Haiti Democracy Project



Dany Toussaint, Scapegoat or Sacrificial Lamb?

By 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 international community.

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 alone!

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 racketeering schemes."

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.

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