Alleged gunman in Haiti linked to police academy attack
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- The sole alleged gunman arrested by Haitian authorities so far in a reported coup attempt was identified Wednesday as a former army member who, officials said, also was involved in the July 28 incident in which armed gunmen attacked a police academy in the capital, killing five people and wounding 15 others.
``This is the same people,'' said National Police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon. ``They did the same thing.''
The man arrested was reportedly among at least 33 heavily armed
men who the government says stormed the National Palace on Monday during
a predawn attack. The
death toll from the violence is now 11. The dead included four attackers who were shot by police as they tried to escape across the border to the Dominican Republic. Machete-wielding government supporters finished off the gunmen, police said.
The suspect in custody was identified as Pierre Richardson, allegedly of Haiti's former army, which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded after he returned to power in 1994.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders kept out of sight, saying they could
not depend on protection from the Haitian security forces. Nor could they
seek help from the
international community for fear that such an act would give credence to claims that they were involved in Monday's attack that prompted a rampage of property with links to government opponents.
``We are in a situation of anarchy,'' said Mischa Gaillard, a spokesman for the 15-party opposition alliance called Democratic Convergence. ``The National Police has resigned their duty and now the foreign governments recognize this government. So if they give us security that would be difficult to explain.''
``For the moment, we are at our own risk,'' Gaillard said. ``I have to spend each day at a different house.''
Opposition leaders say the coup was orchestrated by the government as a pretext for silencing dissent.
At least eight homes and buildings were torched and ransacked in Port-au-Prince. Across the country, mobs attacked a few more.
In addition to the four attackers slain on the border, the fifth
died during the raid at the palace. He was identified as Chavre Millot
and was carrying false Dominican
documents, Simeon said.
Six police officers were injured in the attack, Simeon said. Authorities said three pickups used in the attack were rented in Port-au-Prine and authorities recovered 14 weapons, including an M-50 that reportedly was used to fire on the palace.
Government officials have said the palace attackers identified their leader as the former police chief of northern Cap-Haitien city, Guy Philippe, who fled to Dominican Republic last year with seven police officers accused of plotting to overthrow then-president Rene Preval.
Philippe lived in exile in the Dominican Republic and later joined his wife in Ecuador, authorities said.
Philippe has denied involvement in Monday's assault. On Wednesday, officials in Ecuador said Philippe had arrived at the Quito airport on Tuesday night on a commercial flight from Panama. He is being held by immigration police while authorities decide how to handle his situation.
``As of now he has not requested asylum,'' Foreign Minster Heinz Moeller told reporters.
Aristide has said little more than what he offered in a speech after the attack in what he called a ``message of peace'' where he condemned the violence but warned that ``it's not all over.''
Aristide and his Lavalas Family party have been locked in a yearlong dispute with the political opposition over alleged irregularities in last year's legislative elections.
The conflict also has caused foreign donors to refuse to release hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
The Organization of American States has actively pursued efforts to broker a resolution to Haiti's electoral crisis. But the effort has yet to pay off.
``It is clear that democracy is not here yet,'' said Sergio Romero, the OAS representative in Port-au-Prince. ``The Haitian people have to work hard to reach that status.''