Toussaint, Scapegoat or Sacrificial Lamb?
Raymond A. Joseph
There's no question that Dany Toussaint, the former
Haitian Army major, bodyguard of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
and now Lavalas Family "Senator," has been targeted
as a scapegoat, if not a sacrificial lamb, by Aristide
who is intent on placating an increasingly impatient
A relentless press campaign has painted the "charismatic"
Toussaint as the perpetrator or instigator of several
high profile crimes, including the murder of famed journalist
Jean Léopold Dominique on April 3, 2000, and
the sacking as well as the burning of homes and offices
of opposition leaders last December 17.
Following an article of Scott Wilson in The Washington
Post, last March 3, which was picked up in an abridged
version by The Miami Herald on March 6, it was the turn
of J.P. Slavin in the Long Island daily News-day, March
14, to reveal what a shady character Toussaint is. Here
are some pertinent experts of Slavin's commentary entitled
"Mad Dream Goes on in Haiti," and which had appeared
earlier in The Los Angeles Times: "Washington is deeply
concerned that if Aristide were elbowed aside, it would
make room for the ambitious Sen. Dany Toussaint, a man
who has been compared to Liberian President Charles
Taylor-- a strongman whose trademark is a necklace with
a dangling bullet."
Slavin calls on credible sources to show the evilness
of the man who was Aristide's bodyguard and confidante.
"Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), a former CIA officer and
chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen.
Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), have accused Toussaint of being
credibly linked... to narcotics trafficking."
There's more: "Toussaint has also been charged with
involvement in the April 2000, murder of Haiti's most
prominent journalist, Jean Léopold Dominique,
but has avoided trial by claiming parliamentary immunity.
Toussaint has enough gunmen at his disposal (an estimated
1,500 in Cité Soleil) that even Aristide has
been reluctant to move against him."
Forget that Toussaint's alleged involvement in drug
trafficking has been known for years and that he was
detained in Miami by Immigration and Naturalization
officials who expelled him to Haiti. He has since been
barred from the U.S. Yet, Aristide leaned on him all
along to mobilize the thugs of so-called "Popular Organizations"
to hound the opposition. Although Toussaint was suspected
of involvement in the murder of Jean Domini-que, in
April 2000, Aristide allowed him to run for the Senate
under the banner of his Lavalas Family party six weeks
after the daring crime. So, Toussaint and Aristide are
partners in crime.
Reading J.P. Slavin, one has the impression that he's
writing about Somalia or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
"Things can turn dangerous quickly in Haiti, especially
in this sprawling and increasingly lawless capital.
The slums, plagued by a dangerous mix of firearms and
hunger, have become near-war zones overrun by gangs.
Humanitarian relief organizations need armed guards
to work there. Most foreign journalists enter the cabash
only after negotiating in advance with local warlords,
who provide gang-member bodyguards armed with assault
rifles." And remember that Dany Toussaint controls at
least 1,500 of these armed thugs in Cité Soleil
Can we believe that President Aristide has nothing
to do with the gangs? Writes Slavin: "For President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the turmoil is a threat to his
government"-- and personal security. That's why Aristide
has turned "to a personal security force of 40 to 60
foreign guards on private contracts." So much for "a
ruler who came to power as a 'man of the people.'" Now
each of his bodyguards "earns as much as $90,000 a year,
plus living expenses."
It is preposterous for Slavin to say that "Aristide
remains the nation's only political leader with legitimate
popularity across the country." How does he measure
that? By the participation of only 10% yo 15% of the
electorate in the fraudulent elections of November 26,
2000? He must know that those elections were boycotted
by the opposition and Aristide had run unopposed. It
was a farce compared with the elections of May 21, 2000
when approximately 60% of the electorate participated
and all parties were represented. But Aristide rigged
that vote and threatened the President of the elecoral
council with death when he refused to certify the fraud.
He was spirited out of Haiti by the U.S. and now lives
in exile in the U.S.
All the Aristide apologists use the same argument.
It is true that he may be bad. But the alternative is
worse. Writes Slavin: "The United States is sufficiently
alarmed at Aristide's failings that the U.S. Secretary
of State Colin Powell recently warned that it would
continue to block $200 million in much-needed international
loans out of concern that the president has done little
to further democracy in the country. ... Despite the
U.S. stance, the Bush administration will continue to
work with Aristide, because the alternatives are worse.
No one in the opposition is credible or popular, and
the most likely successors to Aristide from within his
own political party are tied to drug trafficking or
This is no different from the explanations that were
in vogue during the 30-year Du-valierist dictatorship.
"Après moi, le déluge." There's no one
who could rule better than Papa Doc or Baby Doc. Meanwhile,
the country was going down the tube, as the rulers lived
high off the hog. Not unlike what's happening today.
Except that things are far worse than under the Duvaliers,
because "the priest of the shantytowns" and his former
theology of liberation confrères have turned
into rapacious "grands mangeurs" ("big eaters").
But J.P. Slavin is part of a pattern. In a "press
review" last week, we dealt with a Washington Post article
by Scott Wilson that bear some similarities with the
argument made by J.P. Slavin in favor of Aristide. The
image of the "gun-totting" followers of Toussaint rushing
into the Senate chambers with their idol gives way to
that "the mobs that burned opposition headquarters and
opposition-owned houses." All "respond to Toussaint's
orders." Tous-saint's criminal activities and his connection
to the drug cartel are also revealed. A U.S. official
describes him as "a nefarious character... involved
in political murders... [and] in drug trafficking."
The situation is ominous, and Scott Wilson warns of
a looming catastrophe. "A split has emerged in Lavalas
over Toussaint's rising clout [and] one Lavalas member
described it as a struggle between 'the honest part
of the party and those guided by self-interest,' warning
that if the wrong side wins, Haiti could become a narco-state."
There's no mistaking which is the wrong side. For
the unnamed Lavalas member quoted by Wilson makes a
fervent plea: "Right now the United States should be
trying to help the cleaner part of this party [Lavalas
Family] ... Because if Dany runs for president [in 2005]
he is going to be very hard to beat."
The press campaign against Dany Toussaint gets its
biggest boost from The Haitian Times which consecrated
its front page to Jean Dominique. An editorial which
the slain journalist had read in French on Radio Haiti
Inter in October 1999 is translated into English. Jean
Dominique clearly denounced Dany Toussaint and his thugs
who had attempted to intimidate the journalist and his
mulatto colleagues within the Lavalas movement. Jean
Dominique was blunt in portraying Toussaint. "I have
... been for some time the target of Dany Toussaint's
clique within Lafanmi," he said. But he scoffed: "I
have not fought for 30 years to waste my time deciphering
the quarrels among the satraps of Fanmi Lavalas!"
Jean Dominique insinuated that Dany Toussaint was
involved in several murders. He stated: "The murder
of Jean Lamy, the attack on Mario Andresol, the recent
assassination of a dozen police officers, the murder
of Yvon Toussaint, the murder attempt against Marie-Claude
Calvin Préval: All aroused from us on Radio Haiti
the anger of the citizenry and the indignation of Lavalas."
And this prophetic warning of the newsman: "... I know
that he [Toussaint] has weapons, I know that he has
money to pay and arm his followers. Here, I have no
[other] weapon than my journalist's pen. And my microphone
and my unquenchable faith as a militant for true change!
And let me be perfectly clear, I will not turn over
to any free-rider in the world a monopoly over Lavalas,
no matter who it is! If Dany Toussaint tries anything
else against me or the radio, and if I am still alive,
I will close the place down after I have denounced these
maneuvers one more time, and I will go in exile once
more with my wife and children."
Six months later Jean Dominique was gunned down together
with the caretaker of the station, Jean-Claude Louis-saint,
in the courtyard of Haiti Inter as he arrived for his
morning broadcast. And for the past two years, the Lavalas
regime that Dominique had nurtured so well, has thwart-ed
the completion of the investigation in his murder. There
hasn't been any justice for Jean Dominique. But that's
no fault of Aristide, whose followers pinned the crime
on the opposition and burned down the headquarters of
an opposition group on April 9, 2000 in reprisal.
Haiti-Observateur was among the first organs to publish
Jean Dominique's editorial soon after his murder and
to link Dany Toussaint to the crime.