CEPR

Report Raises Questions of US Government Role in New Haitian Political Intrigue

For Immediate Release:
March 11, 2019
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Washington, DC ― The seven US-based security contractors arrested in Port-au-Prince last month have ties to Haitian elites and politicians, a new feature investigative report from Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch (HRRW) reveals. The investigation by CEPR research associate and lead HRRW blogger Jake Johnston raises intriguing questions about why the US government broke with diplomatic procedures in getting the contractors ― who were arrested a few blocks from the Central Bank with an array of weapons and driving in unmarked vehicles ― out of Haiti, and why they have yet to be charged with any crimes in either the US or Haiti.

Johnston traveled to Haiti just after the arrest of the Blackwater-like security contractors, and his investigation is based on interviews with sources close to the situation, government documents, flight data, existing reports, and other records relating to the case.

The investigation reveals new details of what transpired at the Central Bank; how some of the contractors traveled to Haiti, and when; and provides the most complete account of the contractors’ detention, what they had done in Haiti before their detention, and the political and diplomatic discussions that surrounded the event.

“This case raises a number of disturbing and important questions about what these men, widely referred to as ‘mercenaries’ in Haiti, were actually up to in Port-au-Prince,” Johnston said, “And why the US government worked to ‘rescue’ them and cover up what happened.”

On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors after the group attempted to enter the Central Bank. Driving in unmarked vehicles and transporting semi-automatic rifles, drones, and other tactical equipment, the contractors claimed to be on a government mission. Four days later, the US “rescued” them, as one of the freed contractors described it. None are expected to face charges.

Over the course of just a few days, the case took on political significance much greater than the detention and release of the contractors. The chain of events initiated by their arrests revealed the weakness of Haiti’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong.

“It’s clear that we’re not getting the whole story about this strange and troubling incident,” Johnston said. “And we’re not getting the whole story because government officials and powerful figures in both the US and Haiti are keeping important information from the public. This investigation is a step toward revealing what these guys were doing in Haiti and why they seem to have some powerful friends looking out for them.”

Read Johnston’s feature investigation here; about key Haitian figures connected to the incident here; details on the contractors here; about the American company at the center of the mystery here; and about the secretive plane trip to Haiti here.

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