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Date d'inscription : 21/08/2006
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De Facto Prime Minister’s Nephew and Security Chief Running Guns and Drugs
Youri Latortue, the security chief of the National Palace and de facto Prime Minister Gérard Latortue’s nephew, has been importing weapons into Haiti in violation of a 13-year U.S. arms embargo against the country, according to Canadian journalist Anthony Fenton interviewed April 18 on Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints program (www.flashpoints.net/index.html#2005-04-18).
A Florida-based Haitian arms dealer who does business with Youri Latortue also told Fenton that the security chief is “one of the major narco-king pins of Haiti right now,” Fenton told Flashpoints.
The arms dealer is Joel Deeb, a Haitian-American weapons dealer based in Florida’s Broward county who was arrested in 1991 by the Haitian government and accused of illegally importing weapons into Haiti. Deeb told Fenton, as well as the British daily The Independent, that Youri Latortue had recently ordered $500,000 worth of guns from him.
“I was given half a million dollars in the form of a letter of credit,” Deeb told The Independent. “But there is an embargo. There has not been any deal yet. The money is frozen. Everybody is saying I have done something with the money, but it is still there.”
Although Deeb claims that his deal with Latortue is on ice, about $7 million worth of weapons have been delivered to Haiti in the past year through unofficial channels, but with Washington’s knowledge, according to Robert Muggah, author of a recent independent study made by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey (www.smallarmssurvey.org).
“According to informants on the ground, US arms shipments to Haiti have resumed,” Muggah writes. “Recent evidence indicates that a shipment of weapons - including 3,635 M14 rifles, 1,100 Mini Galils, several thousand assorted 0.38 cals, 3,700 MP5s, and approximately one million assorted rounds of ammunition (valued at USD 6.95 million) - were allegedly transferred to Haiti for probable sale to the HNP [Haitian National Police] by the US in November 2004.”
Under its last constitutional government (Feb. 2001 - Feb. 2004), Haiti imported less than 200 guns per year. But following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, arms imports leapt to almost 10,000 guns for the year, a 50-fold increase, Muggah’s statistics show.
“The US is believed to have channeled support to various anti-Lavalas opposition parties since the re-election of President Aristide in 2001,” he writes. “The approach has combined both financial and covert military assistance.”
But since Aristide’s removal, “legal transfers from the US resumed,” Muggah notes.
Another large and illegal shipment of arms was revealed by journalist Kevin Pina on April 8 Flashpoints program. “Almost six months ago, there was a cheque for $1 million that was cut from the Prime Minister's office, that brokered one of the first shipments of arms that went into Haiti,” Pina said. “The arms shipment was [allegedly] brokered by a figure associated with the Republican Party in Florida, a Haitian-American woman named Lucy Orlando. Apparently, one of the other brokers is a man named Joel Deeb.” Orlando and Deeb have both denied any involvement in the arms deal.
“Apparently, [U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleeza Rice was well aware that this arms deal was happening six months ago,” Pina continued. “She was well aware that the Haitian government had cut a $1 million check from its treasury in order to pay for this arms shipment, and apparently that deal was brokered for arms that were held by the Pentagon in Panama, what they call refurbished, recycled arms. These are arms that apparently had been captured from so-called enemy forces, which we can only assume would be people like al-Qaeda, and other armies, possibly the FARC in Colombia. The captured armaments were then shipped to Panama and now apparently are up for sale by the Pentagon to so-called friendly nations within Latin America and the Caribbean.” Again, this purchase was made through Youri Latortue’s office.
As for Latortue’s drug running, Fenton said that Deeb told him that “Youri Latortue is tight with Guy Philippe, one of the so-called rebel paramilitaries and, this has been confirmed by other sources on the ground in Haiti, that Guy Philippe is often seen going in and out of Youri Latortue’s office.” Guy Philippe has repeatedly been accused of drug trafficking. “Haitian and U.S. authorities say that Philippe was involved in drug trafficking while he was police chief in Cap-Haïtien, as well as during his exile in the Dominican Republic, although he has never been officially accused of any drug crimes,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported Feb. 23, 2004.
In January of this year, the French newspaper Le Figaro criticized the de facto prime minister for tolerating his nephew. “He is blamed for retaining in his entourage his nephew, Youri Latortue, a person nicknamed 'Mister 30 Per Cent' because of the percentage he demands in return for favors,” the Figaro author wrote. “Worried, not without reason, about his own security, the prime minister pays 20,000 euros a month to this former police officer implicated in various scandals for 'organizing an intelligence service'."
The Maryland-based Quixote Center reports that Youri Latortue “reportedly participated in the 1994 murder of Catholic priest Jean-Marie Vincent and the 1993 murder of democracy activist Antoine Izméry, and reportedly embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the palace security payroll. Youri owns Gonaïves' La Chandelle Hotel, which he supposedly used to provide weapons to anti-Aristide rebels prior to Aristide's removal.”
Pina noted that Condoleeza Rice “has been well-aware for quite some time, since before becoming Secretary of State - when she was National Security Advisor for the Bush administration - that the Pentagon was selling arms to the U.S. installed government in violation of that 13-year arms embargo.” Furthermore, John Bolton, who is presently in confirmation hearings to become Washington’s Ambassador to the United Nations, has been the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security since May 2001. His office would have had to approve any arms shipments to Haiti.
“The guns shipped to Haiti would have gone through Bolton’s office which could affect his nomination,” said Ira Kurzban, who was the Haitian government’s lawyer under Aristide, told Flashpoints.FROM HAITI PROGRES