News Release

Breaking: U.S. Contractors Recently Arrested in Haiti Have Ties to Prominent Elites and Politicians

JAKE JOHNSTON, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @JakobJohnston
The Center for Economic and Policy Research just released an investigation, authored by Johnston, who is the main contributor to the group’s “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog. The group summarizes the findings: “The seven U.S.-based security contractors arrested in Port-au-Prince last month have ties to Haitian elites and politicians.” The investigation raises questions about why the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. ‘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.”