This series’ first two parts detailed the 2000 coup attempt by paramilitary leader Guy Philippe’s clique of police officers – the “Ecuadorians” – and their flight to the Dominican Republic, where they built the Front pour la Libération et la Reconstruction Nationales (FLRN) with the help of Dominican authorities. The FLRN’s goal was the overthrow of the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
This third and final installment takes excerpts from Chapters 4, 5, and 6, which layout the crimes committed during the FLRN’s war against Haiti’s democracy from 2001 to 2004. We have put killings and other crimes in bold. We have also removed footnotes due to space restraints of our print edition.
For a more complete account of the 2004 coup, readers are encouraged to obtain Sprague’s “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti” (Monthly Review Press), which is available in bookstores and online.
By February 2001, leading figures of the [opposition front Democratic Convergence] CD were openly calling for the Bush administration to topple Aristide and re-institute the military, arguing that the CIA should train and equip Haitian officers exiled in the neighboring Dominican Republic to do it. (…)
It was in the Dominican Republic that Guy Philippe and his comrades were able to recruit other former-FAd’H [Armed Forces of Haiti] and paramilitaries. Philippe said he recruited Rémissainthe Ravix in May 2001, after he had been introduced to him by [FRAPH death squad co-founder] Louis-Jodel Chamblain. A wanted criminal in Haiti and former sergeant in the FAd’H living in exile in Santo Domingo, Ravix would serve as one of the most hardened and murderous leaders of the FLRN.(…)
The second-in-command of Haiti’s National Palace security force (USGPN), Youri Latortue, a former officer in Haiti’s disbanded army, remained in close contact with the plotters. During the early stages of the insurgency, Latortue still held a high-ranking position in the police force. According to one former Haitian police official I spoke with, Latortue had the ability to tip off the insurgents as to the government’s preparedness and countermeasures. He was able to “strengthen his own people, his sympathizers and informants within the police.” (…)
JULY 28: ATTACK ON HAITIAN POLICE ACADEMY
With little time to breathe and make progress, Aristide, just five months into his presidency, was in the early morning hours of Jul. 28, 2001, confronted with the paramilitary seizure of Haiti’s National Police Academy in Pétion-villle. Six heavily armed gunmen, dressed in uniforms of the disbanded Haitian Army (FAd’H), entered the premises at 2:00 a.m. and held a large group of cadets at gunpoint as they sought to gather up the compound’s stored weaponry. The paramilitaries aimed to (1) better arm themselves, (2) remove the [Haitian National Police] HNP’s heavy weaponry, and (3) disrupt loyalists in the police force who were attempting to build a security apparatus capable of enforcing the rule of law. (…)
But three veteran HNP officers who had been on duty that night had decided to sleep in the barracks, too tired to drive home. When the paramilitaries attacked, these three officers helped to lead a close-quarters counterattack. After a tense five-hour standoff, the paramilitaries escaped the premises, but they had killed Jean Eddy Cantave, police commissioner and administrator of the National Police Academy, and police cadets Lourdes James Bazemar and Michel Milfleur. Seventeen other cadets had been wounded. A government investigation explained how one well-placed source “reports that there were three [paramilitary] groups involved in the operation, one to attack targets outside of Port-au-Prince, one for the Police Academy, and the third for an unknown downtown target. He understands that the plan was for the Academy force to strike first, to neutralize the SWAT team, before the others attacked. Apparently the downtown team abandoned the attack when the Academy attack failed.” (…)
Just one hour after the gunmen escaped from the academy, either they or another group of paramilitaries attacked the lone police station in Mirebalais, a town about 37 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince. One police officer was able to escape into a ravine while another was murdered. “The attackers destroyed all means of communication and took all the guns and ammunition they could find,” reported an OAS [Organization of American States] delegation. An OAS commission later reported that four police officers stationed at the entrance to the town of Hinche exchanged fire with them. Overpowered, three of the policemen abandoned their weapons and surrendered, while the fourth officer was shot and killed. Storming three provincial towns on their way out of the country, the paramilitary gunmen shouted, “Long live the army!”(…)
That same day, Jul. 28, ex-FAd’H paramilitaries shot up Belladères, a small town in the Central Plateau. After firing weapons into the air and killing one woman, the gunmen briefly took over the town, as local authorities fled. A handful of locally influential opposition and former FAd’H chiefs lived in Belladères and locals suspected them of helping the gunmen. That morning a gunman spoke on a local Belladères radio station, Rotation FM, calling for former members of the FAD’H to join them, declaring that they were fighting for the return of the military and to “take back their barracks.”
By midday a government helicopter circled above Belladères. Four hours later, “helicopters landed in a football field at the entrance to the town. Members of the SWAT team disembarked from the helicopters and made their way into the town.” The gunmen quickly withdrew. According to Bel Angelot, General Director of the Interior Ministry: “The former soldiers in their raid took many weapons from the Haitian police and killed some police officers as well. I remember on Jul. 28, 2001, they killed Jean Eddy Cantave, an important instructor for the police. He was a good man. But the government could provide little reaction; the rebels came from the Dominican Republic and following their attacks they would go immediately back into the Dominican Republic…” (…)
ASSAULT ON THE NATIONAL PALACE
In the early morning hours of Dec. 17, 2001, a group of pickup trucks crammed with paramilitaries weaved their way down the hills toward the National Palace. Bolted onto each of the three truck-beds were .50-caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns. The team of paramilitaries was set to launch a direct assault on the National Palace, the most serious attempt at overthrowing Haiti’s infant democracy since its restoration in 1994.
Moving past the National Penitentiary, just blocks away from the National Palace, gunshots were exchanged with prison guards at their posts. In the dead of night, the paramilitaries reached the edge of the palace grounds and took up positions along the northern and western sides of the palace. As a group of gunmen climbed over the fence the three pickup trucks entered the palace grounds after bringing down the west gate with explosives. The operation appeared to have come straight out of a U.S. Special Forces textbook.
Bright bursts of M2 bullets with an effective range of 2,000 meters echoed through the palace grounds, tearing through the few guard posts that circled the palace. “During the time that they occupied the palace, the assailants continuously fired with an M-50 machine gun mounted on one of the vehicles, as well as with many other military weapons such as Uzi, Galil and Fal,” reported an OAS delegation later. Observers later found 2-inch-deep bullet holes in the palace walls. By 5:30 a.m., the palace was still occupied by the gunmen, who identified themselves over shortwave radio broadcasts as members of the FLRN. (…)
Within the palace grounds, a group of gunmen seized a large wing of the palace, which included the president’s office. The palace windows were “shattered and [the] walls riddled with bullets.” Social justice activist Michelle Karshan (who served as foreign press secretary for both the Aristide administrations as well as the first Préval administration) gave a detailed description: “Some of the commandos shot at the glass doors that enter into the reception area of the National Palace and shot at the official framed photograph of President Aristide, which hung on the wall behind the reception desk. They tore off the door on the wooden cabinet where visitors’ cards of identification are stored. They tried to break into some of the rooms on the ground floor, which in the past under the former military may have been used as weapons depots. The rooms on the ground floor are covered with metal doors, which are closed with large padlocks. Two administrative offices were entered after the commandos shot off the padlocks and shot up the glass doors leading into the rooms. (…) ”
Guy Philippe, a ringleader of the conspiracy, did not take part in the raid, choosing to stay behind Dominican lines. Instead, Rémissanthe Ravix, another former member of the military, led the assault, and a well-placed friend of Philippe’s, Youri Latortue, was among those providing Philippe’s men with knowledge of the palace’s security. According to OAS officials, the “penetration of the National Palace was carried out because of the weak security measures that day, as well as complicity within the National Police by officers who passed on information. The attackers knew of the weakness of the situation of the guards in charge of security at the National Palace.” By attacking at night, they avoided being met by a mass mobilization from the slums as had Roger Lafontant’s men who had attempted a palace takeover ten years earlier. (…)
When the CIMO, Haiti’s elite urban police combat unit, began the counter-assault that would retake the National Palace, they entered by way of the Caserne Dessalines barracks. They killed a gunman later identified as Chavre Milot, a member of the former Haitian military. He had in his possession $1,000 and, significantly, documents identifying him as a Dominican national. A joint commander of the assault, Milot had insider knowledge of the Palace, having served in the Special Unit of the Presidential Guard (USGPN) and had worked in the USGPN until the inauguration of Aristide’s second administration in February 2001. (…)
As government forces converged on the palace, the assailants fled. “They shot their way out and were shooting into the streets as they took off and drove toward Avenue John Brown,” along which the office of the United Nations and other international organizations were located. The Associated Press reported, “A pickup truck, apparently carrying some of the gunmen, sped out of the palace in the morning and escaped, national radio reported. The men in the truck shot and killed two passers-by as they fled, witnesses said.”
In a last-ditch effort to regain the upper hand, the gunmen swerved down roads leading to Aristide’s walled home in Tabarre, but when they encountered heavy gunfire, they turned and fled the city. Aristide’s presidential security force was in the vicinity of his home. Police fired at the paramilitaries in the Thomazeau neighborhood (in the country’s Western Department, near Port-au-Prince), damaging one of the attackers’ vehicles. … Two policemen, Théogène François and Romain Jean Eustache, had been killed and another six were wounded. (…)
PARAMILITARY VIOLENCE IN THE CENTRAL PLATEAU
The new strategy of the paramilitaries plotting from Santo Domingo was to engage in a broader and more sporadic series of assaults, a war of attrition, as the civil and political opposition within the country launched its own wave of demonstrations. The paramilitaries targeted the FL [Lavalas Family] government, Haiti’s security forces, and the popular movement that had propelled Aristide into office. As this larger destabilization campaign took shape, the armed rightist insurgency was vital for its success: “In a country like Haiti, a small but properly equipped paramilitary force can easily overwhelm isolated rural police stations and terrorize rural populations; the effort to develop some means of defending itself can then easily ruin an already impoverished regime.” (…)
On Apr. 30, 2002, ex-FAd’H paramilitaries reappeared near the Dominican border in the rural town of Belladère, and executed FL coordinator Jean Bouchette at the police station. Leading the new wave of attacks was Clotaire Jean-Baptiste, also known as “Tyson,” whom Guy Philippe had put in charge. Radio Métropole reported “Bouchette was shot dead following an operation by a group of unidentified bandits” and a “public building was burned down and several firearms disappeared from the police station in Belladère.” Special units of Haiti’s police force were quickly deployed, and government investigators were sent into the area.
On Jun. 23, the paramilitaries returned across the border and murdered family members and friends of Cléonor Souverain, another FL coordinator in Belladère. The five young victims were forced to lie face down and were machine-gunned. The victims were Rosita Souverain, 24, Nathalie Souverain, 17 (killed with two bullets in the vagina), Mimose Brizard, 38 (a friend of the family), and Dubuisson Brizard, the 35-year-old brother of Mimose. Also murdered was Louis Albert Ramil, 14. Cléonor, who was not at home when the paramilitaries carried out the killings, remembers that day vividly: “It was one o’clock in the morning when they came in order to kill me. Guy Philippe led them. The others were Rémissanthe Ravix, Clotaire Jean-Baptiste, Bell Panel, Voltaire Jean-Baptiste, and Édouard Casimir, all members of the rebels hiding across the border. They did not find me but they killed five people in the house. The killers were outside and yelled at my family to come out of the house. They heard shots and were scared. They were shooting gunfire into the air, so my family ran outside. They were immediately asked to lie on the floor. All of the rebels participated. Seven people in total were sleeping in the house. Only my mother and nephew survived. Today my mother is mentally disturbed while my nephew, the son of my sister, Bertrand Roussaine, received a bullet in his chest exiting through his back damaging his spine. Today he is paralyzed and lives in a wheelchair.” (…)
Souverain presented a list of more than 30 who were killed just in Pernal and the surrounding region, among which were the assistant mayor of Savanette, Mr. Amongue Céna, and several well-known individuals who disappeared. Others attended to discuss how they lost their businesses and homes to the ex-military attacks. They said they felt much of the violence was due to their supporting the constitutionally elected government of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (…)
Another wave of attacks began on Nov. 28, 2002, when a justice of the peace, Lozama Christophe, accompanied by Cléonor Souverain, Remarais Rodolphe, and a magistrate, Jean-Robert Paldomaire, traveled to the town of Kinpe along Haiti’s Central Plateau. Along the way, they spotted a demonstration being held by members of the CD. Among the demonstrators was Serge Etienne, a former member of the FAd’H special Leopard unit.
Cléonor Souverain recalled how Serge Etienne and the pro-military demonstrators assaulted the group. Lauzama died soon after, while Souverain, Rodolphe, and Paldomaire managed to escape with their lives.
FLRN attacks in the Central Plateau increased. They targeted government supporters and infrastructure, as well as officials and police. “All the ex-soldiers who had gone into hiding had then come out. They had on their former military uniforms, which were now tighter around their fattened bellies. They were back and heavily armed. It was our worst nightmare,” recalled Souverain.
The gunmen crossed with impunity into Belladère, spreading panic among small rural towns in the region. They crossed the Dominican border freely. A group calling themselves the “Motherless Army of Pernal” launched a wave of killings. “They did not spare the civilian population, neither pregnant women, nor children, and violated the principles of the Geneva Convention thoroughly,” observed a member of local human rights group. FL coordinators in the region, such as Eliodor Denaud, Isael Jean, and Levelt Rival, saw their homes burned down. The weekly newspaper Haïti Progrès reported that Rival’s wife and children rushed into a nearby banana field crouching down until the night passed. Israel Jean’s home was looted (and his goats were shot) before being torched. As for Denaud, the assailants destroyed everything he had. Denaud and his entire family, including nine children, were forced into hiding.
On the same day, the ex-military killed four in Lascahobas, located only miles away from Belladère and the Dominican border. These were Joseph Sincère, Léonie Laverne, Sigué Jean Harry, and Louissaint Dorsainvil.
NCHR reported that three of the murdered individuals were believed to be “police informants” but provided no further information on these allegations (or who had made them). After attacks against FL coordinators in the Belladère districts, the mercenaries moved further into the interior. Driving to Lascahobas, Cléonor Souverain recounted how the ex-military then ransacked another home and killed two FL members. (…)
Receiving tips and aid from local CD members, the paramilitaries retaliated against the HNP buildup on Mar. 14, 2003, when heavy gunfight broke out in Pernal. Five officers of the Haitian SWAT team were seriously wounded, forcing government forces to fall back. A child of six, Bernandeau Marjorie, died in the fighting. (…)
ATTACK ON THE PÉLIGRE DAM
The division among the paramilitary leadership was highlighted when Ravix’s group led a failed attack on Haiti’s main hydroelectric dam on May 7, 2003. The assault on Péligre was supposed to be timed with a rapid assault led by Philippe through the north of the country. But when police in the Dominican border town of Dajabon arrested Philippe and his advisor Paul Arcelin, the northern assault failed to materialize.
The day of Philippe and Arcelin’s arrest, 20 gunmen, many former FAd’H, drove in a convoy from Pernal to the Péligre dam, also in the Central Plateau. Built in 1950, the Péligre dam is one of the largest buttress-style dams in Latin America and the Caribbean and provides the majority of the electricity for Port-au-Prince. Arriving at the dam, the gunmen crashed through the gates, killed the two private security employees, and set fire to the plant’s control room. (…)
The insurgents ran into unexpected resistance from the dam’s security guards, who wounded two insurgents before being shot. The insurgents then prepared to sabotage the dam, but dam employees convinced them that what they planned would put their own lives at risk. (The control house for the dam lies in the downstream shadow of the dam.) The insurgents withdrew to higher ground (after having shot more or less at random in the control house), intending to [cause an explosion in] the control house, but then learned that Philippe had been arrested — and the larger coup attempt effectively scuttled.
With electricity temporarily cut off, Port-au-Prince went dark. A group from the Central Plateau, made up of victims of the paramilitary attacks, claimed that in addition to killing the two security guards, the former soldiers killed another six people around the dam. After stealing one of the few local ambulances and kidnapping several employees from a local hospital, run in part by foreign volunteers and staff of Partners In Health (PIH), the gunmen sped off to the Dominican Republic. The attack, which the Aristide government accused Philippe of masterminding, ended with a race to the Dominican border as government security forces trailed behind the speeding insurgents. The Peligre assault signaled a stepped up campaign targeting key infrastructure. (…)
After being arrested in the Dominican Republic, Philippe and Arcelin were quickly released, likely following the intervention from higher-ups in the Dominican government or military, according to the Dominican foreign minister at the time, Hugo Tolentino. This was a claim echoed by the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to Haiti, Alberto Despradel. But the elderly Tolentino appears to have been unaware that top bureaucrats within his own ministry were also cooperating closely with the paramilitaries. (…)
FLRN gunmen hiding out in the hills near the Dominican border launched a round of assassinations and raids. On Jul. 4, Jean Fritznel, agent of security of the Chamber of Deputies, was shot and killed in Pernal. On Jul. 16, in the small town of Hoy-Lor-Pues, ex-military forces captured and buried four FL supporters alive. On Jul. 23, gunmen attacked again in Pernal and at San Pedre, killing five. According to witnesses, Guy Philippe and Voltaire Jean-Baptiste led the death squad. The next day a government convoy from Port-au-Prince was ambushed, killing four technicians, employees of the Ministry of the Interior. (…)
Bel Angelot recalls: “I had a member of my staff killed in Plateau Central by the army of Guy Philippe. His name was Jean Marie Despeignes. He was working in my office as a consultant. When he was killed the rebels returned to the Dominican Republic so the government could do nothing to catch them. I met with his family. It was a very sad time.”
On Jul. 26, three more were killed at the hands of the ex-military. In Pernal, Colbert Réné was shot to death; Gesner Séraphin was murdered in Piton; and in the border town of Roy-Sec Wilmer Picot was shot to death. (…)
Assassinations carried out by groups linked with the ex-FAd’H occurred in other parts of the country, such as the September 2003 murder of Gratian Doassaint in Cap-Haitien. This followed a similar killing the year earlier of a Lavalas activist, Donald Julmis, also in Cap-Haïtien. The violence against the popular movement continued in the Central Plateau as well. On Sep. 23, Larose Emmanuel, an FL supporter, was killed in Pernal and just days later three men — Jean Lenos, Sigué Joël, and Sigué Amazan — were killed in the Los Puetes locality of Pernal. The reinsertion of former soldiers into the affairs of the country, forming terrorist cells in Pernal and the surrounding areas, provided a clear threat to local authorities, which were unable to control the situation. By December and January, Pernal and most of the Belladère area had fallen under the control of the former soldiers. This was made clear by the brazen assassination, on Dec. 13, 2003, of the assistant mayor of Savanette, Amongue Céna.
On that same day, the paramilitaries intensified attacks in Bois Pin, another locality of Pernal, executing five local Lavalas supporters: Pierre Jean-Claude, Despinos Seneck, Joseph Rébéca, Charité Alonso, and Dorestil James. On Jan. 18, Perard Monbayard, another FL supporter in Pernal, was murdered. (…)
FLRN NORTHERN OFFENSIVE
On Feb. 14, 2004, Philippe and Chamblain publicly declared themselves as heads of the ex-military “rebel” movement. Before launching their assault on Hinche, the provincial capital of the Centre Department (in the Central Plateau), Philippe and Chamblain visited Gonaïves and began preparation. Planning a more concerted offensive, they began a new round of attacks on Feb. 19. The New York Times later reported: “On 19 February 2004, the rebels attacked the jail in Fort Liberté, near the border. . . . Jacques Édouard, the jail supervisor, said he was forced to release 73 prisoners, including convicted murderers. Some prisoners joined the rebels, while others took over the city, robbing residents and burning homes until the United Nations arrived a month later, said Andrea Loi Valenzuela, a United Nations worker there.”
The insurgents now occupied Gonaïves and much of the Central Plateau. Land routes from the capital to Cap-Haïtien to the north were cut off, effectively splitting the country in two. In the Central Plateau only the town of Hinche held out. In Cap-Haïtien, just a few dozen police officers remained. (…)
Chamblain, meanwhile, led a raid with over a dozen commandos on the Hinche police station in Haiti’s Central Plateau, brutally executing police chief Maxime Jonas and another officer. “After a firefight of a few hours, the police exhausted their ammunition and were allowed to flee. The assailants then opened the prison’s doors, as they have done in all their attacks, and burned the police station.” Around this time, NGO darling Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), was said to have welcomed Chamblain and even held a dinner for his band at Papaye.
On Feb. 19, the FLRN paramilitaries launched a stronger coordinated attack on Hinche in order to hold the town. The New York Times reported that Ravix, “who led the well-armed and apparently well-disciplined troops clad in camouflage into Hinche on Friday, said his troops were ‘not rebels, but representatives of the new Haitian army.’” The return of the Haitian army, a mechanism of enrichment and power masked in nationalist rhetoric, continued to be a demand echoed by the ex-military and opposition.
Dozens of paramilitaries with M-16s, Uzis, and AK-47s, some with chest-plate body armor, paraded down Hinche’s main thoroughfare. Chamblain said, “Our target was the chimères; I do not know how many died. The people took care of the rest. The battle began at one in the afternoon and ended three hours later. We took all the weapons we could find in the city to build up our force further.” Guy Philippe took credit for the capture of Hinche.
After the fighting subsided in Hinche, Philippe claims he then convinced his lieutenants that prior to moving on Port-au-Prince they should first move northward to Cap-Haïtien. (…)
In Cap-Haïtien, government supporters with only a dozen loyal police officers prepared for the defense of the city. On Feb. 19, government supporters set up burning barricades around the city center in preparation to repel an assault. But with little coordination and few weapons, and with the opposition-allied media spreading fear and paranoia, many were beginning to flee or go into hiding, fearful of a bloodbath.
THE FALL OF CAP-HAÏTIEN
In Cap-Haïtien, much of the population was living in fear as the paramilitaries approached. The arrival of tankers delivering fuel “caused total chaos when people thought the rebels were invading by boat. . . . Police abandoned their posts, while schools and businesses closed. Police later returned when they realized it was not an attack, but the city remained tense.” U.S. officials were also now well aware of the paramilitaries plans to attack the city. (…)
The next day, off the coast of Cap-Haïtien, the USS Saipan, a 254-meter vessel, patrolled the waters. Government supporters reported that their communications were mysteriously jammed throughout the day; no telephone calls were coming in or out of Cap-Haïtien. Finally, late in the night, they were able to hear from some of the activists in Cap-Haïtien. FL supporters claimed that a “high-speed landing craft suddenly appeared at 0300”; on board was a contingent of unidentified fighters. Guy Philippe later acknowledged that his men arrived in Cap-Haïtien on both boats and buses.
Hundreds streamed into the streets, either in support or wishing to ingratiate themselves with the paramilitaries. As the FLRN looted police stations as well as homes and businesses of known FL supporters, many from the poor neighborhoods hid in fear of an impending slaughter. The BBC reported that 200 fighters in Cap-Haïtien “ransacked and set on fire” all four of Cap-Haïtien‘s police posts. (…)
In the days following the takeover, FL supporters claimed that hundreds of their partisans in Cap-Haïtien were killed as “activists and their families were rounded up and stuffed into shipping containers then left to die. . . . elected officials fled to the mountains, radio stations were burned, and schools and literacy programs closed down.” Bel Angelot, assistant minister of interior and a native of Cap-Haïtien, recalled: “Many friends were murdered. The school, the radio station, and printing press that I ran were all destroyed. The College in Cap-Haïtien, which I had helped to found, was destroyed, the radio station and my home was destroyed by arson. They destroyed so much . . . After Feb. 29, 2004, I went into hiding. After one week I went to the Dominican Republic with my wife. My three kids traveled before me to New York. So from the Dominican Republic I went to New York.”
Chamblain and Philippe were now in control of Haiti’s second largest city. According to one of their top lieutenants, the two received a congratulatory phone call from Pentagon officials. (…)
While a large FLRN force remained in Cap-Haïtien, Philippe and a group of paramilitaries converged to move south, toward Port-au-Prince. On Sat., Feb. 27, after a gun battle, the paramilitaries wrested control of Mirebalais from government forces, after which they proceeded to lynch several local FL activists. Once settled in Mirebalais, it was confirmed that Guy Philippe “had halted the final assault on the capital ‘under Washington requirement.’”
Just outside of the capital, Philippe declared an ultimatum that Haiti’s democratically elected president either leave or be executed. Philippe knew that by spreading havoc across the country and making bold pronouncements in the media, the international powers would be pressured to act and remove Aristide — he had been well advised on the matter. (…)
Killing sprees broke out in the towns occupied by the paramilitaries aimed at punishing government supporters. Haïti Progrès reported that in the town of Saint-Marc “seven young people, including two pairs of young brothers, were macheted or shot to death by pro-coup forces. . . . Mutilated bodies were then paraded around the town and dragged by a rope behind a truck to terrorize the rest of the town’s population.”
In the capital, FL partisans were better organized, with popular organizations mobilized and most of the loyal security forces on hand. A few hundred police dug in around the National Palace and the president’s home in Tabarre as popular organizations and FL supporters formed barricades throughout the city. Along with a guard of Haitian security, Aristide had a few dozen private security employees from a U.S. agency; however, under murky circumstances the guards were withdrawn, apparently under high-level U.S. government pressure.
Peter Hallward has written a particularly detailed article on the removal of Aristide from his home in Tabarre. In a thorough investigation, Randall Robinson wrote an entire book on the subject, recounting what occurred during the coup and throughout that period of time. With Aristide ousted, Guy Philippe and other top paramilitary lieutenants, such as Chamblain and Ravix, were soon living it up in luxury hotels in Pétion-Ville.
Political scientist Robert Fatton remarked: “It’s clear that Aristide would never have been toppled had it not been for the armed insurgents,” adding that he does not think that “the civil opposition, although it became larger and broader in its appeal, was in any way capable of forcing Aristide out of power. It’s only when you had the armed insurgents that you have the opportunity for the so-called ‘civil society’ to force the issue.”
But ultimately it was transnationally oriented state elites operating through the U.S. and its allied apparatuses’ that used the situation to oust Aristide. Consensus on the ground for many Haitian supporters of democracy was that it was the “laboratwa” [CIA “laboratory”] at work.