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Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control

7 March 2012


A. Introduction

Haiti remains a transit point for cocaine originating in South America for transshipment to the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Narcotics arrive via both sea and air and depart in the same manner. Drugs are also transported over the land border to the Dominican Republic. Marijuana transshipments originating in Jamaica bound for The Bahamas and the United States are also a concern. However, Haiti is not a significant producer of illicit drugs for export, though cultivation of marijuana for local consumption does occur on a modest scale. As the poorest country in the hemisphere, Haiti’s largely subsistence-level standard of living is not fertile ground for widespread domestic drug consumption.

Haiti faces challenges in combating the drug trafficking threat. Security and judicial institutions, including the national police force, are still in the early stages of professional development. Like many governmental functions in the country, they suffer from lack of transparency, resources and insufficient attention from the political levels of the Haitian government. This year was particularly unsettled on the political front as there were delays in both the first and second round of presidential voting, with the election cycle finally coming to an end on April 4. The Parliament then rejected President Martelly’s first two Prime Minister candidates, with the third ultimately securing approval on October 5. These delays resulted in virtual policy paralysis in most Haitian governmental ministries, including the Ministry of Justice.

Haiti is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, And Trends

1. Institutional Development

The Haitian Government is committed to combating drug trafficking. “La Commission Nationale de Lutte Contre la Drogue” (CONALD), under the Minister of Interior, has policy and legislation to support the Government of Haiti’s commitment to combat drug trafficking, narco-terrorism, and money laundering in Haiti.

The increased capacity of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to carry out its mission as the sole domestic security force in the country is evident in its growth in raw staffing numbers. The HNP has co-drafted a five-year development plan, with the assistance of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The key goals include expanding the HNP force to 15,000 officers by 2016 and adding mid- and advanced- level training opportunities.

The HNP is making steady progress and graduated its twenty-second class of police cadets in May 2011, bringing the total official strength to 10,814. HNP officers are still overwhelmingly concentrated in the capital of Port-au-Prince, with only 2,175 officers assigned to the nine outlying provinces. The problem of under-staffing the provinces is particularly acute in the two southern departments of Sud and Sud-Est, which are the principal entry points for drug transshipments. Logistics and material deficiencies across the country, combined with the degradation of key infrastructure, exacerbate the effects of these staffing shortages.

The HNP’s dedicated counternarcotics unit, la Brigade de Lutte contre le Trafic de Stupéfiants (BLTS), received an additional 93 officers from the 2011 police cadet class, bringing its total strength to 136. BLTS is limited in operational reach because its sole operating base is in Port-au-Prince. BLTS works in concert with a financial crimes unit, the Bureau des Affaires Financieres et Economiques (BAFE), with a staff of 18. BAFE is instrumental in the seizure of drug trafficking resources that the Government of Haiti (GOH) can then convert into counterdrug assets.

The Haitian Coast Guard (HCG), a subdivision of the HNP, has a total strength of 148 with operating bases in Cap Haitien in the north and in the vicinity of Port-au-Prince. Haitian Coast Guard vessels currently do not have the range and endurance to cover more than a fraction of Haiti’s coastline. Patrols are concentrated in coastal areas within the Gulf of Gonave. With no permanent base of operations in the southern claw, the HCG does not regularly patrol the 200 miles of coast from Jeremie to the Haiti-Dominican border. Canada is constructing an additional base on the southern coast at Les Cayes to help address this issue.

The Haitian Coast Guard’s lack of functional support systems and clearly defined mission authorities hampers its operational capacity. The Haitian Coast Guard has historically concentrated on search and rescue/repatriation missions and has not had an appreciable counternarcotics focus.

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, the Inter-American Convention against Trafficking in Illegal Arms, and the UN Convention against Corruption. Haiti remains the only member of the Organization of American States (OAS) not a party to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. On April 19, 2011, Haiti ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols. 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 to investigate suspicious activity or when in pursuit of suspect vessels or aircraft, to board and search suspect vessels, and to carry members of the Haitian Coast Guard as ship riders. A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty exists between Haiti and the United States, and 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.

2. Supply Reduction

HNP enforcement actions in 2011 were not of a sufficient scale to have a meaningful impact. Official counts cite only six suspected drug air drops in the country over the past year. No records are kept of suspected incoming sea shipments. This gap, resulting from insufficient capacity, compounds the lack of scrutiny of ship traffic into ports on the southern coast, especially in the vicinity of Jacmel. The total number of reported arrests associated with narcotics activity in Haiti in 2011 was 29; an equal number of suspects were indicted in the Haitian judicial system.

Seizures were insubstantial. GOH authorities reported 33.7 kilograms of cocaine and 958.5 pounds of marijuana were intercepted in 2011. However, joint HNP and DEA action in July did destroy approximately 11,000 mature marijuana plants in the Artibonite department in central Haiti. Cash seized as part of these cases totaled $6,750 USD; HNP officers also seized four firearms during drug operations.

Haitian authorities deported one suspect under indictment in the United States during 2011.

3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment

There are no Haitian Government-sponsored drug abuse awareness or treatment programs, nor are we aware of non-government organizations (NGOs) providing such services. The extreme poverty of the population leaves little discretionary income, and the daily preoccupation with finding adequate food, water, and shelter for survival thus far has kept drug abuse from becoming widespread.

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. No senior-level Haitian Government officials are known to be engaged in illegal activity associated with drug trafficking.

The expressed commitment of senior officials to combat drug trafficking, however, has not yet generated meaningful action on Haiti’s part to deal with endemic corruption. U.S. government officials and contractors continue to receive unsubstantiated reports of HNP officers providing security at clandestine landing strips for traffickers. The HNP arrested one of its own officers for corruption in July. Another officer was arrested earlier in the year for involvement with a Port-au-Prince marijuana ring. In other instances, HNP officers simply ignore reports of corruption, resulting in an environment that hampers counternarcotics efforts.

The HNP Inspector General, like the rest of the force, does not possess sufficient resources, especially when charged with conducting internal affairs activities for a force of over 10,000 officers. The Inspector General (IG) resigned in September 2011 once it became apparent that he was investigating human rights abuses committed by members of the HNP. There were reports that his resignation was politically driven. A temporary IG has been named.

The Haitian constitution grants blanket immunity from prosecution to members of Parliament. This immunity is a point of concern for law enforcement officials because of an inability to properly investigate allegations that some members of Parliament may be involved in illicit activities linked to their official duties.

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

The Government of Haiti and the HNP espouse combating drug trafficking as a primary concern. The effective tripling of the BLTS’ numerical strength demonstrates political will to address this issue. However, operational outcomes have not kept pace with rhetoric, despite positive relationships with U.S. government partners in the Narcotics Affairs Section, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Military Liaison Office of the Embassy. This indicates an area that requires further strengthening and the Narcotics Affairs Section in the Embassy has a dedicated counternarcotics advisor on staff to assist the HNP in that effort.

Building the overall operational capacity and professionalism of the HNP is indispensable to successful counternarcotics activity in Haiti. The U.S. government supports each police cadet class with food, training supplies, uniforms, and equipment. Additional activities in support of HNP capacity building include efforts to ensure a full recruiting pipeline via a Narcotics Affairs Section-supported public relations campaign and the provision of professional advisors to the HNP. In addition, INL partners with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) via a Memorandum of Understanding to deploy rotating six-member teams of NYPD officers to Haiti to serve as technical advisors to the HNP, including on counternarcotics. NYPD funds the deployed officers’ salaries with INL furnishing per diem, housing, and other in-country support.

The Embassy’ Narcotics Affairs Section manages the Haiti Stabilization Initiative (HSI), a program launched in 2007 aimed to empower community residents and improve the local security situation. In 2011, activities were focused in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant where HSI funds refurbished two police stations, and plans are underway to refurbish an additional two stations in 2012. Activities in Martissant were in addition to HSI efforts already completed in the high-crime district of Cite Soleil. In addition to construction activities, the U.S. provided non-lethal protective equipment, communications gear, and training and mentoring in community-oriented policing for existing police officers and those to be assigned to the impact area. HSI activities target areas known for the presence of criminal gangs reportedly engaged in kidnapping and drug trafficking.

During 2011, INL and DEA funded enforcement operations with the HNP. DEA coordinated a series of operations in Haiti, including the seizure of a drug trafficker property near Thiote, in the Sud-Est province, in August with an estimated value of USD 2.2 million. DEA and INL also supported six additional months of supplementary investigative and operational instruction at the HNP Academy for 100 new BLTS officers.

U.S. support for BLTS is multifaceted. In December 2011, INL completed renovations on a new operating base for the unit at a seized drug property in the Tabarre area of Port-au-Prince. Other sites in Carrefour Dufort, Malpasse, and Port de Paix are under study for construction and rehabilitation to enable BLTS to permanently deploy to areas outside the capital. INL has funded the purchase of16 new BLTS vehicles, including six SUVs for canine unit use.

The six handlers and six dogs that comprise the BLTS canine unit represent a tripling of the canine unit’s strength. INL funded the purchase of the dogs and training for both the dogs and the handlers in both Colombia and the Dominican Republic. . The canine teams are active at ports of entry in Port-au-Prince, including the airport, the waterfront, and the Malpasse border crossing.

Department of Defense Foreign Military Funding (FMF) is being used for an equipment and training package to support the operation of five new vessels purchased for the Haitian Coast Guard by the Government of Canada. The 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. INL provides ongoing support to provision the small Coast Guard unit located on the North Coast at Cap Haitien, and also funds fuel to run equipment and generators at the central Coast Guard base at Killick. In FY 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard provided engineering and small boat handling training to the Haitian Coast Guard.

D. Conclusion

The new Martelly administration has demonstrated a willingness to work with the U.S. government on improving structural weaknesses in the HNP that impact its effectiveness on the counternarcotics front. The presence of new leadership at the BLTS is also a positive step, as U.S. officials have pressed the HNP to be more proactive and independent regarding drug enforcement. Another positive development is the presidential appointment and parliamentary approval of a new Supreme Court President — a step that could energize Haiti’s chronically stressed judicial sector and result in a greater number of convictions of those accused of trafficking and other narcotic related crimes. Other institutional challenges will require considerable time, effort, and resources to resolve.

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Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control

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