Ex-soldier says he was asked to kill Haitian leader

Anel Belizaire, an ex-soldier in Haiti who recently escaped from the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, says that someone from interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue’s office asked him last month to murder fellow inmate Yvon Neptune. Neptune is the deposed prime minister who served under exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He has been jailed for nearly a year without trial.

In a March 13 telephone interview from Haiti, Belizaire told the World that a high official from Latortue’s office visited him in his prison cell on Feb. 12. He was serving time in jail, he said, because in an earlier incident he had refused to help the U.S.-backed government arrest Neptune and three other pro-Lavalas Party lawmakers on trumped up charges of transporting firearms.

Promising him $10,000 in cash and telling him he would be well looked after in the future, the official asked him to assassinate Neptune. When Belizaire asked the high official for his name, he refused to give it, telling him only that “they [members of Latortue’s office] know me.”

Belizaire agreed to take on the job. On Feb. 14 the same official visited him again to further discuss the assassination plot. “I asked them how can I get out of the penitentiary and do it [kill Neptune] without being caught,” Belizaire said, “and they said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it — the way we will do it, you will be covered and nobody will know that you did it.’”

On the morning of Feb. 19, another unidentified official from the interim prime minister’s office visited him and told him he was to kill Neptune that very day. The official said preparations had been taken to ensure his success, and that a 9mm pistol had been planted nearby for him to use for the job.

That afternoon, Belizaire heard the crackle of gunfire. Gunmen, who witnesses identified as policemen, launched an assault on the prison and created a huge commotion, allowing 480 prisoners to escape.

Belizaire left his prison cell, which he said was unlocked during the day, to get the pistol. However, rather than carry out the assassination plan, he says he located Neptune and Jocelerme Privert, another former minister under Aristide, and told them that they had to leave the penitentiary with him.

“Neptune told me that he did not want to go and I told him, ‘You have no choice, we have to go.’ Neptune told me, ‘My life is in your hands,’” said Belizaire.

Once out of the prison and on the main road, Belizaire said he drew his pistol and commandeered a passing car, causing the driver to flee. Belizaire drove Neptune and Privert to a safe location. He warned Neptune that his life was in danger and to be careful. He then departed and has been in hiding ever since.

Neptune and Privert immediately turned themselves in to the authorities and were returned to prison. They have since gone on a hunger strike to demand that the government assure their safety.

Asked why he did not kill Neptune on Feb. 19, Belizaire said that he got to know the deposed prime minister in prison and found him to be quite different from the negative image painted of him by the anti-Lavalas opposition.

“The image that they give of him is not the one he gave to me,” Belizaire said. “He showed me his true personality.” Neptune is not the bad person that the government makes him out to be, he said.

Interestingly, Belizaire is no Lavalas Party supporter. He detests Aristide, and he willingly took up arms to overthrow Aristide’s democratically elected government in 2004. U.S. Marines participated in that overthrow by kidnapping Aristide and spiriting him out of the country. But neither does Belizaire back the Latortue government, which he said is as repressive as its predecessor.

“We fought the Aristide government because they did bad things,” he said. “This government is doing worse. That means they don’t want anyone in their way to confront them.” He said that the interim prime minister’s office was only using him to do their dirty work. He also confirmed allegations from witnesses and human rights organizations that Haitian police and former soldiers are executing the regime’s opponents in poor neighborhoods.

Belizaire remains a fugitive. He believes that the Latortue government wants to kill him now because he did not assassinate Neptune and because he knows too much and will not remain silent. “I’m not going to hide these dirty things,” he said.