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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07PORTAUPRINCE1442 2007-08-28 16:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Port Au Prince
Cable title:  

HAITIAN SENATE BALKS AT CORRUPTION INVESTIGATIONS

Tags:   HA KDEM PGOV PREL UNSC 
pdf how-to read a cable
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT AU PRINCE 001442 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2017
TAGS: HA KDEM PGOV PREL UNSC
SUBJECT: HAITIAN SENATE BALKS AT CORRUPTION INVESTIGATIONS

REF: A. PORT AU PRINCE 1345


B. PORT AU PRINCE 950

PORT AU PR 00001442 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d
).



1. (C) Summary. The latest of a string of controversial
investigations by Haiti's zealous anti-corruption chief
prosecutor, Claudy Gassant, produced a thus far empty threat
from the Senate August 22 to take a no-confidence vote in the
Alexis government. After Gassant summoned prominent
businessman Reginald Boulos for questioning, the Senate
summoned Minister of Justice Rene Magloire on August 22 to
explain the prolonged detention of other high profile members
of the private sector. Angered that Gassant refused to
appear before the Senate for questioning, the Senate
threatened to call a vote of no confidence against the entire
government of Prime Minister Alexis. Although the Senate
backed off on its threat when businessman Boulos was
apparently cleared, the government remains vulnerable and
legislative-executive relations remain tense. Many Senators
themselves may be involved in illegal business (including
drug trafficking) and likely feel threatened by prosecutor
Gassant's aggressive investigations. Their exploitation of
the generous provisions in Haiti's constitution for
interpellation of government ministers illustrates the
precarious position of PM Alexis. Although the probability
of the Alexis government falling at this time is low, we will
see further attacks on individual Ministers before Parliament
goes into recess in mid-September. End Summary.



2. (U) Chief prosecutor Claudy Gassant on August 17 issued a
summons to prominent businessman and former president of
Haiti's Chamber of Commerce and Industry Reginald Boulos to
answer questions August 23 about ''smuggling, corruption, and
extortion of public Customs officials.'' The summons caused
alarm in the business community, which has been targeted by
Gassant in the Cine and Brandt cases, all of whom remain in
preventive detention after their summons by Gassant last May
and July respectively (reftels). Seeking an explanation of
the succession of summons and arrests of business leaders, a
group of senators including Rudolph Boulos, brother of
Reginald Boulos, summoned Minister of Justice and Public
Security Rene Magloire to testify August 22. Led by Justice
and Security Committee Chairman Senator Youri Latortue,
Senators accused Gassant, who is under Minister Magloire's
authority, of investigating private sector leaders in a
legally questionable manner and overstepping his authority by
keeping individuals in preventive detention for long periods
without charge. The Justice Committee enjoined Minister
Magloire to order Gassant to come to the Senate immediately
to answer questions. Still in the Senate chamber, Minister
Magloire phoned Gassant and asked him to come to the Senate,
but Gassant refused. Enraged by this insubordination,
Senators adopted a resolution giving Magloire 24 hours to
either make Gassant appear or to fire him, failing which the
Senate resolved to interpellate Prime Minister Alexis and his
entire government for a possible vote of no confidence.




3. (U) Many expected Gassant to haul Boulos off to jail
immediately after the August 23 questioning. However, Boulos
emerged from his grilling still a free man, telling the press
that he had answered all questions to the prosecutor's
satisfaction, who Boulos said had conducted the interrogation
in a ''professional'' manner. Boulos and his lawyers claimed
Boulos has been fully cleared. These public reassurances
have apparently calmed the Senate for now, which did not
follow through on its threat to summon PM Alexis, even though
Gassant has yet to answer questions before the Senate.



4. (C) Embassy sources say that a strict interpretation of
the law shows that Gassant was not legally required to
appear. Haiti's constitution empowers the Senate and Chamber
of Deputies to interpellate Ministers but not to summon
directly other government officials. A minister may order a
subordinate in writing to accompany him to a parliamentary
hearing, but Magloire communicated the order by telephone.
MINUSTAH Director of Political Affairs Gerardo Le Chevalier
told PolCouns August 24 that President Preval earlier in the
week had convoked Reginald Boulos to a private meeting with
Gassant, and assured Boulos that his questioning by Gassant
would not be followed by his arrest. The outcome of this
behind-the-scenes deal appears to have kept the Senate at bay
for the moment.



5. (C) Le Chevalier believes this episode may have been part

PORT AU PR 00001442 002.2 OF 002


of a tactic by President Preval, in advance of his meeting
August 24 with various national Chambers of Commerce, to
intimidate the private sector into agreeing to clean up its
business practices as part of Preval's anti-corruption
campaign. In any case, SRSG Edmond Mulet, in his August 23
address marking the end of his mission in Haiti, came out
unequivocally in support of the government. He warned
legislators to take care that they not be perceived to be
defending corruption and drug trafficking. He placed
MINUSTAH firmly on the side of the Government of Haiti's
''project to establish the rule of law,'' and urged the
legislature and executive to work ''in concert'' for the
benefit of Haiti. This provoked angry retorts from several
Senators across the political spectrum, including Senate
President Lambert, accusing Mulet of ''arrogance'' and
contempt for parliament.



6. (C) Comment: The incident spotlights the shaky ground on
which the Alexis government -- and Preval's anti-corruption
campaign -- rest. Many Senators -- especially Senate Justice
and Security Committee Chairman Youri Latortue -- are
credibly believed to have links to illegal business up to and
including drug trafficking. Claudy Gassant's corruption
investigations may one day threaten such activities.
Gassant's personal qualities only serve to inflame Senators'
tempers: he travels around Port-au-Prince with a phalanx of
bodyguards, at times participates personally in the
apprehension of suspects, displays public contempt for his
nominal ministerial superior, and has boasted publicly that
he answers only to President Preval. At the same time, he is
recognized as an aggressive prosecutor whose investigations
of high-profile private sector leaders enjoy broad public
support. The fact that Preval stands behind Gassant is
another finger in the eye of the Senate and many of its
leaders, whether corrupt or not. President Preval will have
to deploy the full range of his tactical skills to maneuver
his government and his corruption campaign through the shoals
of legislative opposition. End comment
SANDERSON