The release of secret US Embassy cables by WikiLeaks has provoked a maelstrom in Haitian politics, threatening the approval of a prime minister–designate, damaging the career of a leading right-wing politician, and throwing Haiti’s tiny and ultra-rich elite into a paroxysm of public mea culpas.
“So it is with humility and simplicity devoid of artifice that I want to offer my sincere apologies, ” wrote Fritz Mevs, a leading member of one of Haiti’s richest families, in an open letter to Senator Youri Latortue, one of Haiti’s most powerful right-wing politicians and a key ally of new President Michel Martelly. “I probably got carried away…and I confess that the words that I could have spoken in no way reflect my thoughts.”
“I recognize the qualities of a fervent patriot, a tireless servant of the interests of your country,” he added. “I stand ready to make honorable amends by publicly correcting any damage to your reputation,”
Mevs was walking back claims he made in a May 2005 meeting with former US Ambassador James Foley that Senator Latortue was part of a “cabal” of business and political elites that controlled a network of dirty cops and gangs that thrived on narco-trafficking and generated political violence and instability.
Mevs’s apology came the same week that a further batch of State Department cables reported by the weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté described Youri Latortue as a “mafia boss,” “drug dealer” and the “the most brazenly corrupt of leading Haitian politicians.”
Latortue denies the allegations and has threatened a lawsuit against Haïti Liberté. He did not respond to calls from The Nation seeking comment for this story.
Meanwhile, parliamentary approval for President Michel Martelly’s pick for prime minister, Bernard Gousse, took a major blow with the publication of secret US Embassy reports that he was a “complete failure both on the security and justice fronts” when he served as justice minister under the de facto coup government that followed the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.
As Justice Minister, Gousse presided over repeated police and paramilitary assaults on suspected pro-Aristide neighborhoods that resulted in the deaths and jailing of thousands of people.
The UN occupation chief at that time, Juan Gabriel Valdés, felt that “replacing Gousse would be a good thing for both justice and security in Haiti,” reported Ambassador Foley in a May 2005 cable.
“Gousse has been the strongest single force behind the persecution of political prisoners in Haiti,” said Brian Concannon Jr., director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
When former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, currently under investigation and house arrest, returned to Haiti in January this year, Gousse argued against his prosecution in an op-ed for the Haitian daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste. As Justice Minister, Gousse commended right-wing death-squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a key player in the notorious US Defense Intelligence Agency–backed FRAPH, for his “great service to the nation” and suggested he could be pardoned.