The Miami Herald
Wed, Mar. 03, 2004
Ex-police chief back for old role

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's former right-hand man reemerges to lend security to a post-Aristide, uncertain Haiti.


PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Another ghost from Haiti's horrible past has emerged from the power vacuum left by Jean-Bertrand Aristide -- Dany Toussaint, accused of being a killer and drug trafficker and until last year, a hard-bitten Aristide backer.

The 46-year-old Toussaint is a senator from the former president's Lavalas Family party. But he says Aristide's resignation and flight into exile prompted him to return to his work in security. He was chief of police during Aristide's first presidential term in the 1990s.

''When they talk about security, they talk about me,'' Toussaint told The Herald on Tuesday in one of his rare interviews since a bloody anti-Aristide rebellion erupted on Feb. 5.

And even though he broke with Aristide last year, he claimed to have been meeting recently with rough pro-Aristide gunmen known as chimres to persuade them to put down their weapons and assist the National Police in restoring order.

Toussaint is among the businessmen and former police and army officers who have emerged to take on pro-Aristide militants who had threatened to ''burn down the houses and cut off the heads'' of the president's opponents.

His name also is being mentioned as a player in the maneuvering to forge a new coalition government -- despite his reputation.


U.S. officials have said they suspect him of drug trafficking. And only the legal immunity he enjoys as a senator kept him from being questioned as a suspect in the April 2000 assassination of journalist Jean Dominque. He denied the allegations on Tuesday.

''What they wanted to do was kill two people: Jean Dominique, physically, and then assassinate my character,'' said Toussaint, sipping a Guinness. ``Why would I have killed Jean Dominique?''

His emergence adds him to the list of men with reputations for brutality who returned to the limelight during the rebellion.


Rebel leader Guy Philippe, an alleged drug dealer and coup plotter, was in exile in the neighboring Dominican Republic until he returned to lead about 50 to 60 former army soldiers in the anti-Aristide Haitian Liberation Front.

Louis Jodel Chamblain, another rebel leader, was convicted in absentia of murdering an Aristide supporter in 1995 and later became a leader of FRAPH, the brutal paramilitary group that supported the 1991-1994 military dictatorship.

Now running a police and security supply shop in the suburb of Petionville, he has kept a low profile as a consultant to Haiti's 4,000-member police force.

He said he hadn't spoken on radio -- Haiti's main source of news -- during the rebellion that left more than 100 dead. But he said that, in addition to negotiating with pro-Aristide militants to hand over their guns, he has met with Police Chief Jocelyne Privert -- and even with Philippe.

''Guy Philippe, he reminds me of myself in 1991, very young, very dynamic,'' he added. ``He fights for what he believes in.''

Toussaint has a long history of support for Aristide and is credited with saving his life in 1986 and 1991. ''God saved his life, but I was working with him,'' he said.

Toussaint is known for his charm, good looks and ability to reach into the Haitian masses for support at the polls, as Aristide once did. But while he admits he has charisma, he says that's why he shouldn't run for the presidency.

''People say after Aristide, it's Dany. But I don't rely on my popularity to run for president,'' he said. ``What I would like to see is a political system based on institutions. No more charismatic leaders.''