From the Archives

Haiti Becomes the Second Cuba

(The Inside Story: World Report v1:4, November 1994)

As World Report warned might happen (Vol. 1, No. 1 & 2), the United States has now smashed the major institutions of Haitian society and handed over power to Jean-Bertrande Aristide. The underground network of neighborhood committees, labor unions, and Liberation Theology organizations controlled by the United Party of Haitian Communists (PUCH) is now assuming control of daily life, even as the openly Marxist-Leninist Aristide and his Cuban-trained Lavala terrorists are capturing the government.

The transition began with the landing of 20,000 United States soldiers in Haiti, the first contingent arriving on September 19 in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The unwitting soldiers, acting on President Clinton’s orders, believed they would be cooperating with, not attacking, the Haitian government.

But the Communists had different ideas. Aristide began demanding the immediate disarmament of the Haitian police and military, knowing full well these forces could stop his takeover again.1 To provide a catalyst, the Lavalas moved into action.

Lavalas do not wear uniforms, so the US soldiers had no way of knowing that the thousands of Haitians who appeared for the television news cameras were not ordinary citizens. Nervous Haitian police, sensing an imminent riot or terrorist attack, moved in to keep the crowds at bay. The well-trained mobs tried to provoke the police, singing “We are Lavalas.” As one news account described it, “the presence of U.S. troops clearly emboldened the demonstrators to approach the police and shout insults.”

Haitian police fired guns into the air, trying to prevent the mobs from attacking the US soldiers. The Lavala mobs then began “pelting police with rocks, bottles and coconuts.” Outnumbered and on the verge of having to retreat, the police finally used clubs and batons to beat back the unruly mobs. One man was killed in the clash; now the Lavalas could turn this into a propaganda coup. As the police tried to clear the way for an ambulance, the mobs attacked “with a hail of stones and bottles,” forcing the medical workers temporarily to leave the body in the streets. The whole event provided spectacular film footage for American audiences, and our news media labeled the episode as an attack by brutal Haitian police on innocent citizens. US troops, unaware of the choreographed riot, also believed they had witnessed an example of police brutality.2

Within days, therefore, US soldiers were operating under new orders: dismantle the Haitian security forces. On September 25, a confrontation between US Marines and Haitian police in the city of Cap-Haitien led to a firefight, killing 10 police. Lavala mobs, constantly following the US forces around, took advantage of the police retreat. The rampaging mobs seized the police buildings, looting them of guns and ammunition. Only some weapons were turned over to the Marines; the rest of the arsenal disappeared with the Lavalas.3

The next day, US forces occupied the police buildings in Port-au-Prince and Petionville. Thousands of ecstatic Lavalas were in tow, boldly waving pictures of Aristide and trying to provoke the helpless police officers with insults.4

By the time US soldiers seized the Haitian parliament and the Port-au-Prince city hall on the 27th, the volatile combination of newly armed Lavala terrorists and a disintegrated police force had created a state of virtual anarchy. Lavalas gathered by the thousands to loot warehouses in several cities, seizing hundreds of tons of valuable food supplies. Trying to restore partial order, members of the paramilitary Front for the Advance and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) confronted some of the mobs. But the Lavalas counterattacked and beat one FRAPH member to death with sticks and rocks, then found another who had infiltrated one of the mobs. “Witnesses said the crowd went after him and crushed his head with a cement block after he pulled a pistol,” said one news report.5

Rather than helping FRAPH end the violence, US forces were given orders to neutralize the Haitian military and FRAPH. Indeed, US officers ordered the remaining fragments of Haitian police not to stop the looting. Then, on October 1 and 2, US troops took over Haiti’s only naval base, followed by searching for and confiscating privately-owned guns. Several top officers in the Haitian militia were even arrested.6

Events came to a head on October 3. US forces seized FRAPH headquarters in both Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, and over 100 FRAPH members were arrested. When a contingent of Haitian police arrived to help defend FRAPH, they found themselves also arrested, handcuffed, and even “gagged with tape” to prevent them from speaking. Once again, Lavala mobs had accompanied the US troops, and were unleashed by the officers to loot and destroy the FRAPH buildings. During the hour the US forces allowed the mobs to wreak havoc, the Lavalas had access to FRAPH’s computers — and presumably its personnel and intelligence files.7

If any situation was ripe for sparking war, this was it. With growing anarchy in the streets and the headquarters destroyed, thousands of FRAPH members at large must have been on the verge of fighting for their country. But at precisely the point of greatest tension, the official head of FRAPH, Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, delivered a short speech in front of the Presidential Palace, ordering all FRAPH members to lay down their guns, surrender, and cooperate with Aristide. Constant was protected by US soldiers, and did not even bother translating into native Creole the speech written for him in English by officials at the US embassy.8

The shocking turnabout had its desired effect; FRAPH members lost all morale. Constant had established his reputation as a supposed anti-Communist several months earlier, when he had announced that FRAPH would unflinchingly fight any US invasion of Haiti. The explanation for his odd change of heart emerged two days after his speech, when it became public knowledge that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had secretly hired Constant since late 1991, right after Aristide had been overthrown. Constant had given the CIA significant intelligence on FRAPH and other anti-Communists in Haiti — apparently the reason US forces could move so swiftly and effectively against them later. High-level sources insist that Constant was only one of many spies the CIA recruited in the anti-Communist Haitian security forces, all of them helping sabotage the resistance.9 The CIA’s role in helping Aristide and his fellow Communists is not surprising, given the evidence of Soviet penetration of the agency [see “Soviet Moles in the CIA,” this issue — Eds.]

Aristide was placed back in power as Haiti’s President on October 15. He has already purged many anti-Communists from key positions, replacing them with loyal comrades of his own. He is preparing to shrink the Haitian military to one-fifth its former size, while creating a much larger “police force” comprised of his Lavalas. To give himself time to develop an effective police state, Aristide has also announced that elections will be delayed until at least March of next year — and possibly much later.10

Although the news media has become strangely quiet since Aristide returned to power, watch for reports of accelerated violence as the Lavalas and the Communist infrastructure begin to consolidate their control, especially after US forces withdraw. Also keep an eye out for Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul, restored to office by US forces; he has been hinted as a possible successor to Aristide. On September 29, he addressed a crowd of loyal Lavalas celebrating his comeback, saying “Stand up! Get up! The rooster is singing.”11

The rooster is the symbol of the Lavalas.


1. Greenhouse, S., NY Times, “Aristide appeals to U.S. to disarm Haiti’s troops,” SF Chronicle, 9-21-94, pp. A1, A15.

2. Adams, D., “Haitian police go on rampage,” SF Chronicle, 9-21-94, pp. A1, A15.

3. “Chaos in Haitian city — police in hiding, Marines in control,” SF Chronicle, 9-26-94, pp. A1, A13.

4. Farah, D., Washington Post, “MPs seize former torture quarters,” SF Chronicle, 9-27-94, pp. A1, A13.

5. Farah, D., Washington Post, “GIs take over Haiti parliament and city hall,” SF Chronicle, 9-28-94, pp. A1, A13; Farah, D., “Haiti on knife’s edge,” Washington Post, 10-1-94, p. A1; Freed, K. & Fineman, M., LA Times, “Junta thugs lash out in Haiti,” SF Chronicle, 10-1-94, pp. A1, A17.

6. Graham, B., “U.S. troops to disarm Haitians,” Washington Post, 10-2-94, p. A1; Booth, W. & Farah, D., “U.S. raids Haiti firms for weapons,” Washington Post, 10-3-94, p. A1.

7. Farah, D., “GIs arrest members of notorious Haitian militia,” Washington Post, 10-4-94, p. A1.

8. Booth, W. & Farah, D., “Feared police chief quits, flees,” Washington Post, 10-5-94, p. A1.

9. Smith, R.J., “Haitian paramilitary chief spied for CIA, sources say,” Washington Post, 10-7-94, p. A1; Smith, R.J., “CIA informer in Haiti had ‘2 lives’,” Washington Post, 10-8-94, p. A8.

10. Downie, A., Reuters, “Aristide picks fire chief to head army,” SF Chronicle, 11-18-94, p. A14; Reuters, “Haiti postpones elections until March — and perhaps later,” SF Chronicle, 11-30-94, p. A16; Norton, M., Associated Press, “Haiti removes police from army control,” SF Chronicle, 12-3-94, p. A12.

11. Farah, D. & Booth, W., Washington Post, “Deadly grenade attack in Haiti,” SF Chronicle, 9-30-94, pp. A1, A19.