|Correspond with us, including our executive editor, professor
Yves A. Isidor, via electronic mail:
|firstname.lastname@example.org; by way of a telephone: 617-852-7672.
|Want to send this page or a link to a
friend? Click on mail at the top of this window.
learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010
|First, ex-drug lords'
property, now a Haitian government office
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Election workers scurry across the airy courtyard of
their lavish new headquarters, a three-story building that hardly suffered a
crack in Haiti's earthquake.
|By Mike Mella, Associated
With its stately iron gates, the building looks like a government office. But
until recently, it was an upscale shopping center, the $1.8 million property of
a major cocaine trafficker.
|People pass by the former Gold Gym shopping,
which was expropriated by the Haitian government
from a major cocaine trafficker and is now the
new headquarters of the Provisional Electoral
Council, in Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, March 24,
2010. New cooperation between Haitian
authorities and the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, DEA, before the earthquake has
brought an unexpected yield to a country whose
infrastructure is now in ruins: confiscated
properties that are spacious, opulent and
free.(AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
New cooperation between Haitian authorities and the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration before the Jan. 12 earthquake brought an unexpected yield to a
country whose infrastructure is in ruins: confiscated properties that are
spacious, opulent” and free.
The drug lords built them to last. While the quake destroyed all the government
ministries' headquarters, only four of the 30 seized buildings suffered quake
"It's bizarre that the buildings built by drug traffickers survived and the
government buildings collapsed," said Max Boutin, who administers the properties
for a Haitian anti-drug trafficking commission. "Now the buildings will be here
to support the government."
In an interview on leather couches in his new office, Provisional Electoral
Council president Gaillot Dorsinvil said he could not imagine a better
replacement for their collapsed headquarters. His workers fill rooms that held
clothing boutiques, a restaurant and a Gold's Gym.
"It gives an impressive appearance. The space is big enough to hold everyone
and, most importantly, it was built to survive a magnitude-8 earthquake,"
Dorsinvil said with a smile.
The Haitian government began confiscating traffickers' real estate a little more
than a year ago with help from U.S. investigators. The DEA says the seizures are
worth roughly $25 million so far. The list of stores and mansions includes some
of the most desirable properties in areas just outside the hard-hit downtown.
That doesn't mean the offices of the collapsed Presidential Palace will be
operating out of a narco-mansion anytime soon.
Many of the confiscated properties may be too residential or too distant from
downtown for the government, said Patrick Delatour, who is in charge of
reconstruction. So far, the shopping center on a tree-lined, clean-swept avenue
in the Petionville hills above Port-au-Prince is the only one hosting government
While the president and government ministries still operate out of a police
station and tents, the elections council was relocated first because of the
priority given to preparing for the presidential election later this year,
Another seizure” a gated mansion at the end of a long stone driveway outside the
city center” has been assigned to the Youth and Sports Ministry. A home will
become a criminal justice building and the Interior Ministry is moving to a
commercial center, Boutin said.
The seizures reflect new cooperation between the U.S. and a financial crimes
division of the Haitian police, said Darrel Paskett, the DEA attache at the U.S.
Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
Although President Rene Preval has called drug trafficking a threat to his
country's stability, successful prosecutions of major suspects in Haiti are
Now, Haiti extradites suspects to be tried in U.S. courts, providing legal
grounds for confiscating properties. Under Haitian law, the government can seize
property once a trafficker is convicted.
The shopping center's former owner, Pascal Garoute, was arrested in 2007 and
accused of smuggling cocaine to New York and Florida beginning in the mid-1990s.
A Haitian national with U.S. citizenship, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to
11 years in prison.
As a drug transit point, Haiti accounts for only an estimated 3 to 4 percent of
the cocaine reaching the U.S. Colombian drugs typically arrive at clandestine
air strips in secluded areas such as the central plateau and are smuggled out on
Garoute was typical in that his organization counted rank-and-file police
officers among its employees. He arranged groups of national police to provide
security for arriving drug flights, according to documents from federal court in
For Dorsinvil and his election workers, life now means working in an office that
drug money built. It may feel strange, but nobody is complaining.
"Everybody is happy here," he said.
|Wehaitians.com, the scholarly journal of
democracy and human rights