IT WAS A DOG'S LIFE FOR HAITI'S DICTAtors last week. American tanks turned their cannons on FRAPH, the paramilitary thugs who did most of the regime's dirty work, forcing them to surrender without a shot. Regional military garrisons continued to desert, and policemen who got in the way found themselves cuffed by the GIs. Crowds cheered every move. U.S. Lt. Gen. Henry Hugh Shekon made a pointed visit to FRAPH leader Emmanuel (Toto) Constant,. whose group had often .threatened to kill Aristide. Change your tune, the general told him, or "we'll hunt you down like a dog," Toto promptly gave a press conference disavowing violence and promising to support the return of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Shelton wasn't fooling around. The Americans built a barbed-wire kennel at their airport headquarters, and penned up 75 of the worst attaches, including four prominent "Ninjas," masked security men for the high command. The despised police chief, Michel Francois, fled to the Dominican Republic. By the end of the week, Gens. Raoul Cedras and Philippe Biamby were reportedly packing their bags, too.
That isn't what the junta had in mind a few weeks ago. The accord signed with former president Jimmy Garter only called for them to leave office, but both Aristide's government and the Americans made it clear that Cedras and Biamby should quit the country altogether. And instead of the general amnesty envisioned in the Carter agreement, the Haitian Legislature last week enacted a limited amnesty covering only political crimes committed in the coup--not the many human-rights offenses since then. The amnesty law also gives Aristide the power to decide who is entitled to amnesty--and he has refused to rule out prosecuting the generals. "We have to pour the coffee of reconciliation through a filter of justice," Aristide said in a U.N. speech broadcast on Haitian TV, now in U.S. militar/hands. "What is there to reconcile?" asked Necker Dessables, head of the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission. "The army only has to give up its guns and stop." Haiti's excited crowds were not calling for their enemies' blood; instead the chants were "Tie them up," and "Arrest them." Most attaches were peaceably turned over to U.S. troops. Some fought back; an attache in the town of St-Mare drove his vehicle through a pack of peaceful demonstrators Friday, killing at least three.
Whether or not the generals departed, they no longer ruled Haiti. U.S. troops outnumber Haitian police and military 2 to 1, and U.S. forces now control all important installations. U.S. Army MPs swept through homes and offices searching for weapons; one arms cache was even exhumed in a casket in the Petionville cemetery. One of Cedras's friends, Jean-Claude Roy, complained that the high command had been stripped of all its authority: "The Americans have treated them like dogs." Most Haitians approved. When U.S. troops busted FRAPH, they arrested civilian attaches and even policemen who came to the thugs' aid. Bound and forced to stand in an open-top truck, the captives were escorted by U.S. tanks and Humvees right under the balcony of military headquarters. Thousands of Haitians danced alongside the Americans, spitting on the prisoners and singing "hallelujah."
The Americans held all the cards--and had a few up their sleeves, too. The U.S. Embassy's role in arranging Constant's press conference--American officials even lent him the podium--prompted Aristide's camp to complain of a deal with the Devil, which the embassy denied. The truth was more complex. Constant, according to U.S. intelligence sources, was a paid CIA informer from 1987 until last spring, despite allegations that he is a major drug smuggler. Even Francois, who left Haiti denouncing Cedras for betraying the country to the Americans, has reportedly been a paid CIA asset; his brother Evans Francois, according to NEWSWEEK'S sources, has been on the payroll for years,
Worries that the regime might strike back dissipated last week. "You win their hearts and minds real quick when they see a Sheridan pointed at the front door," said Lt. Col. James Terry, whose 700-man battalion kicked down FRAPH's doors. Among the prisoners the GIs took was Ninja leader Romeo Halloun, a Lebanese-Haitian who was Cedras's personal security adviser; U.S. sources said he was a suspect in the grenade attack on demonstrators two weeks ago that killed at least six people. The only resistance the Americans faced was in the southern town of Les Cayes; it was cowardly, and brief. A U.S. soldier on his way to a latrine late at night was ambushed--apparently when he stumbled across a group of Haitian army sappers trying to mount a sneak attack. A company of army Rangers choppered in the next morning, shooting down doors around town and detaining 60 suspects. "I warned the Haitian military that if they touched one of my men, I'd get the bastards," said Brig. Gen. Richard Potter, the Green Berets' commander. The Special Forces liberated the 30 prisoners in the Les Cayes lockup, though many were so starved and diseased that they needed hospitalization. When the local justice of the peace refused to explain why the prisoners had been held, a U.S. officer put him in one of his own cells for a few hours of "thought reform." Said U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager: "There's a new sheriff in town."
The new sheriff was still finding his way around. One team of troopers broke down a compound's gate looking for an arms cache; they found a UNICEF team vaccinating children. The looting of relief-food warehouses continued, though not with the same frenzy as before. While 4,000 weapons and munitions were seized, much more still remained in private hands. The demoralized police force refused to respond to crime reports. Haitian police were angry that 10 of their men were arrested when they apparently tried to intervene during the U.S. military's capture of a FRAPH hangout. Said one of the detained officers: "We're in the minority now, because the Americans are on the side of the people."
The police were stunned by the departure of police chief Michel Francois, who fled to a cushy exile with brother Evans in the Dominican Republic. Cedras left his home on a hill above the capital early Saturday amid remours he was fleeing; neighbors said his wife and children had disappeared, too. But the Dominicans, whose country shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, said that Cedras and Biamby wouldn't De welcome there. Aristide's government-in-exile had complained they might foment a rebellion from so close by.
The way looked clear for Aristide's safe return. "Resistance will be suicide," one policeman said, "because the Americans have such tremendous power." That doesn't necessarily mean a rosy future for Haitian democracy, or a short stay for U.S. troops. "The bad guys are just going to wait," said a U.S. official. "They'll let Aristide come back and then try to figure out how to kill him." While the U.S. Army is in Haiti, that's unlikely to happen. But unless Aristide can rebuild the discredited military and police into a force that supports its elected government, Haiti's future remains as volatile and unpredictable as its unruly streets.