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The Haitian Army Returns: Who Is Guy Philippe?

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The feared Haitian army, disbanded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is making a comeback. We take an in-depth look at the paramilitary leader who now claims to be in control of the Haitian police and military: Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s.

For many Haitians, it is like a real life nightmare is once again becoming a reality. The feared Haitian army, disbanded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is making a comeback. And what is particularly disturbing to veteran Haiti observers and human rights organizations is the man who now claims to be in control of the Haitian police and military.

He says the man he most admires is former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He praises the former dictator as the man who “made Chile what it is.’” Next to Pinochet, his second greatest hero is Ronald Reagan. The man is paramilitary leader Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s.

The Haitian government and the private US security firm hired in 1998 by Haiti to protect the president accuse Philippe of master-minding a deadly attack on the Police Academy in July 2001 and of an attempted coup in December 2001. When he is discussed in the corporate media, he is almost always referred to simply as a rebel leader, a former police chief.

But human rights groups paint a different picture.

Human Rights Watch reported Friday that during Philippe’s term as police chief of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas from 1997 to 1999, international monitors “learned that dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, mainly by police under the command of Inspector Berthony Bazile, Philippe’s deputy.”

Yesterday, Philippe and his paramilitaries retook control of the former Haitian Army headquarters across from the National palace. Philippe declared to the international press that he himself is now in control of 90% of Haiti’s armed forces. In an address on Haitian Radio, Philippe declared, “The country is in my hands.” He summoned 20 police commanders to meet with him yesterday and warned that if they failed to appear he would arrest them.

Also yesterday, Philippe announced he would arrest Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who is a top official of Aristide’s Lavalas party. Democracy Now! heard from sources in Haiti that Neptune’s home was burned and looted and that he was being pursued by armed gangs. People close to Neptune told us he fears for his life. Local radio reported that Neptune was evacuated from his office by helicopter as Guy Philippe led a mob in a march to the office. Meanwhile, there are reports of regular execution-style killings on the Haitian seaside.

  • Brian Concannon, works for the Bureau des Avocats Internacionaux, (International Lawyers Office in Haiti, where he has spent the last several years prosecuting crimes committed during the 1991-1994 coup. Among the cases he has prosecuted are those stemming from the 1994 Raboteau massacre in a pro-democracy neighborhood in Gonaives.

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