THE NEW YORK TIMES
January 29, 2006
Democracy Undone | Back Channels vs. Democracy
Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos
By WALT BOGDANICH and JENNY NORDBERG
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — As his plane lifted off the runway here in
August 2003, Brian Dean Curran rewound his last, bleak days as the
American ambassador in this tormented land.
Haiti, Mr. Curran feared, was headed toward a cataclysm, another violent
uncoupling of its once jubilant embrace of democracy more than a decade
before. He had come here hoping to help that tenuous democracy grow. Now
he was leaving in anger and foreboding.
Seven months later, an accused death squad leader helped armed rebels
topple the president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Haiti, never a model of
stability, soon dissolved into a state so lawless it stunned even those
who had pushed for the removal of Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic
priest who rose to power as the champion and hero of Haiti's poor.
Today, the capital, Port-au-Prince, is virtually paralyzed by
kidnappings, spreading panic among rich and poor alike. Corrupt police
officers in uniform have assassinated people on the streets in the light
of day. The chaos is so extreme and the interim government so
dysfunctional that voting to elect a new one has already been delayed
four times. The latest date is Feb. 7.
Yet even as Haiti prepares to pick its first elected president since the
rebellion two years ago, questions linger about the circumstances of Mr.
Aristide's ouster — and especially why the Bush administration, which
has made building democracy a centerpiece of its foreign policy in Iraq
and around the world, did not do more to preserve it so close to its
The Bush administration has said that while Mr. Aristide was deeply
flawed, its policy was always to work with him as Haiti's democratically
But the administration's actions in Haiti did not always match its
words. Interviews and a review of government documents show that a
democracy-building group close to the White House, and financed by
American taxpayers, undercut the official United States policy and the
ambassador assigned to carry it out.
As a result, the United States spoke with two sometimes contradictory
voices in a country where its words carry enormous weight. That mixed
message, the former American ambassador said, made efforts to foster
political peace "immeasurably more difficult." Without a political
agreement, a weak government was destabilized further, leaving it
vulnerable to the rebels.
Mr. Curran accused the democracy-building group, the International
Republican Institute, of trying to undermine the reconciliation process
after disputed 2000 Senate elections threw Haiti into a violent
political crisis. The group's leader in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed
Aristide opponent from the Haitian elite, counseled the opposition to
stand firm, and not work with Mr. Aristide, as a way to cripple his
government and drive him from power, said Mr. Curran, whose account is
supported in crucial parts by other diplomats and opposition figures.
Many of these people spoke publicly about the events for the first time.
Mr. Curran, a 30-year Foreign Service veteran and a Clinton appointee
retained by President Bush, also accused Mr. Lucas of telling the
opposition that he, not the ambassador, represented the Bush
administration's true intentions.
Records show that Mr. Curran warned his bosses in Washington that Mr.
Lucas's behavior was contrary to American policy and "risked us being
accused of attempting to destabilize the government." Yet when he asked
for tighter controls over the I.R.I. in the summer of 2002, he hit a
roadblock after high officials in the State Department and National
Security Council expressed support for the pro-democracy group, an
American aid official wrote at the time.
The International Republican Institute is one of several prominent
nonprofit groups that receive federal funds to help countries develop
the mechanisms of democracy, like campaigning and election monitoring.
Of all the groups, though, the I.R.I. is closest to the administration.
President Bush picked its president, Lorne W. Craner, to run his
administration's democracy-building efforts. The institute, which works
in more than 60 countries, has seen its federal financing nearly triple
in three years, from $26 million in 2003 to $75 million in 2005. Last
spring, at an I.R.I. fund-raiser, Mr. Bush called democracy-building "a
These groups walk a fine line. Under federal guidelines, they are
supposed to nurture democracy in a nonpartisan way, lest they be accused
of meddling in the affairs of sovereign nations. But in Haiti, according
to diplomats, Mr. Lucas actively worked against President Aristide.
Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state at the time, said that the
American policy in Haiti was what Mr. Curran believed it to be, and that
the United States stood by Mr. Aristide until the last few days of his
But in a recent interview, Otto J. Reich, who served under Mr. Powell as
the State Department's top official on Latin America, said that a subtle
shift in policy away from Mr. Aristide had taken place after Mr. Bush
became president — as Mr. Curran and others had suspected.
"There was a change in policy that was perhaps not well perceived by
some people in the embassy," Mr. Reich said, referring to Mr. Curran.
"We wanted to change, to give the Haitians an opportunity to choose a
democratic leader," said Mr. Reich, one of a group of newly ascendant
policy makers who feared the rise of leftist governments in Latin
Told of that statement, Mr. Curran said, "That Reich would admit that a
different policy was in effect totally vindicates my suspicions, as well
as confirms what an amateur crowd was in charge in Washington."
Bridging the divide between Mr. Aristide and his opponents would have
been difficult in even the best of circumstances. But what emerges from
the events in Haiti is a portrait of how the effort to nurture democracy
became entangled in the ideological wars and partisan rivalries of
"What you had was the constant undermining of the credibility of the
negotiators," said Luigi R. Einaudi, a respected veteran diplomat who
led the international effort to find a political settlement on behalf of
the Organization of American States.
The I.R.I. did not permit The New York Times to interview Mr. Lucas, but
in a response to written questions, he denied trying to undermine
American policy. "I never told the opposition not to negotiate," Mr.
Lucas said in an e-mail message.
Georges A. Fauriol, the I.R.I.'s senior vice president, said that his
group faithfully tried to represent "the ideals of the American
democratic system," and that he personally pressed the opposition to
compromise. Mr. Fauriol blamed "innuendos and political interests" for
the complaints of Mr. Curran and others. He also said Mr. Curran never
gave him the specifics that he needed to act against Mr. Lucas, whom he
called "one of our best political party trainers."
In Haiti, Mr. Lucas's partisan activities were well known. Evans Paul, a
leader of the anti-Aristide movement and now a presidential candidate,
said Mr. Lucas's stand against negotiating was "a bit too harsh" even
for some in the opposition.
Jean-Max Bellerive, an official in three Haitian administrations,
including Mr. Aristide's, added, "He said there was a big plan for Haiti
that came from Washington, that Aristide would not finish his mandate."
As for the ambassador, Mr. Bellerive said, "he told me that Curran was
of no importance, that he did not fit in the big picture."
Micha Gaillard, a former spokesman for the main anti-Aristide coalition,
the Democratic Convergence, said Mr. Lucas went so far as to act as its
representative in Washington.
With Washington's approval, Mr. Lucas used taxpayer money to fly
hundreds of opposition members — but no one from Mr. Aristide's
Lavalas party — to a hotel in the Dominican Republic for political
training that began in late 2002. Two leaders of the armed rebellion
told The Times that they were in the same hotel during some of those
meetings, but did not attend.
The I.R.I. said the sessions were held outside Haiti because Lavalas had
physically threatened its staff, including Mr. Lucas. But another
American democracy-building group, the National Democratic Institute,
said it was able to work successfully with Mr. Aristide's party in
Mr. Curran left Haiti in August 2003 for a new assignment, and by fall,
Mr. Aristide's political opponents had decided there was little point in
negotiating. Still, there was one last hope. Mr. Einaudi persuaded some
opposition leaders to meet with Mr. Aristide at the home of the new
American ambassador, James B. Foley. But while the president was
prepared to give up much of his power, Mr. Einaudi said, American
officials "pulled the rug out," abruptly canceling the meeting without
Several months later, the rebels marched on Port-au-Prince and Mr.
Aristide left Haiti on a plane provided by the American government.
Since then, Haiti has become even more chaotic, said Marc L. Bazin, an
elder statesman of Haitian politics.
"I was suspicious that it would not be good," Mr. Bazin said. "But that
bad — no."
Added Mr. Einaudi, "Building democracy in Haiti now is going to take a
very long time."
A Voice for the Poor
After two centuries of foreign occupiers, dictators, generals, a
self-appointed president for life and the overthrow of more than 30
governments, Haitians finally had the chance in 1990 to elect the leader
they wanted. The people chose Mr. Aristide, a priest who had been
expelled from his Roman Catholic order for his fiery orations of
"He was espousing change in Haiti, fundamental populist change," said
Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar who has criticized American policy as
insufficiently concerned with Haiti's poor. "Right away, he was viewed
as a threat by very powerful forces in Haiti."
President Aristide promised not only to give voice to the poor in the
poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but also to raise the minimum
wage and force businesses to pay taxes. He rallied supporters with
heated attacks on the United States, a tacit supporter of past
dictatorships and a major influence in Haitian affairs since the Marines
occupied the country from 1915 to 1934.
"He wasn't going to be beholden to the United States, and so he was
going to be trouble," said Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a
Democratic critic of Bush administration policy on Latin America. "We
had interests and ties with some of the very strong financial interests
in the country, and Aristide was threatening them." Those interests,
mostly in the textile and electronic assembly businesses, sold many of
their products cheap to the United States.
When the Haitian military, with the support of the business elite,
overthrew Mr. Aristide after just shy of eight months in office, the
administration of George H. W. Bush criticized the loss of Haiti's first
democracy, but did not intervene militarily.
Raymond A. Joseph, the current interim government's ambassador to the
United States, recalls a speech that Mr. Aristide gave in September
1991. "That's the speech," Mr. Joseph said, "that triggered the coup
d'état against him, where he said, 'Whenever you feel the heat under
your feet, turn your eyes to the mountains where the wealthy are,
they're responsible for you. Go give them what they deserve.' "
After the coup came repression. In the first two years, the United
States Coast Guard intercepted 41,000 Haitians at sea. Pressured by the
Congressional Black Caucus, President Bill Clinton sent troops to help
restore Mr. Aristide to power in 1994.
Mr. Aristide quickly disbanded the country's most powerful institution
— the military. It did not help that Mr. Aristide — and for that
matter, Haiti — had little experience with the give and take of
"He was not trained to be a politician, he was trained to be a priest,"
Mr. Einaudi said. "So that when he got involved heavily in politics, he
didn't know very much about the games politicians play."
Mr. Aristide returned with only one year left in his term, and because
the Haitian Constitution barred him from consecutive terms, his ally
René Préval was voted into office.
But the international community believed that Mr. Aristide remained a
real power, and it had grown frustrated with the government's
shortcomings. That frustration built to the parliamentary elections of
2000. Mr. Aristide's party declared victory in 18 of 19 Senate races,
even though international observers said runoffs were required in 8 of
them because no one had won a clear majority. Angry Lavalas opponents,
in turn, boycotted presidential elections in November; Mr. Aristide won
Tensions rose further as international lenders withheld aid from the
Aristide government. "We could not deliver any goods, services to the
people," said Leslie Voltaire, a former minister under Mr. Aristide.
Even Mr. Bazin, a former World Bank official who ran against Mr.
Aristide in 1990, criticized the cutoff. "The poorer you are, the less
democratic you are," he said.
Indeed, the combination of a strengthening opposition, a weaker
government and an attempted coup drove Mr. Aristide deeper into the arms
of his most fervent supporters in the slums. "The urban gangs received
money, logistical support and weapons from the national police because
the government saw them as a bulwark against a coup," the International
Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization that studies Haiti and
other trouble spots, said in a 2005 report.
When some Aristide supporters engaged in criminal acts, including
killings and drug trafficking, the president was often unwilling or
unable to stop them. That eroded his popular support.
A simple dispute over a handful of Senate seats had now morphed into a
showdown over the very legitimacy of Mr. Aristide's presidency.
It was in these months that two ingredients were added to the roiling
Haitian stew: a new American ambassador, Brian Dean Curran, arrived in
Port-au-Prince and a Republican administration was inaugurated in
An Ambassador's Mission
Mr. Curran began his assignment at the start of 2001. To understand the
country better, he made a point of learning Creole, the language of the
poor, even though diplomats and the ruling elite conversed in French.
"He was amazing to watch," one former government official said. "He
would walk in a classroom with Haitian children and take over from the
Mr. Curran said he wanted to believe in Mr. Aristide but slowly became
disillusioned. "I had many conversations with him about the police,
about human rights abuses," Mr. Curran said. "And in the end, he
Even so, Mr. Curran said, his mission was clear. "The promotion of
democracy was at the very heart of what I was doing in Haiti," he said.
Clear, too, was how to go about that: supporting Mr. Aristide's right to
office while working to foster a compromise. "That was the officially
stated policy," Mr. Curran said. "Those were my instructions."
Mr. Curran was supposed to have help from the I.R.I., which had been
active in Haiti since 1990. Along with the National Democratic
Institute, the I.R.I. was formed in the early 1980's after President
Ronald Reagan called on Americans to fight totalitarianism.
Its board includes Republican foreign-policy heavyweights and lobbyists,
and its chairman is Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, who did
not answer requests for an interview. The group's financing comes from
the Agency for International Development, as well as the State
Department, foundations and corporations like Halliburton and Chevron.
More than its sister group, the International Republican Institute tends
to work in countries "it views as being strategically important to U.S.
national foreign policy interests," according to a 1999 report by the
international development agency.
The I.R.I.'s Republican affiliations did not go unnoticed on the streets
of Port-au-Prince. Graffiti condemning the I.R.I. had been showing up
for some time, the work of Aristide supporters. "I think they distrusted
I.R.I. as an organization because they were affiliated with the
Republican Party, and Lavalas just felt the Republican Party was out to
get them," said David Adams, a former A.I.D. mission director in Haiti.
And there was one more reason, he said: Stanley Lucas, the I.R.I.'s
leader in Haiti.
Mr. Lucas, who said he grew up in the United States and Haiti and worked
as a part-time Haitian civil servant, came from a land-owning family.
That background, along with his politics, "sends a very provocative
message, I think, to those supporting Aristide," said Mr. Maguire, who
runs the international affairs program at Trinity University in
Washington. Mr. Lucas joined the I.R.I. in 1993 and took over its Haiti
program five years later.
With his good looks, sociability and fluency in Creole, French and
English, he moved easily between Port-au-Prince and Capitol Hill. "He's
the Denzel Washington of Haiti," one A.I.D. official said. That he was a
karate champion only added to his aura.
The anti-Aristide message had currency around Washington. Mr. Einaudi,
the veteran diplomat, recalled attending the I.R.I.'s 2001 fund-raising
dinner and being surrounded by a half-dozen Haitian businessmen sounding
a common cry: "We were foolish to think that we could do anything with
Aristide. That it was impossible to negotiate with him. That it was
necessary to get rid of him."
A year later, the I.R.I. created a stir when it issued a press release
praising the attempted overthrow of Hugo Chávez, the elected president
of Venezuela and a confrontational populist, who, like Mr. Aristide, was
seen as a threat by some in Washington. The institute has since told The
Times that praising the attempted coup was wrong.
Mr. Lucas had been to Venezuela seven times for the I.R.I., but he was
not there at the time of the coup. Instead, he was focusing on Haiti,
where his work was creating another stir for the institute.
No Negotiations, No Compromise
In early 2002, Mr. Curran said, he began receiving troubling reports
about Mr. Lucas. As he urged the opposition in Haiti "to show
flexibility," the ambassador said, Mr. Lucas was sending the opposite
instructions: "Hang tough. Don't compromise. In the end, we'll get rid
As his concern mounted, Mr. Curran asked that Mr. Lucas be removed from
the I.R.I.'s Haiti program. The institute resisted.
Mr. Fauriol, the institute's senior vice president, said Mr. Curran had
not been forthcoming with information about Mr. Lucas. "Specifics we've
never been given," he said, adding that Mr. Lucas's critics probably did
not know him very well.
"We don't have any questions about the quality of his work," Mr. Fauriol
said. "There is something of a cottage industry that's sort of built
around what he has or hasn't done, perceptions, rumors, whisperings. And
it has sort of created a profile of an individual that is, shall we say,
greatly exaggerated — simply not true."
Mr. Curran countered that he had ample witnesses to Mr. Lucas's
behavior. And opposition leaders said in interviews that Mr. Lucas had
actively opposed a political settlement.
"Mr. Lucas was of the opinion negotiations would be a bad idea; I was of
the opinion we should have negotiated to show our good faith," said Mr.
Paul, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince, who nonetheless praised Mr.
Lucas's support for the opposition against Mr. Aristide.
Mr. Gaillard, the former spokesman for the Democratic Convergence, the
main anti-Aristide coalition, said he also did not like that Mr. Lucas
was acting as the Haitian opposition's representative in Washington.
"That really disturbed us, because we didn't know exactly what he was
saying," he said.
Mr. Bazin added that Mr. Lucas "was prepared to act aggressively to get
Aristide out of power."
Mr. Einaudi said he found Mr. Lucas's role disturbing.
"Stanley Lucas is a very bright man, very able man," he said. But, he
said, "I thought it was a mistake the way Dean Curran did, I think, that
he should become the person in charge of I.R.I.'s policies and
At the A.I.D. office in Port-au-Prince, the agency's director, Mr.
Adams, said he found Mr. Lucas difficult to deal with.
"When Stanley tells you something, it's kind of hard to know exactly
what the kernel of truth is," Mr. Adams said.
With the I.R.I. standing behind Mr. Lucas, Mr. Curran complained to his
superiors in Washington — through cables, e-mail messages and, he
said, in meetings.
In a July 2002 cable, he wrote: "I continue to have grave misgivings
about the participation of an individual whose questionable behavior
could be to the detriment of U.S. interests. The USAID director shares
Mr. Curran also cautioned that Mr. Lucas's continued participation
"will, at best, lead to confusion as to U.S. policy objectives, which
continue to eschew unconstitutional acts and favor negotiations and, at
worst, contribute to political destabilization in Haiti."
The Old Policy Makers Return
Mr. Curran sent his cables to the Bush administration's Latin American
policy team, records show. In addition to Mr. Reich, then assistant
secretary of state for Latin American affairs, that group included
Elliott L. Abrams, a special assistant to the president and senior
director for democracy and human rights, and Daniel W. Fisk, a deputy to
These men were veteran fighters against the spread of leftist political
ideology in Latin America, beginning with Fidel Castro and Cuba. Mr.
Fisk's former boss, Jesse Helms, then a Republican senator from North
Carolina, had once called Mr. Aristide a "psychopath," based on a C.I.A.
report about his mental condition that turned out to be false.
In the 1980's, Mr. Reich and Mr. Abrams had become ensnared in
investigations of Reagan administration activities opposing the
socialist government of Nicaragua. The comptroller general determined in
1987 that a public diplomacy office run by the Cuban-born Mr. Reich had
"engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities." In 1991, Mr.
Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress in
connection with the Iran-contra affair. He was pardoned by the first
Now, with the advent of the second Bush administration, Mr. Reich, Mr.
Abrams and their colleagues were back in power. The Clinton era, they
felt, had been a bad one for United States interests in Latin America.
"The United States had squandered a good deal of its credibility by its
support for Aristide during the Clinton years," said Roger F. Noriega, a
former senior Helms aide who replaced Mr. Reich at the State Department
in 2003. "We essentially held his coat while stuffing millions of
dollars in it while he terrorized the opposition."
At the time of Mr. Curran's complaints, the I.R.I.'s current president,
Mr. Craner, was running the State Department's democracy and human
rights program. He questioned the charges leveled by Mr. Curran, who
goes by his middle name, Dean.
"I'm curious about why Dean has a very different opinion of Stanley from
his bosses," Mr. Craner said. He added that neither Mr. Noriega nor Mr.
Reich had come to him or the institute and complained, and he urged The
Times to call them.
Mr. Noriega said Mr. Curran had not worked for him, but offered that he
had seen no evidence of misconduct by the I.R.I. Mr. Reich was more
specific about Mr. Curran.
"He never expressed any problems with Stanley Lucas to me, and I was his
boss," Mr. Reich said. Asked why his name showed up on cables as having
received Mr. Curran's complaints, and why Mr. Curran's cables detailed
discussions with him, Mr. Reich replied: "I have absolutely no
recollection of that. I'm not questioning it, I just have no
recollection of that."
Mr. Reich said he could not understand why Mr. Curran would focus on
"some low-level bureaucrat" at the I.R.I. rather than the misconduct of
Mr. Aristide. That, he asserted, was why the United States had gradually
backed away from Mr. Aristide. "The crime is the Clinton administration
supported him as long as it did," Mr. Reich said.
Mr. Curran said it was "a patent lie" that he had never complained to
Records show that in the summer of 2002, Mr. Curran sought tighter
control over the I.R.I. before signing off on a politically delicate
program that Mr. Lucas had organized in the Dominican Republic to teach
the opposition the art of campaigning.
Washington officials opposed Mr. Curran's request. Not only was there
pressure from Congress, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Adams of
A.I.D., but "there were senior State/N.S.C. officials who were
sympathetic to I.R.I.'s position as well."
Mr. Curran did secure several concessions suggested by Mr. Reich,
including that Mr. Lucas would be barred from participating in the
program for 120 days and would be dismissed from the I.R.I.'s Haiti
program if he misbehaved, records show. Even so, Mr. Curran thought the
grant was a bad idea if Mr. Lucas remained involved.
The Training Next Door
Haiti has had a long, tense relationship with the Dominican Republic,
its more affluent neighbor on the island of Hispaniola. Haitians who
work there are often mistreated, human rights groups say, and the
country has been a haven for those accused of trying to overthrow
In December 2002, the I.R.I. began training Haitian political parties
there, at the Hotel Santo Domingo, owned by the Fanjul family, which
fled Cuba under Mr. Castro and now runs a giant sugar-cane business.
The training was unusual for more than its location: only Mr. Aristide's
opponents, not members of his party, were invited.
Institute officials said this was because the opposition parties were
less powerful and needed more help. The goal, Mr. Fauriol said, "was to
broaden, if you will, the ability of various actors to participate in
the political process."
They also said they were not required to work with Lavalas because its
members condoned violence and the institute's workers were threatened,
which was why the meetings were held outside Haiti. And they pointed out
that no American officials had objected to excluding Lavalas.
There were perhaps a dozen sessions, spread over a year, the institute
said. Hundreds of opposition members came.
"The training programs were really run-of-the-mill political party
programs," Mr. Fauriol said. To the Dominican ambassador who issued the
travelers' visas in Haiti, though, the meetings "clearly conveyed a
confrontation, not a dialogue."
"For the opposition, it was interesting to know that the American
government, or people from the American government, supported and
validated its politics," the former ambassador, Alberto Despradel, said
last fall at the Hotel Santo Domingo.
Among the trainers brought in was Brian Berry, who worked on George W.
Bush's 1994 primary campaign for Texas governor.
Mr. Berry had an interest in the Caribbean. He said he had a small bag
of sand from the Bay of Pigs; he said he looked forward to returning it
to "a free Cuba beach" when Mr. Castro was gone. Mr. Berry said he
volunteered for I.R.I., to further the cause of democracy.
Mr. Bazin, a moderate Aristide opponent, sent representatives to the
Hotel Santo Domingo. They came away believing that more was going on
than routine political training.
"The report I got from my people was that there were two meetings —
open meetings where democracy would be discussed and closed meetings
where other things would be discussed, and we are not invited to the
other meetings," said Mr. Bazin, who is now running for president as the
candidate of a faction of Lavalas.
Mr. Bazin said people who had attended the closed meetings told him that
"there are things you don't know" — that Mr. Aristide would ultimately
be removed and that he should stop calling for compromise.
Afterward, he said, he spoke with Mr. Curran. "I asked him, "How many
policies do they have in the U.S.?' " Mr. Bazin said.
Mr. Lucas said Mr. Bazin's comments should be viewed in light of his
alliance with some former Aristide supporters. And Mr. Fauriol denied
that secret meetings had occurred. Also, A.I.D.'s inspector general said
in a 2004 report that the training sessions did not violate government
But by attending the first training session, Mr. Lucas violated his
Mr. Curran sent a blistering message to Washington. "I.R.I. has set us
on a collision course today," he wrote, adding, "I am afraid this
episode brings into question the good faith of I.R.I. in promising to
control Stanley's renegade activities of the past."
He asked that the institute's program be canceled or Mr. Lucas
dismissed. Neither happened.
Mr. Fauriol apologized, attributing the violation to a simple
misunderstanding of when the exclusion period began. Besides, one
American official said, Mr. Lucas had only a minor role in the meetings.
To Mr. Curran, however, any involvement was a problem. "How can we
control what is said in private conversations?" he wrote to Washington,
"Or what is conveyed by winks and nods?"
It turns out there was another matter, one that federal officials
apparently did not know about: two leaders of the armed rebels told The
Times they were spending time at the Hotel Santo Domingo while the
training was under way.
Guy Philippe, a former police commander who had fled Haiti after two
failed coup attempts, said in an interview that he had seen Mr. Lucas at
"I was living in the hotel, sleeping in the hotel," Mr. Philippe said.
"So I've seen him and his friends and those guys in the opposition, but
we didn't talk politics." He said he had not attended any I.R.I.
Paul Arcelin, an architect of the rebellion, said he, too, had seen Mr.
Lucas at the hotel during the training sessions. In an interview there
last fall, Mr. Arcelin said, "I used to meet Stanley Lucas here in this
hotel, alone, sitting down talking about the future of Haiti." But he
said they had not discussed overthrowing Mr. Aristide.
Mr. Lucas said Mr. Arcelin showed up at an I.R.I. meeting and was told
to leave. He also disputed Mr. Philippe's account.
Several opposition activists said they wanted nothing to do with the
armed rebels. "Participation in our seminars was from a very restricted
list of people," Mr. Fauriol said.
The seminars were still under way in September 2003 when the Bush
administration sent a new ambassador to Haiti. Mr. Curran wanted to stay
longer, Mr. Reich said. But he said Mr. Curran was replaced because "we
did not think the ambassador was carrying out the new policy in the way
we wanted it carried out."
Mr. Powell disputed that, saying he recalled that Mr. Curran was not
removed because of a change in policy, but as part of a normal rotation.
Before leaving, Mr. Curran met with Haitian business leaders. "He made a
remarkable speech," Mr. Bazin said, recalling that Mr. Curran admonished
them not only for doing things "that are not acceptable, including
dealing with drug dealers," but also for listening to people who only
pretended to represent United States policy.
Mr. Curran called them "chimères of Washington" — invoking a word
commonly used to describe gang members loyal to Mr. Aristide.
"The Haitians, in their marvelous language, which is so full of
allusions and metaphor, have created this term for these people — the
chimères, the ghosts," Mr. Curran explained. "Because they're there and
they do things and they terrify you. And then they fade away."
Time Runs Out
The fall of 2003 was a perilous time for Haiti. In the north, the police
fought gun battles with a gang called the Cannibal Army. In the capital,
gangs professing loyalty to the Aristide government attacked journalists
and protesting university students. Across the Dominican border, the
rebels waited for the right moment to attack.
Over four years, Mr. Einaudi, a former acting secretary general of the
Organization of American States, had made some 30 trips to Haiti trying
to prevent such a moment. Yet he had failed. Mr. Aristide was finally
willing to share power, Mr. Einaudi said, but the opposition,
emboldened, felt no need to deal with him.
With time running out, Mr. Einaudi hit upon a new approach — one he
hoped would take advantage of the arrival of the new American
ambassador, Mr. Foley. Mr. Einaudi invited Mr. Aristide and his
opponents to meet at the ambassador's home — a clear signal that the
United States wanted negotiations, not regime change.
When members of both sides agreed to come, there was a glimmer of hope,
Mr. Einaudi said.
Terence A. Todman, a retired American diplomat who also worked in Haiti
for the O.A.S, said: "We knew there would be shouting. But at least they
Then, suddenly, it was over. In a move that stunned Mr. Einaudi, the
United States canceled the meeting, killing "what was in fact my last
move," he said.
His colleague was more blunt. "That blew it," said Mr. Todman, who like
Mr. Einaudi was speaking publicly about the scuttled meeting for the
first time. "That was the end of any effort to get them together."
Mr. Noriega, who had replaced Mr. Reich at the State Department, said in
an interview that the administration called off the meeting after
talking to Aristide opponents. It was "going to be a failure for us and
wreck our credibility," he said.
Representative Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat who monitored
Haitian elections in 2000, had a different reaction when told of the
"If there was a last opportunity and it wasn't acted upon and we did not
pursue it, then that would be a stain upon the United States," he said.
The Rebels' Final Push
Several months later, the rebels crossed into Haiti and began their
final push. There were perhaps 200 in all, many of them former soldiers
in the army Mr. Aristide had disbanded years before. Leading the final
assault were Mr. Philippe and Louis-Jodel Chamblain.
Rights groups have identified Mr. Chamblain as the leader of death
squads when the military ran Haiti after Mr. Aristide's first ouster in
1991. He had twice been convicted in absentia — for his role in a
massacre in Gonaïves in 1994 and in connection with the 1993 killing of
an Aristide supporter.
As for Mr. Philippe, Mr. Curran said he was suspected of having had ties
to drug traffickers before leaving Haiti after a failed coup attempt.
Mr. Philippe, who is now running for president of Haiti, denies any
connection to the drug trade, pointing out that he has never been
charged with such a crime.
On Feb. 19, 2004, the rebels attacked the jail in Fort-Liberté, near
the border. Without the military to defend the country, the government
had to rely on the poorly equipped police, its ranks weakened by
corruption. Jacques Édouard, the jail supervisor, said he was forced to
release 73 prisoners, including convicted murderers.
Some prisoners joined the rebels, while others took over the city,
robbing residents and burning homes until the United Nations arrived a
month later, said Andrea Loi Valenzuela, a United Nations worker there.
When rebels reached the city of Cap Haitien on Feb. 22, the police
chief, Hugues Gabriel, told his 28 officers to flee. "They had machine
guns," he said. "We have little handguns with little ammunition."
In Washington, the Bush administration voiced its official policy. "We
cannot buy into a proposition that says the elected president must be
forced out of office by thugs and those who do not respect law and are
bringing terrible violence to the Haitian people," Secretary of State
But when Mr. Aristide asked for international troops, he did not get
Mr. Powell said he continued to press for a political settlement to keep
Mr. Aristide in office. "We were doing everything we could to support
his incumbency," he said in a recent interview. Only in the last days,
when Port-au-Prince appeared "on the verge of a serious blood bath," he
said, did the United States explore other options. "There comes a point
when you have to make a judgment as to whether you should continue to
support President Aristide or whether it is better to try another
route," he said.
On Feb. 29 — Mr. Philippe's birthday — the United States flew
President Aristide to exile in South Africa.
Almost immediately, Congressional Democrats and Caricom, the association
of Caribbean nations, called for an independent inquiry into Mr.
Aristide's ouster and why Haiti's neighbors had not come to its aid.
"It doesn't add up for the greatest country in the world to be fearful
of 200 thugs, my goodness," said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of
The State Department said there was nothing to investigate. "I think the
U.S. role was clear," a spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, said at the time,
adding, "The focus needs to be on moving forward."
Two years later, there has been no inquiry. Caricom refuses to recognize
Haiti's interim government. And questions about Mr. Aristide's fall
Among them is what the Bush administration knew about the rebels, who
plotted in the Dominican Republic, a country friendly to the United
Their activities there had not gone unnoticed by Haitian authorities.
Edwin M. Paraison, a former Haitian diplomat in the Dominican Republic,
said his government contacted authorities there three times to express
concern "about subversive actions that were being planned on the
Dominican territory." But, he said, little was done.
American officials said they did not take the rebels terribly seriously.
"Our sense was that they were not a large force, not a well-trained
force, and not in any way a threat to the stability then in Haiti," said
Mr. Foley, the American ambassador at the time. "Now that proved to be
Mr. Despradel, the former Dominican ambassador, said American
authorities had to have known what the rebels were doing.
"Given the intelligence the United States has in place throughout the
Caribbean and their advanced technology that lets them hear a mosquito
in outer space — I think Guy Philippe is bigger than that," he said.
At a Senate hearing in 2004, Mr. Noriega was asked if he knew of any
ties between Mr. Philippe and the I.R.I. — specifically Mr. Lucas —
during the training meetings in the Dominican Republic. He said he did
"If it were the case, we would certainly stop it," Mr. Noriega said. "We
knew who Guy Philippe was and that he had a criminal background."
The inspector general of A.I.D. also said that, based on interviews with
American officials and a review of federal records, it found no evidence
of contacts between the men during the year or so the sessions were
taking place, a view echoed by Mr. Fauriol. "If they occurred, they
would have been against any sense of responsibility of the I.R.I. and
any guidance from us," he said. "I don't think those meetings occurred."
And in his e-mail response, Mr. Lucas himself said, "To be clear, I do
not know Guy Philippe." He added that he might have met him once in the
1990's when Mr. Philippe was a police commander in Port-au-Prince.
Mr. Philippe tells a different story. In interviews with The Times, he
called Mr. Lucas "a good friend" whom he has known much of his life. "He
used to be my teacher in Ping-Pong," Mr. Philippe said.
Not only did he say he saw Mr. Lucas during the training at the Hotel
Santo Domingo; he said he met with him once or twice in 2000 or 2001,
while in exile in Ecuador. "He was working for I.R.I.," Mr. Philippe
said. "It was not a planned meeting." They did not discuss politics, he
said, adding, "It's like someone I knew when I was young."
Mr. Voltaire, the former minister in the Aristide administration,
recalled meeting Mr. Lucas at a diplomatic reception in Lima, Peru, in
September 2001. He said Mr. Lucas told him he was headed to Ecuador to
meet with a small group of former Haitian policemen who had trained
there. Mr. Philippe was known to belong to that group.
Mr. Craner, the I.R.I. president, said Mr. Lucas might have been in a
bar in Ecuador when Mr. Philippe was present, though Mr. Lucas could not
be sure. Mr. Lucas said, "We dug down deep into scenarios where Guy
Philippe was potentially present in the room, even if I could not
confirm that." He did acknowledge being in Peru during the time frame
cited by Mr. Voltaire.
Dashing Hopes for Calm
One day last August, Haiti's interim prime minister, Gérard Latortue,
invited a Times reporter into a private cabinet meeting. With his
ministers seated around a long wooden table, Mr. Latortue said he wanted
to deliver a personal message: Haiti was safe to visit now.
"I really would like people to know now that there is an improvement,"
said the prime minister, a former Florida businessman and United Nations
official. "Go where you want to go and after, report what you have seen
— whatever it is." And he added, "We are living in very exceptional
Several days later, in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood, uniformed riot
police officers swept through a crowd at a soccer match, singling out
people to kill — with guns and machetes — outside the stadium.
Unable to leave, people screamed and huddled on the ground. An estimated
10 people were killed at the event, which had been financed by the
United States to promote peace in the area.
Things have only deteriorated from there. Kidnapping gangs hungry for
ransom money have waged an expanding war on the capital. Several months
ago, the Haitian police chief, Mario Andrésol, said a quarter of his
force was corrupt or tied to the kidnappers. Assassinations, mob
violence, torture and arbitrary arrests have created a "catastrophic"
human rights problem, a top United Nations official said in October.
After Mr. Aristide left, expressions of hope for a more stable, peaceful
Haiti came from Haitian business leaders and officials in other
countries, including the United States. "The Bush administration
believes that if we all do our part and do it right, Haiti will have the
democracy it deserves," Mr. Noriega told the American Enterprise
Institute in April 2004.
Those hopes have fallen short at nearly every turn, and for reasons that
go beyond Haiti's desperate poverty. The interim government is widely
viewed as politicized and inept. The local and international security
forces are undermanned and overmatched by the proliferation of guns and
drugs. The United States, which sent in troops to help stabilize the
country immediately after Mr. Aristide's ouster, pulled them out several
months later, even though they command unparalleled respect in Haiti.
Mr. Latortue's government, set up as an unelected caretaker, dashed any
hope of reconciliation when the prime minister praised the rebels as
"freedom fighters." Then, Mr. Chamblain, the rebel convicted twice in
absentia for his role in political killings, was acquitted of one murder
in a retrial that rights groups called a sham. His other conviction was
dismissed as well.
At the same time, Mr. Aristide's former prime minister, Yvon Neptune,
was jailed for a year without charges, prompting an international
outcry. Only after a hunger strike left him near death did the
government bring murder-related charges. Another prominent Aristide
supporter, the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, has been repeatedly arrested;
Amnesty International calls Father Jean-Juste, who has leukemia, "a
prisoner of conscience."
Still, the Latortue government cannot be blamed for all Haiti's
Juan Gabriel Valdés, a Chilean who leads the United Nations mission in
Haiti, said the country needed 25,000 to 30,000 police officers, more
than three times the current number. International aid — $1.08 billion
has been pledged — has been slow to arrive in the slums, where
"If Haiti underscored anything it is that security and development must
go hand in hand," said Caroline Anstey, director of the World Bank's
Caribbean unit. "Better security would have meant faster development
results on the ground. Faster development would have contributed to
The United States has played a diminished role since its troops left in
mid-2004. It pledged $230 million to Haiti from July 2004 to September
2006, A.I.D. said.
But Mark L. Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis
Group, said the United States pulled its forces out too soon, turning
the job over to United Nations peacekeepers while the country was still
in the grip of armed conflict.
On Jan. 24, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said United
Nations forces "are doing a good job," adding, "I take issue with this
idea that somehow the United States has not been deeply involved."
Yet the violence in Haiti, especially the kidnappings, is eating away at
A reporter for The Times was with United Nations troops in Bel Air, a
Port-au-Prince slum, when they found and freed André Boujour, 41, who
said he had been kidnapped two weeks earlier and held in a 10-by-10-foot
hut, accessible only by a narrow path through a warren of tightly packed
Mr. Boujour said he was abducted after delivering several thousand
dollars he had raised from friends and family to free his kidnapped
'A Tragedy of Partisanship'
When Mr. Curran and Mr. Einaudi went to Haiti, they said, they believed
that working with the elected government, whatever its flaws, would help
a young but already sputtering democracy take hold. They said they
believed that the people making policy in Washington shared that hope.
Then, they said, they ran into something larger.
"Haiti is a tragedy, and it is a tragedy of partisanship and hate and
hostility," Mr. Einaudi said. "These were divides among Haitians and
they are also divides among Americans, because Haiti came to symbolize
within the United States a point of friction between Democrats and
Republicans that did not facilitate bipartisanship or stable policy or
Mr. Fauriol said that the I.R.I., too, was frustrated with the interim
government. "We've got to deal with reality and the reality is rather
imperfect," he said. Even so, he wrote last spring that "Haiti's
democratic hopes have been given another chance." The institute's
activities in Haiti no longer include Mr. Lucas. He now works for the
group's Afghanistan program.
Both Mr. Reich and Mr. Noriega have left the government. Before Mr.
Noriega departed, he said America "will continue to be a firm supporter
of democracy in Haiti."
Mr. Maguire, the Haiti expert, is skeptical. "I don't see that the U.S.
is exporting democracy," he said. "I think it's more exporting a kind of
fear, that if we don't do the things the way the U.S. and powerful
interests in our country want us to do them, then perhaps we'll be as
expendable as Mr. Aristide was."
Mr. Curran has left the Foreign Service and is working for NATO. In the
final analysis, Mr. Einaudi said, the former American ambassador was
simply no match for the anti-Aristide lobby in Washington.
"The difficulty," Mr. Einaudi said, "is that he took on a battle that he