A Record of Police Crime Cover-Ups: After Seven Years, Will Mario Andrésol Stay On as Haiti’s Police Chief?

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
FLASH: Just hours after this article was published on the morning of Aug. 15, the National Palace announced that Godson Orélus would replace Mario Andrésol as Haiti’s Police Chief. To understand why, read on.
Mario Andrésol is one of Haiti’s most powerful men. He heads Haiti’s only official armed force, the 11,000-member Haitian National Police (PNH). The force is officially an autonomous civilian body; its chief, called the Director General, is nominated by the president, then ratified by the Parliament.

            Andrésol has headed the force since July 2005, when he was appointed to the post, thanks to U.S. backing, under the coup government of de facto Prime Minister Gérard Latortue.
            At that time, there was no functioning Parliament. But Feb. 7, 2006 elections brought President René Préval to power with a new parliament on May 14, 2006. One month later, the U.S. pressured Préval, who wanted to put someone new, to renominate Andrésol as police chief on Jun. 14, and on Jul. 5, 2006 the new Parliament ratified him for three years.
            Préval nominated Andrésol for yet another renewal under pressure from Washington on Jul. 14, 2009. Andrésol’s third three-year term was ratified by Parliament on Aug. 18, 2009.
            That mandate comes to an end on Aug. 18, 2012. Andrésol and Washington are pressuring President Michel Martelly to redeputize the police chief once again.
            But according to a former high-placed police official with intimate knowledge of and well-placed contacts in Haiti’s security apparatus, two sectors of Haiti’s ruling class are battling for the post: the pro-U.S. “bourgeois” current, represented by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and the drug cartel-linked “makout” sector, represented by the First Lady’s family, the St. Rémys, and former powerful senators like Youri Latortue and Joseph Lambert.
            In March, Haïti Liberté published a long exposé drawing on secret U.S. Embassy cables provided to it by the media organization WikiLeaks. The cables revealed that Andrésol was Washington’s darling (see Haïti Liberté, Vol.5, No. 37, Mar  28, 2012).
            For example, in a Nov. 3, 2006 cable, the U.S. Embassy praised what they perceived as Andrésol’s “commitment… to reform the HNP [Haitian National Police], attack corruption, and re-establish law and order throughout Haiti.
            However an examination of Andrésol’s record over the past seven years suggests that he either looked the other way or even condoned the involvement of high-ranking police officials in kidnapping, drug trafficking, corruption, and even murder. What follow are some of the most recent and brazen cases of PNH malfeasance under Andrésol’s leadership.
Police involvement in kidnapping and murder
In April 2012, Emane “Jacques” Jean-Louis, the owner of Sourire Rent-a-Car in the capital’s Tabarre district, was kidnapped. His family eventually paid the kidnappers about $600,000 in ransom, and he was freed.

            But, immediately following his release, Emane took legal action against the PNH for the involvement of police officers in his kidnapping, according to the former high-ranking police official who requested that he not be named. Emane provided the license plate number of a police vehicle used and the names of several of the policemen involved. Up until now, there has been no action by the police to arrest any of those that Emane accuses of having helped kidnap him.
            Then there is the case of businessman Richardson Croicy in Cap Haïtien. He was kidnapped on May 22, 2012 and then murdered. Investigating judge Heidi Fortuné issued over 15 arrest warrants for seven police officers that she believed were involved in the kidnapping and murder. However Carl Henri Boucher, the North Department’s police director, refused to act on the judge’s warrants to arrest the policemen and even facilitated their flight from justice.
            “Boucher is a very close associate of Andrésol,” the former high-level police official told Haïti Liberté.  “Andrésol had him sent to the United States for police training, and once you get U.S. training, you are in effect part of Andrésol’s inner circle.”
            The daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste of Jun. 25, 2012 reported that “according to a source close to the [Lavaud] investigation, most of the police officers implicated in this affair have already fled the country for Providenciales via the Dominican Republic.”
            Another shocking case of an apparent police cover-up was the kidnapping and murder of a young Haitian woman, Monique Pierre, four years ago. After a drug trafficking conviction, Ms. Pierre, 35, had been deported from the U.S. where she had reportedly made a small fortune. But on Nov. 29, 2008, she was kidnapped and later found dead with two bullets to her head and her eyes gouged out.
            The police chief of Gonaïves, Ernst Dorfeuille, was Ms. Pierre’s lover and the number one suspect in the case, accused by investigators of links with Ms. Pierre’s kidnappers. There were also reports that a vehicle with the license plate traced to Joseph Lambert, a leading Senator from Haiti’s Southeast Department, was involved in the kidnapping. Nonetheless, the investigation never went anywhere and neither Dorfeuille (who was briefly arrested) nor Lambert were ever charged. The crime remains unsolved.
            Most recently, on Jun. 12, 2012, policemen with the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) killed two young men, Makenson St. Vil, 27, and Reginald L’Herisson, 23, at the house in downtown Port-au-Prince where they lived. Witnesses say the two young men did nothing to provoke the shooting and were gunned down in cold blood. Until now, two months later, the police have yet to arrest any police officers or make any investigation into the killings despite street demonstrations demanding justice for the two victims.
            In late 2010, Andrésol conceded on a radio program that as much as 25% of his officers might have been involved in criminal activities. In November 2006, Michel Lucius, the head of the Judicial Police (DCPJ), Haiti’s main investigative unit, was fired and arrested for his involvement in kidnappings. He was released in December 2007 despite the protest of the judge who issued the original arrest order.
Police corruption
There are many stories of police corruption, but none is more spectacular than what happened in the northwestern city of Port-de-Paix four years ago, largely because no policemen were ever convicted for the crime.
            On Nov. 12, 2008 in the Port-de-Paix neighborhood of Lavaud, Haitian authorities raided the home of Marc Frédéric, the uncle of accused drug trafficker Alain Désir, who had been arrested in the U.S. three weeks earlier. The raid was carried out by four Justice Department officials, 18 police officers, and a representative of the U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH).
            A huge and still unknown amount of cash was found in the house and distributed among the policemen and court officers involved (but not the MINUSTAH representative), according to press reports and a report by the National Network to Defend Human Rights (RNDDH). Officials later claimed that the crooked cops took a sum of about $1.7 million, but investigators estimate the money stolen was several million dollars.
            Over the next two days, the police officers shared the take with eight other justice officials and policemen in Port-de-Paix.
            Andrésol eventually announced 26 arrests for questioning, 19 policemen and seven court officials. But no convictions ever resulted, and all those involved (except one who died) are now free.
            The Northwest Department’s police chief, Bernard Mary Dadaille, went to police headquarters in Port-au-Prince a few days after the Lavaud raid.
            “Dadaille had brought a large sum of money to divide up with the police brass in the capital,” our formerly high-placed police source explained. “But the word about the money taken in the Lavaud raid was already all over the media, and Andrésol did not want to be implicated. So he saw to it that Dadaille fled the country to the Dominican Republic, where he disappeared from view.”
            For show, on Jan. 28, 2009, the police raided Dadaille’s house in Carradeux, a Port-au-Prince suburb, but claimed they didn’t find the police chief or any evidence.
            Among those arrested following the Lavaud raid was Jean Raymond Philippe, who had been the deputy chief of the Northwest Department under Dadaille. But on Jan. 12, 2009, Philippe died under mysterious circumstances in the custody of the Judicial Police, who claim that he committed suicide by drinking battery acid.
            Philippe’s wife, Jeanette Désir Philippe, went to Radio Kiskeya on Jan. 23, 2009, where “proclaiming her despair, the widow said in her last conversation with Jean-Raymond Philippe, hours before his death on Jan. 12, there was no indication of that worst-case scenario,” where he would commit suicide, the radio reported. “But the deceased did not hide his surprise that the authorities had placed him under judicial inquiry in connection with the investigation into the alleged looting of drug money during a search of Alain Désir’s uncle’s house. During a second telephone call made the same day, Jeannette Désir Philippe could not speak to the police officer who answered only with continuous groans. Another person who had snatched the handset had obstinately refused to identify himself, said the upset wife.”
            The widow said that “her husband, with whom she had lived for 22 years, was a modest and honest man who had given 31 years of service to his country in the ranks of the Haitian Armed Forces, then in the National Police,” the radio reported.
            In the end, the mysteries of Philippe’s death, Dadaille’s flight, and the disappearance of millions of dollars from Marc Frédéric’s home were never solved and nobody was ever prosecuted, much less convicted.
The torture and death of Serge Démosthène
Perhaps the most damning case against Andrésol is the torture and death of Serge Démosthène, 44, on Jun. 15, 2011. On that day, police arrested Démosthène with another man, Feckel Plaisimond, following the Jun. 12 killing of Guiteau Toussaint, the director of the Banque National de Crédit. The two men were taken to the Pétionville police station. The police tortured Démosthène to death in an effort to have him confess to the murder. Port-au-Prince’s chief prosecutor Harrycidas Auguste reportedly witnessed Démosthène’s killing.
            Démosthène and Plaisimond, it was later established, were both innocent and Plaisimond was released after being jailed for several months.
            The PNH Inspector General Fritz Jean looked into the case and arrested Vanel Lacroix, the Pétionville PNH chief who had supervised the torture. But the arrest created a crisis in the police.
            “Vanel Lacroix was very close to Andrésol,” the former high-ranking police official said. “So Andrésol was enraged at Fritz Jean when he arrested Lacroix and imprisoned him. The conflict created a huge rift between the number one and the number two in the PNH. Finally, in September 2011, Fritz Jean resigned his post and fled to Canada because he feared for his life.”
            In his resignation letter, Jean complained that Andrésol was blocking his investigation into Démosthène’s death, for example, by transferring Jean’s sole investigator, Jude Altidor. “I draw the attention of state authorities, of my superiors, and of society that this transfer, which occurred following an investigation into the death of the man named Serge Démosthène at the Pétion-ville police station, …. is orchestrated by the Director General in order to undermine the resolve, effectiveness, and especially the independence of the IGPNH [the PNH’s Inspector General’s office] in the conduct of its investigations,” Jean wrote in his letter. All his efforts “to prevent human rights violations by the police are undermined by the Chief,” Jean concluded.
            Our source also said that Démosthène had formerly been a land guardian employed by Andrésol, and that the two men were at odds. This creates further to suspicion around Démosthène’s death and the alleged efforts to block its investigation.
            Démosthène’s murder in custody provoked alarm among Haiti’s overseers. In December 2011, the MINUSTAH’s Human Rights arm –  Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – issued a report which said “that the investigation of the PNH’s Inspector General into the death of Serge Démosthène has caused tensions with the PNH’s Director General, which raises the question of the independence afforded the PNH’s Inspector General. This report looks at possible interference with judicial independence during this investigation.”
            With Fritz Jean out of the Inspector General’s post, finally three weeks ago in July, Lacroix was freed from jail, a liberation which was denounced by the RNDDH as “outrageous.”
A Record of Mismanagement
There are many other cases which call into question Andrésol’s leadership.
            When, for example, President Michel Martelly and his then Interior Minister Thierry Mayard-Paul ordered the illegal arrest on Oct. 27, 2011 of Deputy Arnel Bélizaire, who as an elected official enjoys immunity from arrest, the police chief should have refused. “But the chief of the operation to arrest Bélizaire, Godson Orélus, the head of the DCPJ, acted on orders from Mario Andrésol,” our once high-placed source explains. “Andrésol directed the operation from beginning to end, and this was testified to in the Parliament.”
            Another example of corruption dates back to 2004. Following the coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004, over 100 police officers were fired. “Two police promotions graduated under Aristide,” our source says. “They were fired, but their checks are still issued and go every month to the Director General’s headquarters, which cashes the checks and uses them. This began under PNH chief Léon Charles but continues under Andrésol. Furthermore, several police officers who remain on duty have residency in the U.S., France, or Canada. They live overseas for years, but because they are close to Andrésol, they continue to receive their paychecks.”
            Another constant complaint from the public is that there aren’t enough police in Haiti. Of Haiti’s 10,814 police officers, only 2,175 are stationed in the provinces outside the capital, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR). However, “many policemen are used as private security for former parliamentarians and presidential counselors, who don’t have the right to personal police protection,” our source said. “Any bodyguards that those people have should be hired privately, not subsidized by the Haitian state. But when you are friend of Andrésol, or the St. Rémy family [Martelly’s wife’s family], [former Interior Minister] Thierry Mayard-Paul, or Laurent Lamothe, the authorities give you PNH security. Meanwhile, the population lacks police protection.”
            In a similar vein, when people call the police for help, the police often answer that they don’t have enough vehicles to respond. “However, on any given morning, you’ll see police officers driving their kids to school, or their wives to work, or to a studio to do their nails and hair,” our formerly high-placed source says. “Maybe, they take the car to do an errand in another town. All of this contributes to insecurity.”
Bad Alternatives
As noted in Haïti Liberté’s article on the police chief in March, there has been a conflict between Director General Andrésol and President Martelly.
            On the one hand, the U.S., which pays for and controls most of Haiti’s police training, approves of Andrésol and would like to see his mandate renewed for another three years.
            But there is another contender for the post: the current Number Three of the PNH, Godson Orélus, director of the Judicial Police (DCPJ), Haiti’s equivalent of the FBI.
            “Godson Orélus has a the backing of the drug trafficking sector, people like the St. Rémy family [of Haitian First Lady Sofia Martelly], and former senators like Youri Latortue and Joseph Lambert, who are now Martelly’s close advisors,” said our former highly-placed police official. “They are putting a lot of pressure on Martelly to name Orélus as police chief.”
            After the 2004 coup, Orélus was named by then PNH Chief Léon Charles as the police director of the Southern Department. “He had two missions,” our source explains. “The first was to chase down, neutralize, and terrorize all the Lavalas activists, all of Aristide’s partisans. The second was to assure the smooth delivery of drugs coming from South America. Godson carried out both missions very well, so well in fact that the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency] asked the Latortue government to transfer Orélus because they could see he led no fight against drug smuggling in the South Department. So Orélus was transferred to become the PNH director of the Artibonite, where he became the right-hand man of Senator Youri Latortue [from the Artibonite] as well as the St. Rémy family which comes from Gonaïves.”
            Our source also says that “Orélus paid Senator Joseph Lambert a large amount of cash for him to be his champion in the Senate.” The terms of Senators Lambert and Latortue expired in May.
            Hence, President Michel Martelly finds himself between two warring factions in his government. On the one hand, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe represents the regime’s “bourgeois” wing, which seems to be moving into closer alliance with Washington (especially after his visit to Washington on Jul. 23-24) and will surely pressure for Andrésol’s renomination.
            On the other hand, there is the regime’s more “makout” wing, involved in drug trafficking, represented by the St. Rémy family (primarily Martelly’s brother-in-law Kiko St. Rémy), Youri Latortue, Joseph Lambert, and the brothers Thierry and Gregory Mayard-Paul, both now presidential advisors.
            “Basically we are seeing a fight between the assembly industry/telecommunications sector, led by Lamothe, for Andrésol, and the drug sector, led by Sofia [St. Rémy Martelly], for Orélus,” concludes our former high-ranking police official.
            Martelly is more likely to side with the U.S. and Lamothe sector due to the current rapport of forces in Haiti, our source predicts, “but we cannot underestimate the pressure that can be brought by Sofia, who is a lot like Michelle Bennett [the wife of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier from 1980 to 1986], as well as advisors like the Mayard-Pauls, Latortue, and Lambert. Martelly is going to feel real heat from both sides.”
            Martelly will have to announce his decision by Aug. 18, when Andrésol’s term ends. His dilemma is captured by a Haitian proverb: “Chen gen kat pye, men li ka mache nan yon sèl chemen.” A dog has four legs, but he can only go in one direction.

Haitian Police Chief Mario Andrésol: he is Washington’s favorite and seeking a fourth term in the post, but a neo-Duvalierist faction is backing a rival.