Secret Cable: CIA Orchestrated Haiti’s 2004 Coup – Jeb Sprague and Kit Klarenberg 3/1/24


A classified diplomatic cable obtained by The Grayzone reveals the role of a veteran CIA officer in violently overthrowing Haiti’s popular President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

A spectacular jailbreak in Gonaïves, Haiti in August 2002 saw a bulldozer smash through the local prison walls, allowing armed supporters of Amiot “Cubain” Métayer, a gang leader jailed weeks earlier for harassing Haitian political figures, to overrun the facility. Métayer escaped, as did 158 other prisoners. Among them were perpetrators of the April 1994 Raboteau massacre, which left dozens of Haitians dead and displaced. The victims were supporters of popular anti-imperial President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Documents released to The Grayzone under FOIA – no doubt unintentionally – reveal that the jailbreak was part of a complex US intelligence operation, aimed at undermining Aristide’s presidency. At the heart of this operation was Janice L. Elmore, a CIA operative working under cover as a Department of State “Political Officer” in the Port-au-Prince US Embassy at the time.

The breakout set in motion a violent regime change campaign, which ultimately ousted Aristide from office on February 29 2004. After being deposed and flown to South Africa, Aristide claimed to have been “kidnapped” by US forces and directly accused Washington of orchestrating the plot. His nation quickly transformed into a despotic failed state, as ruthless paramilitaries ran roughshod over the population. US Marines and later UN troops were deployed to “keep the peace,” which, in practice, meant violently cracking down on not only armed anti-coup militants but also outraged demonstrators and civilians.

In 2022, the former French ambassador to Haiti admitted that France and the US did, in fact, orchestrate the “coup,” which he acknowledged was “probably” due to Aristide’s repeated demands that Haitians be returned the $21 billion in reparations they’d forcibly paid their former slave masters in Paris since 1825. The former ambassador told the New York Times that with Aristide in exile, “it made our job easier” to undermine Haitians’ demands for a refund.

US officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Aristide’s overthrow, claiming they only intervened afterwards to restore order. But the secret diplomatic cable obtained by The Grayzone tells a very different story.

Dispatched from the US embassy in Port-au-Prince in September 2002 by then-US Ambassador Brian Dean Curran, the file places Elmore, apparently a veteran CIA operative, in a meeting with disloyal local police officers and coup plotters in Gonaïves the night prior to the jailbreak.

The file reads as confirmation of high-level US government involvement in the 2004 coup in Haiti, and raises profound questions about American involvement in other recent regime change campaigns throughout the hemisphere.

Aristide exiled, supporters massacred

In December 1990, 37-year-old charismatic Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected by landslide in Haiti’s first-ever democratic presidential election. Swept into office on a platform of democratization and national sovereignty, Aristide sought to enact a form of liberation theology – a Christian philosophy advocating freeing the downtrodden via revolution.

But just seven months after his inauguration, Aristide was marched at gunpoint from Port-au-Prince’s Presidential palace by members of Haiti’s US-trained armed forces, and forced into exile. Over the next three years, the country was ruled by a brutal junta, and thousands were butchered by the army, police, and fascist paramilitaries.

This reign of terror reached its zenith on April 22 1994, when military and paramilitary forces attacked the strongly pro-Aristide neighborhood of Raboteau, in Gonaïves. Many residents had been participating in large-scale demonstrations demanding the return of their President ever since his removal. In a savage dawn raid, soldiers went house-to-house, beating and arresting residents, including children, while firing indiscriminately at passersby and those who attempted to flee. When the shooting stopped, at least 30 locals were dead….

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