Haiti: With Friends Like These

A host of shadowy figures is helping Haiti's military rulers hatch a plot to sideline Aristide permanently

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If the Clinton Administration's gambit is to set Francois up for a fall, Haiti's chief of repression is not playing. Clinton is determined to avoid a U.S. military intervention and will revisit that decision only if harm comes to any of the thousand or so Americans still in Haiti. "We know that," says an adviser to Francois, "and that's why our No. 1 priority is to protect the Americans here." The military is concentrating now on its Haitian solution to sideline Aristide permanently while keeping U.S. troops at bay. To effect that, they are relying on the advice of some players used by past U.S. administrations.

The shadowy Garrison, who is constantly at Cedras' side, has flown in Kevin Kattke, a former Macy's department-store maintenance engineer who has had his finger in more than one American intelligence pie. In 1983 Kattke helped Oliver North prepare the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. He was also on hand in Haiti in 1986 when Baby Doc Duvalier was ousted. (Raymond Burghardt, who oversaw Latin American affairs for the National Security Council at the time, credits Kattke with "knowing that Baby Doc would be toppled before the U.S. embassy did.")

Kattke claims to be helping the Haitians fashion a "reconciliation government that can pass muster." To help promote the idea that the military's plan represents a "Latin way out of this," he has enlisted Rafael Pantaleon, a former Dominican Republic ambassador to the U.N. Pantaleon is operating with the "complete knowledge and approval" of Dominican President Joaquin Balaguer, says Kattke, adding that Balaguer "hates Aristide from way back." Also in the Garrison-Kattke loop is Norman Bailey, chief economist for the National Security Council during the Reagan years, who explains, "We want to get Haiti back on track economically."

Another retread from past U.S. foreign adventures is Henry Womack, who helped oversee construction of the base that the Reagan Administration-back ed contras used to stage attacks against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. By day Womack tends his southern Florida storm-shutter business. At night he hunkers down in an eight-bedroom yellow stucco house in South Miami with Francois' sister Elsie and her husband Charles Joseph. Their aim is to assist Haiti's military in presenting a "fresh face" to the world. Womack says he offers Haiti's rulers "a white man's thinking." Joseph has paid visits to the offices of Republican Senators Larry Pressler and Jesse Helms, as well as various Congressmen, to sell the idea of manipulating Article 149 to seat a new President in Haiti.

Some of the doings of this Miami trio border on the farcical. Womack complains that his phone has been temporarily disconnected because of his constant calls to Port-au-Prince. "I can't get reimbursed for the $3,000 I owe the phone company," he says. Although firmly supportive of Haiti's military regime, Womack says he "got involved with these folks initially last spring to do business." He details an elaborate plan to tap U.S. aid funds for low-interest loans that would be used to transport New York City garbage to Haiti, where it would be processed into mulch to fertilize plants bioengineered to provide high-quality paper pulp. "We could collect $38 a ton for the garbage," claims Womack. "We'd make a bundle, and the government could get enough to pay the whole army's salaries."

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