The release of secret U.S. Embassy cables has provoked a
maelstrom in Haitian politics, threatening the approval of a
prime minister-designate, damaging the career of a leading
right-wing politician, and throwing Haiti’s tiny and ultra-rich
elite into a paroxysm of public mea culpas.
“So it is with humility
and simplicity devoid of artifice that I want to offer you my
sincerest apologies,” wrote Fritz Mevs, the leader of one
of Haiti’s richest families, in an open letter to Senator Youri
Latortue, one of Haiti’s most powerful right-wing politicians
and a key ally of new Haitian President Michel Martelly.
“I recognize in
you the qualities of a fervent patriot, a tireless servant of
your country's interests. I stand ready to make honorable amends
by publicly correcting any damage to your reputation,” he
Mevs was walking back
charges he made in a May 2005 meeting with former U.S.
Ambassador James Foley that Senator Latortue was part of a “cabal”
of business and political elites that controlled a network of
dirty cops and gangs engaged in narco-trafficking and
kidnapping, generating political violence and instability.
Mevs’ apology came the same
week that a further batch of State Department cables released by
the weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté described Youri Latortue as a
“mafia boss,” “drug dealer” and the “the most
brazenly corrupt of leading Haitian politicians.”
Latortue denies the
allegations and has threatened a lawsuit against Haïti
approval for President Michel Martelly’s pick for prime
minister, Bernard Gousse, took a major blow with the publication
of secret U.S. Embassy reports that he was a “complete
failure both on the security and justice fronts” when he
served as Justice Minister under the de
facto coup government that followed the overthrow of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.
During his tenure, Gousse
presided over repeated police and paramilitary assaults on
suspected pro-Aristide neighborhoods and supporters, killing and
jailing thousands of people.
The UN occupation chief at
that time, Juan Gabriel Valdès, felt that “replacing Gousse
would be a good thing for both justice and security in Haiti,”
reported Ambassador Foley in a May 2005 cable.
“Gousse has been
the strongest single force behind the persecution of political
prisoners in Haiti,” said the Brian Concannon, director of
the Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH) in Haiti.
When former dictator
Jean-Claude Duvalier, currently under investigation and house
arrest, returned to Haiti in January this year, Gousse argued
against his prosecution in an op-ed for the Haitian daily
newspaper Le Nouvelliste. As Justice Minister, Gousse
commended right-wing death-squad leader and U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA) asset Louis Jodel Chamblain for his “great
service to the nation” and suggested he could be pardoned.
“As an official in
2004 and more recently as an independent lawyer, Gousse has
shown a troubling disregard for Haiti's obligation to prosecute
human rights crimes,” Amanda Klasing, an expert on Haiti for
Human Rights Watch, told Haïti Liberté.
Already, 16 of 30 Haitian
Senators have written to President Martelly asking for him to
rescind the nomination. The Senators said in a resolution that
Gousse was unacceptable for the “repression, arbitrary
arrests and killings in the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince”
that were carried out under his auspices in 2004 and 2005.
In early June, Haïti
Liberté began releasing articles based on the trove of
1,918 secret U.S. Embassy cables that WikiLeaks made available
to the Haitian weekly newspaper.
The revelations over the
last month have focused on Washington’s dominant role in
Haitian political and economic life, including efforts by the
U.S. Embassy to scuttle a preferential oil deal with Venezuela
and to block a minimum wage increase.
The cables also show how
the U.S., UN and E.U. moved ahead with fraudulent presidential
and parliamentary election process because they had “too much
invested” in Haiti The secret cables showed that Washington
sought the cover of elections to maintain international support
for the seven-year-old military occupation of Haiti by 9,000
Brazilian-led U.N. troops.
The discredited election
process resulted in the election of neo-Duvalierist Michel
Martelly, who assumed the presidency in May of this year.
In a May 2005 cable,
Ambassador Foley reported on efforts by the small Haitian elite
to turn the Haitian National Police (HNP) into their own private
army by arming and supplying the fledgling force.
Haiti’s private sector
elite has been a key U.S. ally in promoting Washington’s agenda
in the country, from free-trade and privatization of state
enterprises to twice ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide followed by
U.S. and U.N. military occupations.
Haitian businessman Fritz
Mevs was one of the main sources for the “private army”
Mevs told the Embassy
that the president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, Reginald
Boulos, had "distributed arms to the police and had called on
others to do so in order to provide cover to his own actions."
Boulos currently sits on the board of President Bill Clinton's
Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which controls the
spending of billions donated to rebuild Haiti after the January
12, 2010 quake.
Mevs told Ambassador
Foley that “Haiti's real enemy and the true source of
insecurity [was] a small nexus of drug-dealers and political
insiders that control a network of dirty cops and gangs that not
only were responsible for committing the kidnappings and
murders, but were also frustrating the efforts of well-meaning
government officials and the international community to confront
At the center of this
cabal, according to Mevs, was prominent attorney Gary Lissade,
formerly a lead counsel for the military government of Gen.
Raoul Cedras in the early 1990s. Today, Lissade sits, alongside
Reginald Boulos, on the board of the Clinton co-chaired IHRC.
Foley wrote that although
his Embassy “cannot confirm whether the alleged cabal of
political insiders allied with South American narco-traffickers
is controlling the gangs, we have seen indications of alliances
between drug dealers, criminal gangs and political forces that
could threaten to make just such a scenario possible via the
election of narco-funded politicians.”
observers fear that this may be the situation in Haiti today.
The publication of the
cable sparked an extraordinary second mea culpa signed by the
other brothers of the Mevs family. Published in Le
Nouvelliste the same day as Fritz Mevs’ letter, the second
letter, written ostensibly by family spokesperson Gregory Mevs,
said the family makes “a categorical and formal denial of the
allegations made in the said article” and “deplores any
infringement on the integrity and honor of all individuals
directly or indirectly implicated in this article.”
The letter then went
on to praise the individuals that had been named by Fritz Mevs
as narco-traffickers and kidnappers in Foley’s May 2005 cable.
Latortue is an honorable man and committed to the advancement of
the country. Known for his open-mindedness and vision, his
commitment alongside the Haitian people is recognized by all. He
is considered one of the most brilliant men of his generation,”
said the letter.
“Gary Lissade is one of
the best known lawyers in Haiti, enjoying an impeccable
reputation. He has engaged himself many times during his career
in various initiatives for the good of the community. He is the
Mevs family lawyer for over 25 years and continues to be so at
this time,” added the letter.
Boulos is an entrepreneur and personal friend of the family.
Known for his civic involvement for the private sector,
concerned with social and civic responsibilities, he enjoys a
reputation as being an honest and dynamic businessman,” said
Meanwhile, Michel Brunache,
former de facto President Boniface Alexandre’s chief of staff,
also charged by Fritz Mevs as being a “cabal” member “served
the country with honor, devotion and dignity.”
apologies and latest revelations have lit up Haitian radio
stations and the blogosphere. Joe Emersberger, one of the
editors of the website HaitiAnalysis.com, summed up the episode:
“The letter by Fritz Mevs to Youri Latortue reads like a
fear-ridden apology to Don Corleone.”