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28269: Sprague (News) Part II - Declassifying Canada in Haiti (fwd)
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Declassifying Canada in Haiti: Part II
Did Canada have plans to support another military coup in Haiti?
by Anthony Fenton and Dru Oja Jay
According to classified memos obtained by The Dominion through an
Access to Information Act request, Canadian officials speculated
about working with Haiti's dreaded former military in the weeks
before the coup d'état that removed elected President Aristide and
thousands of elected officials.
Eighteen days before the military intervention, Canadian Ambassador
to Haiti Kenneth Cook wrote of the paramilitary groups that had
entered the country days earlier from the Dominican Republic:
There is clearly a military hand in the planning of current anti-
government insurrectional events but it is very difficult to say
[what] the potential for bringing together a significant force based
on the former armed forces [is]. To date it is not considered likely
but if someone like Senator (former Major) Dany Toussaint with
support of Col. Himmler Rebu were to intervene the scenario would be
The heavily censored memos acquired by The Dominion leave some doubt
as to Cook's intent. In the context of Cook's other comments blaming
Aristide for the crisis, however, the Ambassador seems to be
suggesting that Haiti's former military, led by Dany Toussaint, could
be used to put an end to the crisis. The subsequent (post-coup)
integration of former military personnel and officers into the
Haitian National Police under the oversight of Canada's RCMP lends
further credence to this interpretation.
Variously, Toussaint had been alleged to have involvement in
narcotraficking, ties to the CIA, and a possible role in the murder
of radio journalist Jean Dominique. In the 1980s, he received
training at the Fort Benning, Georgia "School of the Americas." In
2001, then Republican Congressman Porter Goss wrote to Secretary of
State Colin Powell that Toussaint is "credibly linked by a number of
US government agencies to narcotics trafficking in Haiti."
Interviewed two days after the coup against Aristide, Toussaint
referred to paramilitary leader Guy Philippe as "a brave man who has
worked for his country." Phillipe is known for his own ties to narco-
trafficking, his alleged involvement in murders and at least two
previous coup attempts against Aristide, as well as his affinity for
former President Ronald Reagan and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Both Philippe and Toussaint would run for President in 2006,
garnering few votes. Both Toussaint and Himmler Rebu agitated with
the US- and European-funded "Democratic Platform," demanding the
ouster of Aristide.
The former military that Cook refers to is widely acknowledged to be
responsible for massive human rights violations, including murder,
torture, political repression, and overthrowing a previous
democratically elected government. The Haitian military was created
during an American military occupation of Haiti during WWI, and
disbanded by then-President Aristide in 1994.
Again invoking the "responsibility to protect" (R2P, see part I)
theme, Cook describes the situation in Northern Haiti. According to
his intelligence sources, "Cap Haitien has become the scene of much
violence, stores and banks are closed as are gas stations. The city
is for all practical purposes isolated... A solution will have to be
found to avoid a humanitarian crisis." Several paragraphs are then
censored, followed by: "This is a complicating factor in any
consideration of options for a stabilizing police presence here."
Extensive censorship raises as many questions as are addressed by the
documents. 25 days of requested documents--from Feb 20 to March 15--
were simply omitted without explanation.
Cook's references to the use of military force to remove Aristide,
however, fly in the face of the official story. Nine days after
Cook's memo, Canadian ministers Graham and Coderre were telling the
press that Canada was seeking a peaceful settlement to the crisis,
which was largely instigated by Canadian-, US- and European-funded
groups within Haiti. Those countries backed the unelected government
after it was imposed, and avoided acknowledging evidence of
widespread political repression and human rights abuses.
The limited historical perpective available two years after the coup
also raises serious questions about the use of the "responsibility to
protect" doctrine. Rather than avert a crisis, foreign military
intervention in Haiti became the backdrop for a major escalation of
atrocities, with thousands killed, hundreds jailed for their
political views, and thousands more forced into hiding after the coup.