by incoming U.S. troops.
The U.S. shipments originated in Miami and included Colt .38 revolvers,
9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, American made M-3 "grease
gun" machine guns with short, collapsible stocks, Thompson
submachine guns, Smith & Wesson .38 revolvers and fragmentation
and gas grenades. The officer estimates that "five to ten
thousand pieces" came in from Florida, packed in boxes often
marked "Police Material: Do Not Open," and addressed
to officers at the Haitian national palace. Although from October
1993 until September 1994 the U.S. Navy was used to enforce the
embargo on Haiti, the officer says that the FRAPH arms shipments
were never stopped (the Navy confirms that no Haiti-bound weapons
On arrival in Haiti, the weapons were stored at Colonel Francois's
police headquarters, at the airport and in cargo containers, but-the
officer says-not at army bases. Distribution of the guns to FRAPH
and attaches was controlled by Francois and his circle, working
through Constant and the senior civilian leader ship of FRAPH.
The fast influx of pistols, grease guns and hand grenades enabled
FRAPH to metastasize. The officer says that FRAPH was needed to
maintain control because "it was 7,000 of us versus 7 million
civilians." The guns were, in turn, necessary to get FRAPH
out on the streets. The idea was that, suddenly, FRAPH "would
appear with all the gear of power-weapons, communication, intimidation,
etc.," thereby cowing both the still-active popular movement
and the exiled Aristide.
By November 11, 1993, a D.I.A. cable noted, FRAPH had emerged
with sudden strength, its enforcers enjoying "the perception
of power derived from being able to walk the streets of a town
carrying an automatic weapon with total impunity." The cable
(from documents released to the Center for Constitutional Rights
in connection with a lawsuit brought by FRAPH victim Alerte Belance)
also noted that "FRAPH is suspected in the death of two male
Lavalas sympathizers who were executed [and] . . .discovered this
morning shot in me head with their hands tied behind their backs."
These were, of course, just two of the myriad murders, arsons,
rapes and tortures then being attributed-often openly-to Constant's
men in FRAPH. The United States, though, kept on paying Constant,
and the weapons flow increased.
The Haitian officer involved in the shipments says that U.S. authorities
took no steps to stop them, but refuses to discuss the precise
role that the U.S. government played. At the time, Constant, the
FRAPH leader, was working for the C.I.A., as was (as NBC News
first reported) Colonel Francois himself, as well as (according
to U.S. envoy Lawrence Pezzullo) Francois's brother, Evans. Constant
says he was reporting personally to C.I.A. station chief John
Kambourian, who also, according to U.S. and Haitian sources, met
often with Colonel Francois. Gerard Cassis, a Haitian businessman
long close to the C.I.A. (he told of his dealings with three generations
of C.I.A. station chiefs), says Kambourian once assured him "that
he was here in Haiti [in order] forAristide never to come back."
Constant states, "People say the C.I.A. was opposed to Clinton,
but I don't think so. Clinton knew everything concerning me."
The U.S. policy was to return Aristide but to derail his populist
program. Backing FRAPH served that agenda as well as that of the
"no return" forces. When I reached Kambourian-who is
now back at C.I.A. headquarters-and asked him about the arms shipments,
he shouted, "You know the drill, talk to Public Affairs,"
and hung up.
The Haitian officer says that he personally had a U.S. contact
who worked at the time out of the C.I.A.'s Jamaica station. The
officer says that Jamaica was one of the FRAPH arms transit points,
as were the Caicos Islands and Santo Domingo (from which C.I.A.
asset Evans Francois handled shipping and finances for his brother).
He adds that a separate stream of FRAPH arms roughly as large
as that shipped out of Miami originated in Brazil and included
American M-16A1 rifles, Motorola walkie talkies, Colt .45s and
.38s, Uzi submachine guns and Taurus 9-millimeter pistols. In
our interviews Constant maintained the fiction that FRAPH never
had any arms, but said that the attaches, closely linked to FRAPH,
got theirs-legally, he claimed-from Miami and New York. Asked
whether the C.I.A. knew of these weapons coming in, Constant said,
"Oh, definitely, because they knew the procedure."
Constant says that the D.I.A.'s original idea for a group like
FRAPH was to form an organization "that could balance the
Aristide movement" and do "intelligence" work against
it. In practice, with its new U.S. arms, FRAPH did this through
what one D.I.A. cable called the use of "controlled violence."
A December 7, 1993, D.I.A. analysis forwarded to the Pentagon,
the C.I.A., the White House, the State Department and U.S. military
bases worldwide made excited mention of the impact of FRAPH: "People
are attracted to the new power element in town and want to be
part of it. Even disappointed Lavalasians have been reported to
be joining because they recognize that this emerging influence
is not loth [sic] to use violence against all those who oppose
it and they cannot afford not to be part of it."
This useful fact was noted in Washington by Clinton's Haiti team.
Lawrence Pezzullo told me that the Administration used FRAPH's
surge to pressure Aristide, then living in Washington exile and
balking at some White House demands. Pezzullo, who says he was
unaware of FRAPH's U.S. intelligence ties, stated, "We said
[to Aristide], The only people seen operating politically now
are the FRAPHistas and that we [the United States and Aristide]
had to get another force with the private sector to fill that
gap, otherwise these people [FRAPH] will be running around as
the only game in town."
Pezzullo's account meshes closely with Constant's claim that the
United States was saying to Aristide: "Look, Toto Constant
is taking over your political clientele.... So if you don't give
up to the agreement [we want], look what's going to happen to
you, because Toto Constant is taking over the political scene."
Constant cites a series of meetings in Washington in February
1994 in which parliamentary deputies who belonged to FRAPH-brought
up by the White House and the State Department-said that U.S.
officials were pressing this argument on Aristide. (Aristide advisers
confirm Constant's version of the meetings.)
With his supporters being slaughtered by FRAPH and the army, Aristide
indeed backed off. Although Aristide continued to haggle with
the White House on a number of political points, he agreed to
accept a U.S. occupation (something he had long opposed), and
in August 1994, he endorsed a structural adjustment program (drafted
by the World Bank, the l.M.F. and U.S.A.I.D., and backed by the
most pro-corporate members of his own government team) that represented
a harsh abandonment of the popular movement's redistributionist
An interesting perspective on the U.S. use of paramilitaries in
Haiti is offered by Jerry Mourra, a longtime aide to and gun smith
for Michel Francois (a September 30, 1994, D.I.A. report claimed
that Mourra had planned to transfer some arms to FRAPH). Mourra
was jailed for five months by the U.S. occupation force. His case
got considerable play as a purported example of a U.S. drive to
break the backs of those whom President Clinton called Haiti's
"armed thugs." But Mourra now explains that his arrest
was merely an interruption of a long relationship with "good
friends" from Washington. He tells of going fishing and hunting
in the 1980s with C.I.A. men from the embassy, and of being introduced
to Kambourian in mid-1994. Mourra says that in early 1995 he was
"very impressed," while still in U.S. detention, to
receive a visit "straight from Washington" from U.S.
Gen. John Sheehan (he says that Sheehan "was a nice guy"
but "I can't tell you what he told me"). Mourra's problem
with the U.S. authorities arose when he let his anger at Aristide's
return spill over into musings on "a dream" of shooting
down U.S. helicopters. But since the Sheehan visit and his subsequent
release, Mourra says he has resumed close links with U.S. military
intelligence. On December 13, he told me that his U.S. contacts
had been active up until "last week, the week before."
He said he dealt constantly with a ten-person team; he gave the
name of its chief and an internal number at Fort Bragg (an answering
machine gives a tone but has no message). Mourra now says Haiti
needs the U.S. forces to control the "low class." "They
have to stay. I think they will be here for thirty years."