The Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) (French: Front pour l'Avancement et le Progrès Haïtien) was a paramilitary death squad organized with U.S. backing in Haiti in mid-1993 to terrorize the Haitian people by murder, public beatings, arson raids on poor neighborhoods, and severing limbs by machete. Its goal was to undermine the supporters of the popular Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who served less than eight months as Haiti's president before being deposed, on 29 September 1991, by a coup in which many hundreds of his supporters were massacred, and thousands more fled to the Dominican Republic or left by sea.

FRAPH was established by Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, who went on the CIA payroll as an informant and spy in early 1992 (according to the Agency, this relation ended in mid-1994, but the following October the American Embassy in Haiti was openly acknowledging that Constant – now a born-again democrat – was on its payroll). According to Constant, shortly after Aristide's ouster, Colonel Patrick Collins, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), attache who was stationed in Haiti from 1989 to 1992, pressured him to organize a front that could balance the Aristide movement and do intelligence work against it (it is believed that members of FRAPH were working, and perhaps still are, for two social service agencies funded by the Agency for International Development, one of which maintains sensitive files on the movements of the Haitian poor). [1]

In an article published in The Nation in 1994, U.S. investigative journalist Allan Nairn revealed US government's role in establishing and funding FRAPH.[2] Putting together more pieces of the story in a followup article in The Nation of January 8/15, 1996, Nairn wrote:

This information comes from interviews in Haiti and the United States with military, paramilitary and intelligence officials, including Green Beret commanders and also from internal documents from the U.S. and Haitian armies. Pieces of the story also come from Constant himself, who called me from his Maryland jail cell last September and again on December 7, shortly before he was due to be deported to Haiti. Constant, who has said that he started the group that became FRAPH at the urging of the Defense Intelligence Agency – an account confirmed last year by a U.S. official who worked with him – now says that even after the U.S. occupation got under way in September 1994, "other people from my organization were working with the D.I.A.", aiding in operations directed against "subversive activities". [3]

According to Nairn, when he tried to follow up (Constant insisted on a face-to-face meeting), the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service denied him access, explaining that Constant had had a change of heart and no longer wanted to talk.[4] According to the Miami Herald, Constant confirmed in 1995 on CBS's "60 Minutes" that the CIA paid him about $700 a month and that he created FRAPH while on the CIA payroll. According to Constant, the FRAPH had been formed "with encouragement and financial backing from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA." (Miami New Times, 26 February 2004) [5]

In February 1996, the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announced that it had obtained thousands of pages of newly declassified U.S. documents, which they claim revealed that the U.S. government recognized the brutal nature of FRAPH but denied it in public. Describing the attitude of US government officials, CCR lawyer Michael Ratner said

they were talking out of both sides of their mouth. They were talking about restoring democracy to Haiti, but at the same time, they were undermining democracy in the coup period -- at times supporting a group that committed terrorist acts against the Haitian people. [6]

According to Ratner, U.S. suspicions of Aristide’s leftist populism prodded them to seek support from even the most brutal anti-Aristide elements.

In August 1994, the Clinton administration sent 15,000 troops and a high-level negotiating team (Jimmy Carter, Sam Nunn, and Colin Powell) to force the military to step down. However, according to researcher Lisa A. McGowan,

although the presence of U.S. and UN peacekeepers helped restore calm and security, this success was undermined by their refusal to disarm the disbanded Haitian military and paramilitaries.
[USAID] is providing funding and technical assistance to strengthen Haiti’s judicial system, yet the U.S. has refused Haitian government requests to deport FRAPH leader Constant, who was imprisoned in the U.S. and wanted in Haiti on murder charges. Instead, the U.S. Justice Department released him from prison. Furthermore, the Clinton administration refuses to give the Haitian government uncensored copies of the documents seized from FRAPH headquarters, raising suspicions that the documents contain incriminating information about CIA and other U.S. collaboration with Haitian paramilitaries. Documents that were obtained revealed, for example, that the CIA knew that Constant was directly implicated in the 1993 murder of Justice Minister Guy Malory, yet kept him on their payroll until the return of Aristide in 1994. [7]

Observers such as Ratner, Nairn and McGowan have suggested that covert assistance to antidemocratic forces such as FRAPH was used to pressure Ariside into abandoning his ambitious program for social reform and adopt harsh economic reforms when the U.S. returned him to power.

According to Bill O'Neil, consultant for the New York-based National Coalition for Haitian Rights, though the CIA and the Pentagon encouraged FRAPH early on, "within a few weeks or a few months, [U.S. support] was largely jettisoned." O'Neil, though, expressed concern that the U.S.'s reluctance to completely sever relations with FRAPH until 1995 (when Constant was arrested) may have allowed several high-profile figures to go into hiding. [8]

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