The Real Crimes of Guy Philippe: Selections from “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti” by Jeb Sprague – Part 1 of 3

By Jeb Sprague (Haiti Liberte)

paramilitary leader Guy Philippe will be going to jail for money laundering in
connection with drug trafficking. But his more serious crimes were murdering
Haitians and Haitian democracy as the leader of the “armed opposition” during
the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

            In the early 1990s, Emmanuel “Toto”
Constant headed another anti-Aristide paramilitary organization known as the
Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), which played a large
role in killing an estimated 5,000 during the 1991-1994 coup d’état.

            Like Philippe, Constant was never
tried for his crimes against humanity. Instead, in 1996, the Clinton
administration gave him de facto political asylum in the United States.
However, in 2008, he was convicted in New York of mortgage fraud and is
currently serving a 12-37 year prison sentence.

            If he had gone to trial in May and
been convicted, Philippe faced a life term for drug trafficking. Instead, he
struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors whereby he will likely serve only
7.5 to 9 years in jail.

            Although serving terms for lesser
offenses, Constant and Philippe are both part of a murderous paramilitary
continuum in Haiti that can be traced from François “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s
Volunteers for National Security (VSN), commonly known as the Tonton Macoutes,
to the death-squads that continue kidnapping and murder in Haiti today.

            In 2012, University of California at
Santa Barbara-researcher Jeb Sprague published “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti” (Monthly
Review Press), which analyzes the history of Haitian paramilitarism and its
leaders. Haïti Liberté is currently
publishing in French a series by Sprague entitled: Haïti: le capitalisme
des paramilitaires.

            For the next three weeks, we will
publish in English excerpts from “Paramilitarism
and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti
” to provide readers with background
on Guy Philippe’s real crimes, which are much more serious than those for which
he will do time in the U.S..

Kim Ives, Haïti Liberté

From Chapter Three entitled “The Return of Paramilitarism: 2000–2001“:

The earliest
phase of the new paramilitary campaign to destabilize and topple Haiti’s
democracy began in October 2000.

            This chapter examines the first
stage of this renewed campaign of paramilitary terror, beginning in 2000.
Numerous interviews I conducted provided details on the formation and early
activities of the paramilitary organization known as the Front pour la Libération et la Reconstruction Nationale. The FLRN
was composed of individuals who had formerly served as police, military, and
paramilitary forces in Haiti. Little has been written of FLRN activities in its
early years of existence and about the role of a collection of hard-line
Haitian rightists and Dominican government officials in supporting this
paramilitary force. I provide a detailed account of the role that a small group
of elites early on played in facilitating the paramilitary campaign.


Backed by
Haiti’s popular movement to run again for president, Aristide announced his
candidacy under the Fanmi Lavalas [FL] banner on Oct. 2, 2000, the deadline for
candidates to register for the Nov. 26 presidential election. Haiti’s president
was then René Préval, who had served as prime minister for Aristide’s earlier
administration (from February 1991 until the coup d’état of September 1991). In
1990, Préval, along with his and Aristide’s close friend, progressive
businessman Antoine Izméry, had encouraged Aristide to enter politics. But
after 1995 Préval and Aristide began to drift apart as Préval veered to the
right, supporting privatization and dropping some of the popular programs
Aristide had promoted.

            By 1:00 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2000, a
large crowd of FL supporters had gathered in front of the Conseil Electoral
Provisoire d’Haiti (CEP) offices on Delmas Avenue in Port-au-Prince. This
gathering, many participants relatives or friends who had been victims of the
various military dictatorships, celebrated the former president’s entrance into
the race, which symbolized for them the return to more bold and progressive
politics. However, when Delmas police chief Jacky Nau angered the FL crowd by
roughing up a Lavalas militant, Ronald “Cadavre” Camille, the crowd reacted as
Nau claimed he was only attempting to disarm Camille.

            As it happened, both sides had
reason to be upset and suspicious. Camille was a murky figure, allegedly
involved in murder and other criminal activities, yet many in the crowd
resented the brutal anti-democratic tactics of some members of the police,
especially those from the ex-FAd’H contingent that served in the [Haitian
National Police] HNP’s feared anti-gang unit. Camille, who had started dealing
marijuana on the streets of Port-au-Prince at a young age, had been involved in
protesting the Cédras regime in the early 1990s and had survived torture at the
hands of the army.(1) But Nau, part of the group known as “the Ecuadorians”
that now served as police chiefs, had become known for a particularly brutal
brand of justice. He had grown up attending St-Louis de Gonzague, the private
school in Port-au-Prince attended by some of Haiti’s most privileged children.

            From a U.S. embassy cable: “Local
radio reported that a group of musicians pulled ‘cadavre’ away and helped calm
the situation.” (2) The standoff was resolved without anyone being physically
harmed, but as Haiti Progrès reported
afterward, Ronald “Cadavre” was “never called to account, and the infuriated
Nau began meeting with another police commissioner, Guy Philippe, and other
officers to discuss what should be done.” (3) Nau and Philippe, along with a
few other dissident police chiefs (who were also ex-military), soon began
laying the groundwork for a coup. Philippe claims he had been working on plans
to bring down the government since the year prior. (4)

            From the start, the conspirators
were in contact with hard-line sectors of the elite, including some
neo-Duvalierists and industrialists with strong ties in the Dominican Republic.
Believing it was necessary to act quickly, the conspirators saw fit to carry
out what they described as a “preventive coup,” overthrowing Préval before the
inauguration of Aristide in early February of the following year. (5)

            The group of anti-government police
chiefs planned their attacks over three days in November. (6) The plotters held
a preliminary meeting with U.S. officials, likely hoping to gauge their level
of support for the action, which the U.S. embassy later claimed was an attempt
on their part to “have the men drop the idea of a coup.” (7) The “putschists”
reportedly told “U.S. officials that the coup was already too far along and
that abandoning it would place the group in greater danger.” (8) The fact that
U.S. officials were at a meeting with police chiefs plotting a coup underscores
the close relationship that the U.S. embassy and intelligence agencies
maintained with the ex-military and their elite backers. However, it is also
clear that at the time senior U.S. policymakers in the Clinton administration
did not want a coup. Hundreds of millions of dollars had been invested in Haiti
over the past five years, even as Washington’s unease with Haitian political
institutions had grown. Large programs had been put in place to rebuild Haitian
institutions, and the Clinton administration, which had backed the restoration
of democracy in 1994 (though manipulating it at the same time), was still in
office. Refusing to back down, the coup plotters planned to execute President
Préval, along with Aristide and rogue Lavalas senator Dany Toussaint, who
traveled with a heavily armed security escort. (9) The rebel police chiefs and
their backers then planned to put Minister of Finance Fred Joseph on trial.

            The plan for the immediate aftermath
of the coup d’état was to place a new government in the National Palace headed
by Olivier Nadal, a wealthy opposition leader and onetime president of the
Haitian Chamber of Commerce; Léon Manus, president of the CEP then living in
the United States (Manus had received a U.S. visa when he claimed he had come

intimidation by
the Préval government that same year); Guy Philippe, a police chief in
Cap-Haïtien and the most charismatic and educated of the dissident police
chiefs; and Jean-Claude Fignolé, a historian and longtime friend of the
plotters (who allegedly helped pay for Guy Philippe’s schooling in Ecuador and
St. Louis de Gonzague).

            Philippe joined the FAd’H as a cadet
in 1993 during the Cédras regime. He claims to have received a military
scholarship from the Escuela Superior de
Policia de Quito
, where he trained from September 1992 until August 1995,
learning the techniques necessary for what he describes as the “preservation
and restoration of public order in a democratic state.” (10) Under U.S.
auspices once the FAd’H was demobilized, Philippe was placed in 1995 in Haiti’s
new police force. (11) With the police force torn by internal divisions and
corruption and the Préval government under mounting U.S. pressure to rein in
street gangs in some of Haiti’s poorest neighborhoods, Philippe played a key
role in coordinating some of the operations meant to “pacify” these areas. (12)
Philippe quickly came under criticism from human rights groups for his
activities as police chief; his raids had resulted in numerous civilian
casualties. (13) Philippe “owed [his] success to a reliance on violent
methods,” with some policemen under Philippe’s command “accused of staging
extra-judicial executions.” (14)

            Philippe has alleged, in
justification for his actions that under Aristide’s personal orders a number of
opposition figures were executed, though such claims have never been
substantiated. He claimed that Aristide was connected to the murder of Mireille
Durocher Bertin, a politician who had supported the military regime and was
assassinated in March of 1995. (15) This charge against Aristide has been made
for years by Haiti’s ultra-right; the paramilitaries and their backers utilized
such allegations to justify their own violent activities against Haiti’s
government and popular classes. In the case of Bertin, a year-long FBI
investigation after the killing never turned up any evidence connecting the
killing to Aristide (in fact, evidence pointed toward other suspects and some
of Bertin’s murky connections). Numerous groups would have profited from her
death, and U.S. officials ended up claiming that a narco link between a friend
of Bertin’s and a clique within the government may have been responsible
(alleging, although never proving, that Dany Toussaint was one of those
involved). (16) Whereas opponents of Lavalas have often blamed Aristide, his
elected government, or the popular classes for violence during the period, the
few high-profile acts of violence that have been linked to the Lavalas camp
appear to be allegedly associated with a small group around Dany Toussaint.
This is a fact that has largely gone ignored — as has the internal conflict in
the police at this time, such as that between Toussaint’s group, the
“Ecuadorians,” and others around onetime police chief Bob Manuel, who served as
Secretary of State for Justice and Security under Préval’s government.

            Even with all of these problems and
contradictions, and under significant pressure and destabilization, the popular
movement and much of its leadership proved resilient. Some of Aristide’s
strongest support radiated from the slums where the rightist military was most
despised, where the brutal operations of paramilitaries, the former army, and
the anti-gang units of the police had cost many lives. Opposing the
heavy-handed violent approach of Philippe and his ex-FAd’H counterparts in the
new police force, Aristide and other Lavalas leaders advocated for an
alternative solution, the construction of a civilian police force in
conjunction with government-sponsored negotiations between warring factions in
Haiti’s slums, with Aristide himself promoting peace talks between warring
gangs in Cité Soleil and other poor neighborhoods. But such moves were
extremely difficult to carry out, especially as elites and their mercenaries
continued to ruthlessly assault the democratic movement. Claiming to have seen
half a dozen murders of opposition members and the humiliation of his friend the
Commissaire de Police Jacky Nau, Philippe says that by late 2000 there was “no
doubt that I was ready to support the opposition to Aristide in all its forms.”
(17) In mid-October 2000, news of Philippe’s planned coup began to leak out in Haïti Progrès: “A U.S. military officer
earlier this month hosted meetings by men conspiring to make a coup d’état in
Haiti in November… Haitian authorities learned of and foiled the plot last
week… According to our confidential source, two meetings were held at the private
residence of a U.S. Military Attaché in Haiti, a certain [U.S.] Major Douyon,
on Oct. 8 and Oct. 11. At the first meeting, there was discussion of delivering
U.S. visas to certain police chiefs. At the second meeting, there was a call
for mutiny to take action against Lavalas demonstrators [chimères], with whom one police chief had trouble earlier this
month.” (18)

            The U.S. officials participating in
the meetings were Major Douyon, the U.S. military attaché in Haiti, and Leslie
Alexander, U.S. chargé d’affaires. (19) Toward the end of October, the would-be
coup plotters were betrayed. Officials within the U.S. embassy alerted Haitian
authorities about the seditious meetings at Douyon’s home. Whereas conservative
sectors within the U.S. government (GOP in congress, CIA, and Pentagon) had
long backed campaigns to topple Haiti’s pro-democracy movement, the Clinton
administration sought to maintain the status quo to some extent, allowing the
elected Haitian government to remain in office while withdrawing some aid and
funding projects routed through the government, a strategy meant to slowly
starve the aid dependent Haitian state, thereby forcing it to step in line.
Meanwhile, in an account confirmed by a senior U.S. official, the Washington Post reported that a coup was
to take place in November. (20) The armed rightist sectors, the only force
capable of carrying out such a strategy, continued to pose the greatest risk to
Haiti’s democracy. As author Peter Hallward wrote: “Aristide’s dissolution of
the army in 1995 had created a large pool of eligible and resentful ex-military
labor. Many of these soldiers had been trained in or by the U.S.. Many hundreds
of them were later integrated into the (consequently) volatile and unreliable
police force. No doubt the best and most efficient option would have been a
single coordinated uprising by the PNH [HNP] itself, preferably before
Aristide’s official return.” (21)

            Upon being alerted about the planned
coup, national police director General Pierre Denizé summoned the police chiefs
to a meeting: Guy Philippe; Jean-Jacques Nau; Gilbert Dragon, a police chief in
Croix-des-Bouquets; Millard Jean Pierre, a chief in the upscale neighborhood of
PétionVille; and police chief Riggens André of the Carrefour district. Following
the meeting, Denizé reported back to the National Palace that they had all
claimed to know nothing of the unauthorized meetings at the home of the U.S.
military attaché. Soon after Préval returned to Port-au-Prince from a trip to
Taiwan, he ordered an intensified investigation into the alleged coup plot.

            Meanwhile, peasants in Fermathe, an
area in the mountains above Portau-Prince, witnessed large movements of armed
men — as many as 200 by one account. (23) Military training exercises had been
spotted at the home of Patrick Dormeville, a former police official at
Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport. Radio Kiskeya
reported that up to “600 policemen” were involved in the possible coup attempt.

            Grasping the advanced nature of the
coup plot, Denizé called again for the five police chiefs to rendezvous at his
office. Upon hearing this and obviously fearing arrest, Guy Philippe, Gilbert
Dragon, and Nau fled. (25)

            Leaving Port-au-Prince, Philippe
explains that he and his comrades “drove as far as Ouanaminthe in [his] own
Nissan Pathfinder.” (26) On the night of Oct. 17, six police chiefs, along with
an unverified number of dissident police officers and former military men, fled
Haiti across the Dominican border into the dusty border town of Dajabón, where
industries employed low-cost Haitian labor. The town was heavily patrolled by
Dominican police and private security forces. (27)


1. From
author’s 2011 interview with a onetime close friend of Camille who requested

2. Kenneth A.
Duncan, U.S. embassy, Port-au-Prince, Cable 8D1713, Oct. 3, 2000.

3. Edward Cody,
“Haiti Torn by Hope and Hatred as Aristide Returns to Power,” Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2001.

4. Referring to
the plans for a coup, Philippe stated: “I had my strategy since about 1999.”
Transcript of interview with Guy Philippe, Scoop FM 107.7 FM, Port-au-Prince
(September 2011).

5. A preemptive
coup was attempted in January 1991, just before Aristide was inaugurated into
his first term of office.

6. “The Autopsy
of a Failed Coup,” Haïti Progrès,
Oct. 25–31, 2000.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Peter
Hallward, “Insurgency and Betrayal: An Interview with Guy Philippe,” Haiti Analysis, Mar. 24, 2007, available
In his 2007 interview with Hallward, Guy Philippe claimed that his tell-all
book, The Time of Dogs, or Le Temps des chiens, would be published
in 2012. With the return to Haiti of Jean-Claude Duvalier in January 2011 and
the political make-over of Michel Martelly, winning an “election” in which
around 75% of registered voters did not participate, the time now appears ripe
for Philippe to publish his book.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.
Philippe states that Pasteur Leroy was part of a coup plot in 1996: “In 1996 I
heard that there were plans being prepared for a coup d’état, and Léon Jeune
and Pasteur Leroy were at the head of this movement. I was in Ouanaminthe at
the time and did not play an important role in the police operation against it;
on the other hand the police arrested Jeune in 1998, when I was police chief at

16. Michael
Karshan, conversation with the author, Port-au-Prince (2011). The FBI ran an
intensive investigation into the killing and turned up nothing linking Aristide
to the attack. Bertin’s involvement with people involved in the drug trade
appears to be at the root of what happened. But Bertin had a lot of enemies
herself. In 2007, I interviewed her widower, Jean Bertin, who had for some time
been working for the foreign ministry of the Dominican Republic in Santo
Domingo, operating closely with Dominican officials who had befriended the FLRN
paramilitary leadership.

17. Hallward,
“Insurgency and Betrayal.”

18. “The
Autopsy of a Failed Coup,” Haïti Progrès.
An aid to the Clinton administration’s special envoy to Port-au-Prince, Don
Steinberg, relayed to Haitian prime minister Jacques Alexis “intelligence that
Nau, Philippe, and others were discussing what could be the beginnings of a
coup.” Several days later “Steinberg went to see Aristide at his home with the
information, warning that Aristide and Préval could be assassination targets.”
Steinberg reportedly handed over a dossier with notes from the meeting which
outlined how a small group within Haiti’s police force, mostly former FAd’H,
were planning a coup.

19. Ibid.

20. Cody,
“Haiti Torn by Hope and Hatred as Aristide Returns to Power.”

21. Hallward, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the
Politics of Containment
(London: Verso, 2008), 121.

22. Cody,
“Haiti Torn by Hope and Hatred as Aristide Returns to Power.” The human rights
abuses carried out by the anti-gang unit of the HNP while under Philippe’s
command during the late 1990s occurred mostly in the neighborhoods of Delmas
32, 33, and 75.

23. “The
Autopsy of a Failed Coup,” Haïti Progrès.

24. Ibid.

25. Only two
police chiefs, Millard Jean Pierre and Riggens André, came to the meeting.
Apparently the plotters needed more time to put their plans into action. From
that moment, “the gravity of the situation became clear, since one of the
fugitive chiefs conveyed to authorities that he and his cohorts were military
tacticians and ready to defend themselves against any attempt to arrest them.”
Reported in ibid.

26. Hallward, “Insurgency
and Betrayal.”

27. “The
Autopsy of a Failed Coup,” Haïti Progrès.