Ex-Haitian rebel in hiding after U.S.-led drug offensive, loyalist says
LES CAYES, Haiti: A former rebel leader and presidential candidate has gone into hiding after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents launched a military-style operation to arrest him in this Haitian town, a member of his party said Wednesday.
Ronald Etienne, a deputy in Haiti’s lower house of parliament, told The Associated Press that DEA and Haitian anti-drug agents raided Guy Philippe’s home Monday but did not find him. Philippe has long denied accusations of ties to drug trafficking.
“He’s in hiding and covering himself. It’s normal under the circumstances because he feels his life is in danger,” said Etienne, a member of the Front for National Reconstruction, a minor political party led by Philippe. Etienne declined to say how he knew Philippe was in hiding and said he did not know his location.
Shortly after dawn Monday, five helicopters, two airplanes and at least a dozen DEA and Haitian agents converged on Philippe’s home, Etienne said in a telephone interview.
Haitian police said Tuesday that DEA agents carried out an operation in Les Cayes. But U.S. and Haitian authorities have refused to acknowledge if they are pursuing Philippe, who helped overthrow former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
Philippe ran for president last year and shortly afterward moved to a rural area of Les Cayes, Haiti’s third largest town.
Etienne said party officials were not in contact with Philippe but would support him against any effort to prosecute or extradite him for alleged drug trafficking.
“We have already contacted lawyers and want to meet with the Ministry of Justice because they say they are not aware of what is happening,” Etienne said.
Philippe’s home was vacant Wednesday except for a groundskeeper who allowed AP journalists to view the property, which is protected by a concrete gate, a razor-wire fence and steel bars over the windows.
Neighbors said Philippe’s Ecuadorean-born wife and two children left the property early Wednesday and may have fled Haiti.