Haitian activists in Port au Prince are accusing the Obama administration of turning a blind-eye to the political activities of alleged criminal bosses in Haiti while backing a ruling to exclude the widely popular Fanmi Lavalas party. The party of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, known as Fanmi Lavalas, was barred by current Haitian president Rene Preval’s handpicked election council from participating in parliamentary elections scheduled for Feb. 2010.
The accusations made against the Obama administration by community leaders in Haiti stems from a recent meeting of the Front for National Reconstruction (FRN) held at a hotel in downtown Port au Prince on Dec. 19. The FRN gathering of former paramilitary commanders who helped oust former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a bloody takeover in 2004 was officiated by their party leader Guy Philippe. He was indicted on Nov. 22, 2005 for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and money laundering. Lawyers contacted in Miami confirmed that the indictment is still open and that Philippe remains on a wanted list of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of the United States.
Philippe escaped from a high-profile DEA raid that was supported by the Haitian government in July 2007. According to the Miami Herald, "The raid’s failure angered Haitian President René Préval, who had to work hard to persuade his minister of justice to allow the U.S. agents to capture Philippe and other drug suspects on Haitian territory, according to well-informed U.S. and foreign officials who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the case."
The DEA raid was launched after Philippe revealed on a local Haitian radio station that Andre Apaid and members of his Group 184 had provided funding to paramilitary forces in the neighboring Dominican Republic to oust Aristide. The Group 184 led the opposition movement to Aristide and mounted an international public relations campaign seeking his resignation. Apaid and the Group 184 claimed that they were a peaceful civil society organization with no relationship to Philippe as his forces entered Haiti on a killing spree of Lavalas supporters in early Feb. 2004. During a broadcast on radio Signal FM, Philippe claimed that the Group 184 and business leaders that included Apaid had sent money to buy arms and provided logistical support to their invasion from the Dominican Republic. Apaid owns Alpha Industries that is one of the largest garment assembly factories in Haiti. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited one of Apaid’s factories last April to tout his partnership with Canadian apparel giant Gildan Activewear as an example for economic development in Haiti.
A leader of one of the many community organizations affiliated with Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas and who spoke on condition of anonymity stated, "It’s clear to us that Obama and Preval never really intended to arrest Philippe but only wanted to send him a message to shut his mouth. While Fanmi Lavalas has been barred from the next elections in 2010, Philippe’s party has been accepted to run by Preval’s election council. Now Philippe openly holds an FRN meeting in the capital…where’s the DEA? He’s right here if they really want him. Obama and Preval are hypocrites."
While Fanmi Lavalas, which is still recognized as Haiti’s most popular political party is barred from participation in the upcoming parliamentary contest in Feb. 2010, Philippe’s Front for National Reconstruction was approved to run in the elections by Preval’s election council.