The Miami Herald
Sat, Feb. 28, 2004
Rebel chief says he is a servant of his nation

Guy Philippe, an ex-policeman and now head of the Haitian insurgency, declares patriotism his only motive.


CAP HAITIEN, Haiti - Guy Philippe, the diminutive, soft-spoken leader of the Haitian Liberation Front speaks in almost scripted words: He is the quiet hero of a story he is directing himself.

''I heard my people. I saw their misery. I saw the way they were treated,'' the 35-year-old Philippe said during one of several interviews with The Herald in this rebel-controlled city.

"I'm not doing this for political reasons. Can't someone just love their country, be a good patriot?''

Haitian as well as U.S. government officials have accused Philippe, a former Cap Haitien police commissioner, of involvement in drug trafficking and three coup plots in 2000 and 2001.

Human Rights Watch reported Friday that during Philippe's term as police chief of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas from 1997 to 1999, international monitors ''learned that dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, mainly by police under the command of . . . Philippes deputy.'' Philippe has denied all the allegations.

Wearing a camouflage uniform but unarmed as he ate lunch at a poolside table in the Hotel Mont Joli, his base since his men took Cap Haitien on Sunday, he would not say exactly when his men will move on Port-au-Prince.

He is in contact with people there and keeps a close eye on news reports of spreading chaos, he said. He has told some interviewers the he already has fighters in some areas of the capital but that they will not move until he says so.

Philippe has told other reporters that he would like to enter the Haitian capital on Sunday -- his birthday.

Philippe can talk about military strategy, politics or literature with equal ease.

He says his favorite author is 18th century French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, and his favorite book Charles de Secondat Montesquieu's 18th century essay De L'Esprit des Lois, which advocated the separation of government powers and helped shape the thinking of the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

The man he most admires is former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, he said. ``Pinochet made Chile what it is.''

No. 2 on his list is former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

As for politics, he claims to have no personal ambitions. Once Aristide is out, he said, he wants the president of the Constitutional Court to take over an interim government while a national debate is held to form a consensus government. ''I think I have to be there to defend my men's positions,'' he said. ``We're not going to let the country have another Aristide.''

Philipe and 10 other police officers went into exile in the neighboring Dominican Republic in 2000 after Aristide accused them of plotting a coup.

''We were in control of almost all the police at that time,'' he said. ``We decided to go for the good of the country. I didn't think I would come back like this. But as the man became a tyrant, I had to come back and fight for my country.''

When Philippe is not worrying about how to keep the hospital in Cap Haitien running or get the schools opened again, he's sorting out the logistics of his new army.

''We have enough money for 15 or 22 days,'' he said Friday, pulling out a white envelope wrapped in rubber bands and full of Haitian cash he said was donated by supporters. He said some supporters in the United States also are contributing to his efforts.

Outside the hotel, 100 men waited to volunteer for his Haitian Liberation Front. He said another 300 or 400 had volunteered on Thursday.

''I already have a national army,'' he said.