Haiti, Tonton Macoute Role Growing in Cocaine Trade
May. 21, 1988
MIAMI (AP) _ Haiti has joined Panama as a growing drug-smuggling center, and members of its dreaded secret police are muscling into crack cocaine distribution in Florida, witnesses told a special U.S. Senate hearing Saturday.
The drug connection reaches high into the Haitian government, including Interior and Defense Minister Gen. Williams Regala and his liaison officer to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, two Haitians testified.
''Our intelligence indicates that major Colombian trafficking organizations are using Haiti as a base of operations,'' Tom Cash, head of DEA in Miami, told Sens. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., and Bob Graham, D-Fla.
Haiti sits astride a natural drug-smuggling route from Colombia, providing planes and boats with a staging area for the last leg of the run into the Bahamas and Florida, he said.
D'Amato compared Haiti to Panama as a drug menace, and noted that the military of the two nations had close communications.
''Birds of a feather flock together,'' the senator said.
Cash said the investigation that led to the Miami indictment of Haitian Col. Jean-Claude Paul in March for allegedly flying cocaine into Florida is continuing, but refused to say if higher Haitian officials were implicated.
Other witnesses said the army took in the secret police, called Tonton Macoute, after the overthrow of President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, and that soldiers and secret police now trafficked drugs in both Haiti and the United States.
Roger Biamby, director of the Haitian American Community Association of Dade, testified that the Haitian liaison to the new DEA office in Port-au- Prince was a drug dealer who personally supervised cocaine loading operations on one U.S. bound freighter.
Regala, Paul and other officers ''have created an effective drug-smuggling network in Haiti and the United States,'' Biamby said.
''We must find out whether the people we are working with are the devils themselves,'' D'Amato demanded after the testimony.
Fritz Pierre-Louis, a former lieutenant in the Haitian army who later defected, said he personally turned over cocaine confiscated in raids to Paul only to have it disappear. He estimated that 70 percent of Paul's powerful Dessalines Barracks forces are involved in the trafficking.
Earlier this year, Paul even raided an army jail to free some of his soldiers arrested for receiving cocaine at an airstrip, said Pierre-Louis.
''This incident indicates that Col. Paul has, if not the support, at least the acquiescence of army headquarters in his drug operation,'' he testified.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Michael Lanfersiek said the Haitian connection continued into street distribution in Florida.
An informant ''stated that much of Haitian crack cocaine distribution in this country was being directed by corrupt military officers (and) the former secret police of the Duvalier regime, the Tonton Macoute,'' Lanfersiek said.
Haitian immigrants now control distribution of the potent cocaine derivative crack throughout South and Central Florida, he said.
Eduoard Piou, charge d'affaires of the Haitian Embassy in Washington, disputed the testimony, saying his country supported any effort to end drug trafficking.
Piou acknowledged that Haitian law does not allow Paul to be extradited to the United States, and said charges against him by a Miami federal grand jury ''are under review'' by his government.
After Paul was indicted in March, the government of Haitian President Leslie Manigat vowed to redouble its efforts to fight drug traffic.