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Probing U.S. ties to Haiti coup
BY RON HOWELL
March 17, 2004
WASHINGTON - Sen. Christopher Dodd says he wants to know whether U.S. taxpayers paid to train Haitians who plotted to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Dodd (D-Conn.) also wants to know if the United States supplied arms used by anti-Aristide rebels.
Dodd's focus is on the Dominican Republic, where over the past two years a group called the International Republican Institute trained hundreds of Aristide opponents, giving them classes in political organizing and similar skills.
Dodd says he has Defense Department letters indicating the United States supplied 20,000 M-16s and other equipment to the Dominican military over the past two years. He is concerned those weapons - or weapons those guns replaced - ended up in the hands of rebels trying to topple Arist
"The question is: Was the Dominican Republic being used as a staging ground for weapons transfers and coup plotting?" said an aide to Dodd.
At a hearing last week of a Senate subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, Dodd asked Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega about the M-16s, citing several Defense Department letters written in 2002 and last year. Noriega said that, as far as he knew, the guns had not been delivered to the Dominican Republic, though Dodd's aide said the letters appear to show a completed transfer.
From the moment Aristide went into exile two weeks ago - prodded by U.S. diplomats - Bush administration critics have cast a suspicious eye at Noriega, saying he had been trying for years to get Aristide out of power. Noriega has been part of a group of archconservative policymakers that considered Aristide too left-leaning.
At last week's hearing, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told the senators, "I'm convinced the recent coup involves not only ... t
he armed thugs, but I'm very concerned about the role that our own ... Mr. Roger Noriega played."
Dodd said he planned to ask the inspector-general of the U.S. Agency for International Development to investigate the International Republican Institute. Two years ago, USAID gave the institute $1.2 million to train Haitians. In the Dominican Republic, IRI then held a series of classes for 600 Haitians, who crossed the border from Haiti, said IRI spokesman Thayer Scott.
Dodd is especially concerned about the involvement in IRI of a hard-line Haitian Aristide opponent named Stanley Lucas.
Lucas had been "undermining" international efforts to get Aristide foes to moderate their positions, Dodd said, citing allegations made two years ago by Brian Dean Curran, then U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
Dodd said USAID agreed to Curran's demand that Lucas be barred from the program, but Lucas wound up working with IRI anyway.
Dodd asked Noriega for assurances Lucas and other institute official
s "had absolutely no involvement or contact with Guy Philippe [an anti-Aristide rebel] or other members of the Haitian armed forces or FRAPH," a paramilitary organization.
"It certainly wouldn't be acceptable," Noriega said.
The IRI, which has ties to the Republican Party, began operating in the Dominican Republic because "in 1999 its country team leader ... was threatened at the point of a gun by an Aristide thug and essentially [the program was] run out of the country," Noriega said.
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.