SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. intelligence agencies helped launch FRAPH, the right-wing group that has terrorized and killed supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a U.S. magazine reports.
FRAPH's leader, Emmanuel Constant, said U.S. officials wanted a force "that could balance" Aristide's movement, The Nation said in an article to be published tomorrow.
The liberal weekly, in a copy of the article sent yesterday to The Associated Press, says Constant once was an employee of the CIA.
Members of his Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti have tortured and killed scores of pro-democracy activists since the group was founded a year ago.
The Nation report also said that documentary evidence confirmed in part by Constant indicates that a group of "attaches," or paramilitaries, have been paid for several years by a U.S. government-funded project that keeps files on the movements of Haiti's poor.
In Port-au-Prince, U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager said he hadn't seen the article. "As is usually our policy, we won't comment on allegations about intelligence matters," he said.
The CIA has long been hostile to Aristide, who during his years as a leftist parish priest in the 1980s strongly attacked it and the Bush administration for backing Haiti's then-military rulers.
Last year, the CIA tried to discredit Aristide by circulating a report claiming that he was mentally ill. However, President Clinton
said he didn't believe the report, and Cable News Network later reported that the doctor cited as its source didn't exist.
On Monday, U.S. troops who were sent to Haiti Sept. 19 to prepare for Aristide's return stormed FRAPH headquarters in Port-au-Prince and arrested more than two dozen members.
But Constant, one of the most feared men in Haiti, wasn't taken into custody. Although Aristide's supporters demanded his arrest, the United States organized a press conference Tuesday for Constant, who said he renounced violence and called on Haitians to work together.
According to the Nation, Constant said he was approached after Aristide's overthrow by U.S. intelligence official Col. Patrick Collins, who encouraged him to start a group to balance "the extreme" of the Aristide movement and to spy on it.
At that time, Constant said, he was working at the CIA's National Intelligence Service in Haiti, teaching training courses and building a computerized data base for Haiti's notorious rural section chiefs.
The Nation also reported that Constant said Collins and the top CIA official in Haiti, Donald Terry, were in army headquarters when Aristide was overthrown.
Ira Kurzban, Aristide's lawyer, said Washington's support of FRAPH reflected its desperation to create a countervailing political force to limit the power of Aristide, who is regarded as a threat by Haiti's wealthy elite.
"How long will it take the multinational force to arrest Constant, to arrest (co-FRAPH leader Jodel) Chamblin, and to get the weapons off the streets?" asked Kurzban.
Chamblin directed death squads that stopped elections in 1987 and killed at least 27 people.
Because every FRAPH action needs the support of both Constant and Chamblin, it is not clear if Constant's public conversion to pacifism would curtail the violence.