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Cablegate: Youri Latortue Reaches Out

VZCZCXRO7550
PP RUEHQU
DE RUEHPU #1138/01 1781909
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 271909Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6407
INFO RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 1571
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA PRIORITY 1390
RUEHQU/AMCONSUL QUEBEC PRIORITY 0833
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1244

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT AU PRINCE 001138

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/EX AND WHA/CAR
S/CRS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CAR
INR/IAA
WHA/EX PLEASE PASS USOAS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR MARR HA
SUBJECT: YOURI LATORTUE REACHES OUT

REF: PORT-AU-PRINCE 1080

PORT AU PR 00001138 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: AMBASSADOR JANET A. SANDERSON, REASONS 1.4(B) AND (D).

1. (S) Summary. Senator Youri Latortue, during a June 18
meeting with Poloff granted at Latortue's request, expressed
his desire to have better relations with the embassy and
expand the reach of his political party. Latortue explained
that he supported forming an army that would help the state
protect its borders and respond to emergencies, such as
natural disasters and crime waves. Latortue's meeting
request was in part spurred by actions taken by the
international community, including post, to counter
Latortue's efforts to weaken justice reform legislation.
Latortue's profile as a leading opponent of the government
and future presidential candidate has risen sharply in recent
months, even though informed Haitians widely assume that he
was involved in drug trafficking and is still directly linked
to criminal activity in his home base in the Artibonite.
Latortue's influence makes it increasingly difficult for post
to shun him completely, but we will maintain our policy of
keeping him at arms length. End of summary.

Ambition
----------

2. (SBU) Going through his talking points with poloff in a
methodical, organized manner, Latortue explained that the
party he founded to take part in the 2005 elections, The
Artibonite in Action (LAAA), pursued ''decentralization,
deconcentration, and local development,'' as a response to
insufficient GoH development of the Artibonite Department.
He pointed to a joint project between his party and Taiwan to
give students access to computers at the local university as
an example of the development partnerships that his party
seeks. Latortue stated his goal was to transform his
organization from a regional to a national party. LAAA
would grow through either its own resources or merger or in
coalition with other parties. In his opinion, however, the
current national parties are not viable coalition partners
due to their disorganization.

I am Not a Crook
----------

3. (SBU) Latortue stated that the international community
plays a big role in Haitian affairs and that he must reach
out to it if he is to be a successful, national political
leader. He claimed to have had good relations with the US
Embassy in the past, but that the relationship soured
beginning in 2004. Unprompted, Latortue acknowledged that
some people believe he is a drug trafficker. He retorted
that these were unsubstantiated claims by his and his
''uncle's'' political enemies. (Note. Gerard Latortue, the
former Prime Minister in the interim government, is in fact
Youri's first cousin once-removed. The two commonly referred
to each other as uncle and nephew and are reportedly very
close. Youri Latortue served as PM Latortue's chief of
security, and left that position in 2005 in order to run for
the Senate. He left under suspicion that he was using his
office for personal gain and to conduct political vendettas.
End Note.) He closed his remarks on his political ambitions
by avowing that he has always been, and will continue to be,
a friend of the United States. He said that he receives from
Cuba and Venezuela offers to visit, but always declines
because these countries ''do not represent his way of
thinking.'' He also claimed to have counseled other
government officials and parliamentarians that accepting
these offers would appear to be playing off the United States
and Venezuela/Cuba against each other, which is a game that
Haiti cannot win.

Go Army
----------

4. (SBU) When asked why he called for the re-establishment
of an army in a previous newspaper interview, Latortue
responded that the constitution provided for an army, and
that Haiti needed one. He claimed to have raised the issue
with President Rene Preval, who agreed in principle that the
GoH should create a force of some type, but that the force
should resemble a gendarmerie. Latortue said that he did not
envision the reestablishment of the FAd'H (Armed Forces of
Haiti), but rather a new ''public force,'' consisting of the
coast guard, a border guard, and a civil defense corps, which
would respond to natural disasters. The coast and frontier
guards could assist the police under special circumstances,
but not in normal operations. Though the coast and frontier
guards would be professionally staffed, the civil defense
corps would be staffed by instituting an obligatory one year
service for 18-20 year olds. Latortue claimed that the
obligatory service would help instill in young persons the
need to serve their country. He thinks that the total
''public security force'' should number between 1,000-2,000.
(Note. Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis on June 20
announced his intention to create a commission, lasting eight
months, to examine the creation of a new ''public force'' or
''gendarmerie'' that could operate in cooperation with the
police. Alexis, however, also expressed that he remained
unenthusiastic about creating a new army. End note.)

The Trouble with Youri
----------

5. (C) Comment. Latortue's meeting request was spurred in
part by a joint effort by post and MINUSTAH to counter
efforts by Latortue to weaken the government's justice reform
initiative. Poloff emphasized during the meeting that post
joined with the GoH and international community in supporting
reform that insured the independence and integrity of the
judicial system and provided for vetting of current justice
officials. Latortue professed to support the same goals;
thus the meeting may have headed off a possible public rift
between Latortue and his supporters in parliament and the
international community. (Post will report on the status of
justice reform septel.)

6. (SBU) Comment Continued. Of much greater significance is
Latortue's blatant political ambition. As he is in public,
Latortue was erudite and engaging during this meeting, and
divulged a clear strategy in his campaign to become
president: deliver projects/money to his Department; win the
political allegiance of students and young adults; and stay
at the center of important national issues such as justice
reform and the re-establishment of the army. His public
stance on the army positions him to take advantage of
significant sympathy for the ex-FAd'H, which is at once also
anti-Lavalas, and also appeals to law-and-order nostalgia.

7. (S) Comment Continued. Among political observers, it is
an article of faith that Latortue was involved in drug
trafficking under Aristide and during the first Preval
administrations. Preval himself reports that Latortue ''ran
drugs'' out of his office in the Presidency during Aristide's
mandate. As reported in reftel and other reporting, it is
similarly widely believed that Latortue has assumed
leadership of the criminal elements in Gonaives and
throughout the Artibonite and is working to undermine the
government and weaken Prime Minister Alexis. (When Latortue
and Prime Minister Alexis had occasion to shake hands during
a recent appearance by the PM at parlament, onlookers burst
out laughing.) Neverthelss, in Haiti's see-no-evil -
hear-no-evil politcal culture, many Haitians naturally
assume that Latortue will play an increasingly important role
in politics as he consolidates his power, and view him as a
serious presidential contender, even as he becomes the
poster-boy for political corruption in Haiti.
SANDERSON

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