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2011 INCSR: Country Reports

3 March 2011


A. Introduction

Haiti is a major drug transit country for South American cocaine destined for the United States, the Bahamas, and other countries. Flights from South America making airdrops offshore and at clandestine airstrips throughout Haiti remain a primary narcotics shipment threat. Although marijuana grows in certain parts of the country, Haiti is not a major drug producing country nor is there widespread illegal drug use.

Haiti faces challenges in combating the drug trafficking threat. Security and judicial institutions, including the 15-year old national police force, still in the early stages of professional development, were faced with additional setbacks following the January 12, 2010 earthquake. The widespread devastation to Haitian government infrastructure further impacted the Government of Haiti’s (GOH) ability to combat drug trafficking.

Despite these challenges, there was evidence in 2010 of increasing GOH institutional capacity and improving political will to combat the illegal drug trade and address corruption. The presidentially-appointed permanent Commission Against Drug Abuse and Money Laundering (CONALD) continued to oversee the counternarcotics work of Haitian agencies across the Finance, Interior, and Justice ministries and across various Haitian National Police (HNP) directorates. The Justice Minister, who has frequently decried the apparent impunity enjoyed by drug traffickers who are able to bribe police, judges and court officials, held regular meetings with CONALD in order to focus attention on drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption, and to hold agencies accountable for results.

Haiti is a party to the 1988 UN drug convention.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional development

The HNP is the only Haitian government institution charged with investigating individuals or organized networks that engage in narcotics trafficking or benefit from the illicit trade, and arresting suspects. The key offices within the HNP are the 44-person counternarcotics unit, the Bureau de Lutte de Trafique en Stupéfiants (BLTS), the 18-person financial crimes investigative unit, the Bureau des Affaires Financieres et Economiques (BAFE), and the 99-person maritime police unit, the Gardes Cote.

The HNP were able to start the 22nd Promotion in September 2010 with the assistance of the U.S. and the international community. Graduation of the 900-person class in April 2011 will increase HNP ranks by ten percent, add 100 officers to the BLTS and double the size of the Gardes Cote. Even with these long-anticipated increases, HNP units are relatively small, poorly funded and badly equipped. Moreover, the highly centralized HNP structure has been slow to devolve the decision-making authority and the resources to permit units to conduct operations without substantial external support and ongoing technical assistance.

Haiti is a party to the 1961 Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, and the Inter-American Convention against Trafficking in Illegal Arms. Haiti remains the only member of the Organization of American States (OAS) not a party to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. On September 14, 2009 Haiti ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, and has signed, but not yet ratified, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols on Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling. A U.S.-Haiti bilateral letter of agreement signed in October 1997 concerning Cooperation to Suppress Illicit Maritime Drug Traffic allows U.S. law enforcement agencies to enter Haitian territorial waters and airspace when in pursuit of suspect vessels or aircraft, to board and search suspect vessels, and to carry members of the Haitian Garde-Cotes as ship riders. Although there is no Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between Haiti and the United States, the Haitian government has cooperated on many cases within the limits of Haitian law. The bilateral extradition treaty entered into force in 1905 and, although the Haitian Constitution prohibits extradition of Haitian nationals, the GOH has willingly surrendered Haitian nationals under indictment in the United States to U.S. law enforcement agencies. During 2010, there were no extraditions.

2. Supply Reduction

In 2010, there were a total of nine suspect drug flights into Haiti, as compared to 17 recorded in 2009. Go-fast boats also transport cocaine to locations on Haiti’s southern coast for shipment to the United States or to the Bahamas and other Caribbean markets. Cocaine may also be entering via containers and across Haiti’s land border with the Dominican Republic.

The HNP continued to make progress on the counternarcotics front in 2010, conducting investigations, arresting suspects, and seizing drugs and trafficking-related assets. In 2010, the BAFE seized 19 real estate properties valued at over $10 million. These properties were seized from traffickers convicted in the United States on criminal charges related to drug trafficking or corruption. Some of the properties will be renovated for use as office space for the BLTS, the BAFE, and other GOH financial investigation units. Haitian airport authorities seized $15,262 in cash at the Port-au-Prince Airport this year. Cocaine seizures in 2010 slightly outpaced 2009’s six HNP cocaine seizures, which totaled 19.54 kilograms (kg). In late November, the BLTS seized two kg of cocaine from the suitcase of a traveler attempting to board a Port-au-Prince to New York flight, and arrested her and the companion who had taken her to the airport.

In September 2010, officers from the HNP station in the notoriously gang-infested Cite Soleil neighborhood seized a suitcase containing 19.8 kg of cocaine. It is the first such seizure ever recorded by officers from the Cite Soleil neighborhood and was the largest Haitian cocaine seizure of 2010.

The HNP seized 262 kg of bulk marijuana in 2010, and eradicated some 27,000 marijuana plants in the Artibonite region, respectively, both down from 2009 seizures of 704.95 kg of bulk marijuana and eradication of 12,000 marijuana plants.

3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment

There are no Haitian Government-sponsored drug demand reduction and treatment programs, nor are we aware of non-government organizations (NGO) providing such services. The extreme poverty of the population – the country is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere – leaves little discretionary income, and the daily preoccupation with finding adequate food, water, and shelter for survival thus far has mitigated against a widespread drug abuse problem.

4. Corruption

As a matter of policy, the GOH does not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. A close associate of President Préval appointed to head the Haitian Justice Ministry in November 2009, Paul Denis, has been a forceful anti-corruption advocate. He made combating corruption one of his top three priorities; the two other priorities being pre-trial detention and improving the functioning of the courts. He has often spoken out publically against corruption and in favor of improving the functionality of the justice sector.

The Justice Minister’s articulate observations about corruption problems have not, however, translated into substantive operational or structural changes. Moreover, the United States government (USG) continues to receive reports of actively serving HNP officers providing security for drug traffickers using clandestine landing strips or for transporting cocaine from one location to another. This pervasive corruption is a serious impediment to conducting effective counternarcotics operations in Haiti.

The HNP themselves arrested police officers reportedly involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping gangs. In a highly publicized case reported in September 2010, the Director of the Central Judicial Police, which oversees all HNP investigative units, announced the arrest of seven officers – most of them traffic police from the Brigade d’Intervention Motorisée (BIM) – accused of aiding drug traffickers and kidnappers. Haitian officials characterized the arrests as part of a general housecleaning within the police force.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

President Préval continued to urge decisive action against drug trafficking and money laundering in Haiti. He has reiterated calls for an augmentation of the U.S. counternarcotics presence in Haiti, and encouraged the DEA and other USG agencies to work even more closely with Haitian authorities to arrest and extradite drug trafficking suspects.

This year, the HNP arrested 18 defendants in cases investigated jointly by the DEA and the BLTS. Three of those defendants were transferred to DEA custody and subsequently removed to the United States for prosecution. The GOH also authorized a DEA undercover investigation that resulted in the acquisition of 16 kg of cocaine and a controlled delivery to U.S. targets. One defendant was arrested in the United States and a second was arrested in Haiti by the BLTS and turned over to DEA for removal to the United States for prosecution. DEA also seized $40,000 in cash from the targets during the course of the investigation.

The USG maintains a priority focus on building the capacity of Haitian institutions to provide policing and security for Haitian citizens and to address drug trafficking and money laundering threats. In response to Haiti’s vast rebuilding needs, the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) expanded its Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) to include a counternarcotics advisor, corrections advisor, police advisor and a management officer. INL also received FY 2010 supplemental funding of nearly $148 million that will be used to support GOH efforts to rebuild its security and criminal justice sectors, as well as enhance the ability of the GOH to prevent political instability in Haiti. The supplemental funds will support judicial sector projects, including repair or reconstruction of select damaged facilities; renovation or rebuilding of damaged prison facilities. The funds will also support an increase in the U.S. contribution of police and correctional advisors to MINUSTAH; an increase in the number of Haitian National Police (HNP); reconstruction of damaged portions of the HNP police training facility; provide assistance for training new police recruits; and provide technical assistance and training and logistics support for counternarcotics efforts, among other things.

In 2010, NAS Port-au-Prince, working with NAS Bogota, funded a month-long training course featuring both counternarcotics and anti-kidnapping elements in the curriculum. The course, held in Colombia at the Junglas Training Center trained 24 HNP officers from the BLTS and the anti-kidnapping unit.

NAS worked with DEA to support BLTS operations with per diem, travel costs, rent for the BLTS Special Investigations Unit and equipment. NAS also supported the relocation of the unit following the earthquake to a more secure, upgraded compound which will have all necessary equipment for the BLTS agents to perform their duties without compromising their investigative and police activities.

The Embassy’s Military Liaison Office (MLO) is drawing on Department of Defense Foreign Military Funding for an equipment and training package to support three new vessels purchased for the Haitian Gardes Cote unit by the Government of Canada. That project also will outfit the Canadian built Coast Guard base in Les Cayes to provide a badly-needed operating base for the Haitian Coast Guard on the south coast. NAS provided on-going support to feed the small Gardes Cote unit located on the North Coast at Cap Haitien, and also funded fuel deliveries to run equipment and generators at the central Gardes Cote base at Killick. The Military Liaison Office and NAS are elaborating a strategic plan to rebuild the Killick base, including infrastructure, communications equipment linked to the HNP upgrade package, and training programs to build Gardes Cote capacity.

In 2010, the Haiti Stabilization Initiative (HSI) began its second phase to implement security assistance program in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant. The program, which will run through 2011, adds to the completed efforts in Cite Soleil and targets an area known for the presence of criminal gangs reportedly linked to kidnapping and drug trafficking groups. This phase of the HSI will refurbish or build four police commissariats or sub-commissariats in Martissant and provide non-lethal protective equipment, communications gear, training and mentoring in community-oriented policing for existing police officers and those to be assigned to the impact area. This project not only rebuilds quake-damaged police stations in order to permit a return to normal police operations, it also facilitates an effective police presence in one of the capital city’s most marginalized and destabilizing neighborhoods.

In 2010, NAS developed plans to continue training and mentoring projects for the Haitian National Police including the BLTS counternarcotics unit in 2011 and is working with DEA and the BLTS to design and establish a computerized database of narcotics traffickers and trafficking networks for Haiti, which will enable the BLTS and the HNP in general to share pertinent information with DEA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and with their Caribbean and Latin-American counterparts.

D. Conclusion

Infrastructure and resources, including personnel resources, are the top priorities articulated by the Haitian National Police Director General. To those ends, the United States and international donors are focused on assistance aimed at rebuilding the infrastructure damaged in the January earthquake and helping improve the operational capacity of the HNP as a whole, to include the counternarcotics and financial units. Leadership within the HNP has shown a willingness to tackle the counternarcotics issues in Haiti with a promise to increase the number of officers dedicated to the units with responsibility in these areas, a willingness to participate in specialized training efforts, and a desire to see these units better equipped. The Untied States will continue to support these efforts, working towards the goal of a self-sustaining, fully operational unit capable of fighting counternarcotics on land and water. However, it will be critical for Haiti’s leadership to demonstrate the political will to address corruption and other serious issues, as well as provide sufficient resources for the HNP.

In 2011, it will be important to have a peaceful transfer of power as a new President is elected and begin to focus on the way forward in Haiti. While the United States and international community can train and equip officers, the GOH still has to ensure laws are updated to accommodate the growing criminal demands on the country. The HNP needs to be better equipped to arrest offenders, investigate criminal activity, prosecute offenders, and incarcerate guilty parties. This will not be possible without an updated criminal code and criminal procedural code.

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2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR)

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