Haitian business organizations and members of the country’s tiny elite used the Haitian police force as their own private army in the wake of the 2004 coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, according to a secret US Embassy cable.
Then–US Ambassador to Haiti James Foley warned in the cable "against private delivery of arms" to the Haitian National Police (HNP) after learning from a prominent Haitian businessman that "some business owners have already begun to purchase weapons and ammunition from the street and distribute them to local police officials in exchange for regular patrols."
The May 27, 2005, report was in a trove of 1,918 cables that WikiLeaks made available to the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté, which is collaborating with The Nation on a series of reports on US and UN policy toward the Caribbean country.
Haiti’s private sector elite has been a key US ally in promoting Washington’s agenda in the country, from free trade and privatization of state enterprises to two coups against President Aristide followed by US and UN military occupations.
Fritz Mevs, a member of "one of Haiti’s richest families and a well-connected member of the private sector elite" with major business interests in Port-au-Prince’s downtown and port, was the principal source for Foley’s report.
Mevs told the Embassy that the president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, Reginald Boulos, had "distributed arms to the police and had called on others to do so in order to provide cover to his own actions." Boulos currently sits on the board of former President Bill Clinton’s Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which controls the spending of billions donated to rebuild Haiti after the January 12, 2010, quake.
The May 2005 cable describes the period after the February 29, 2004, coup d’etat, which not only removed Aristide from power but repressed his Fanmi Lavalas party, set up a US-backed de facto government, and ushered in a 9,000-strong UN military occupation known as MINUSTAH (UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti).
De facto Prime Minister Gerard Latortue’s interim government of Haiti and his paramilitary allies had difficulty stabilizing their unpopular regime, despite killing an estimated 3,000 people and jailing and purging from government jobs hundreds of Lavalas militants and sympathizers.
The regime had particular trouble suppressing pro-Aristide strongholds like the slum areas of Bel Air and Cite Soleil, which mounted a fierce resistance to the coup and the occupation. The de facto government, US Embassy and Haitian elite called the resistance fighters "bandits" or "gangs," the terminology used in the cable.
Titled "Haitian Private Sector Panicked by Increasing Violence," the cable relays Mevs’ report to the Embassy’s political officer that Haitian "business leaders are exasperated by the lack of security in the vital port and industrial zone areas of Port-au-Prince and are allegedly arming local police with long-guns and ammunition in an effort to ensure security for their businesses and employees."