Haiti's ex-chief of police cites corruption
BY MARIKA LYNCH
WASHINGTON - Just after midnight last Sunday, Jean-Robert Faveur asked his chauffeur to drive him from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to the Dominican border. They left the car at a local police station.
But fearing for his life, Faveur said, he walked into the Dominican Republic and took a plane flight to South Florida.
Faveur's story is similar to the accounts of hundreds of others who have secretly left their home country -- except that Faveur was Haiti's national chief of police. Haiti's third chief in as many months, Faveur walked out just two weeks into the job.
International observers had hoped the career officer would reform
Haiti's struggling police force. But instead -- making his first public
appearance since fleeing, at a
Washington event sponsored by the advocacy group Haiti Democracy Project -- Faveur presented pages of letters and evidence detailing how President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide and aides allegedly tried to run the police from the National Palace. They usurped so many of his functions, Faveur charged, that he scarcely had more authority than a patrol officer.
According to documents he produced, Faveur was forced to make illegal promotions. Faveur also said he was ordered by a Haitian congressman to hire 18 ''armed'' men as officers -- though they didn't have police academy training.
The document, which if authentic bears the congressman's signature and cellphone number, also gave out ranks to would-be recruits -- all the way up to inspector, the fifth level in Haiti's police hierarchy.
Faveur said that when one of Haiti's most notorious drug suspects, Jacques Ketant, was arrested, he heard about it first from a radio reporter.
Angered that he was asked to break laws, Faveur said, he complained
to Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who, Faveur claimed, replied, ``There is
a difference between
reality and the law. Democracy is a utopia. What we have here is an authoritarian democracy, like Cuba's.''
Neptune couldn't be reached late Friday. The allegations have particularly rankled diplomats, who have urged the government to take politics out of the police force.
''We believe it puts into question the good faith of the government
of Haiti,'' U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran said in a telephone interview
``Professionalization of the police means that a director general needs to be able to apply the law free of political interference.''
Meanwhile, Haitian officials want Faveur arrested -- for desertion.
Haitian officials said that the promotions Faveur was asked to give to
officers were long overdue.
Although the police chief claimed in his letter of resignation that Haitian officials took away his authority to sign department checks, the government said Faveur was asked only to be a co-signer with others.
Government officials also have claimed that Faveur's appointment -- and sudden departure -- was a setup. His name first surfaced as a choice for chief on a list produced by the Organization of American States. Aristide picked Faveur from among the candidates. Now they say he was a plant to make the president look bad.
''This is a vast operation that was planned a long time ago,'' government spokesman Mario Dupuy said at a press conference this week in Port-au-Prince.
''He got into power, he saw that it was too much for him, he saw that he couldn't handle it,'' Justice Minister Calixte Delatour, also told reporters. ``He needed a crown of thorns, to be a martyr.''
But Faveur said he used his own money to flee, without assistance from any embassy.
The police chief is a key position in Haiti, especially after Aristide dissolved the Haitian army in 1994. Woefully underfunded, Haiti's national police force has about 4,000 officers in a nation of eight million people. The United States, along with other countries, initially trained the force then all but abandoned it in 1998 over allegations of corruption.
Claudy Gassant, who fled Haiti after he said he received threats over the case of slain journalist Jean Dominique, said Faveur had a clean record before becoming chief.
''You can contact the human rights organizations, whether local
or international, and they don't have anything negative to say about Mr.
Faveur,'' Gassant said after
introducing Faveur Friday. ``At the inspector general's office, there is not one report blaming Mr. Faveur.''