Video: U.S. eyes Haiti's crisis with concern

By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/23/2004 7:55:41 PM ET 2004-02-24T00:55:41

In Miami last week, U.S. customs agents arrested the crew of a freighter from Haiti after finding more than 500 pounds of cocaine on board with an estimated wholesale value of $4.4 million. 

In fact, U.S. officials fear that Haiti is already becoming a “narco” state — a country without a functioning government ruled by drug traffickers.

“You begin to lose the rule of law, you begin to lose the very premise of a democracy,” said Robert Charles, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs,

U.S. investigators say 8 percent of the drugs in the United States come through Haiti, a convenient stopover from Colombia into the United States

“You have the perfect setup: no police, no arrests, no fear of interdiction.  If you get right down to it, there’s not a better place in all the Caribbean,” said Thomas Cash, formerly of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Despite all the drug activity, the United States will report next week that Haiti has not arrested or prosecuted a single major trafficker in the past year.  How is that possible?  U.S. officials say it’s because of widespread corruption in President Jean-Claude Aristide’s government.

The State Department report cites repeated accusations that “...members of the government and Haiti National Police, most notably the Presidential Security Unit and Palace Guard, were actively involved in drug trafficking.”

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey was President Bill Clinton’s drug czar.  “It’s hard to imagine that Aristide himself isn’t taking part in this enormously lucrative form of criminal activity,” McCaffrey said.

A lawyer representing Aristide’s government angrily refused to discuss the State Department accusations. In the past, the same lawyer said, the United States engaged in a political war against Aristide.

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