Haiti Liberte:GUY PHILIPPE ELUDES CAPTURE AND ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY by Kim Ives Four years ago, former "rebel" leader Guy Philippe stood on the balcony of Haiti's former Army Headquarters and proclaimed: "I am chief. The military chief. The country is in my hands." Today, he is spends his time dodging capture by militarized teams dispatched by the U.S. government, for which he was a key ally in the 2004 coup d'etat against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In the early morning hours of March 25, heavily armed commandos of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tried to arrest Philippe in the town where he was born, but the accused drug smuggler escaped capture for the second time in eight months. About 50 DEA, FBI and Haitian anti-drug agents, masked and clad in black, searched for the ex-police chief with a helicopter, four fast boats and a dozen vehicles in the 1:00 a.m. raid on Philippe's home in Pestel, a southern coastal town near Jeremie, local radios reported. "They arrived in the middle of the night and they terrorized the population with heavy detonations and stormed people's homes," the mayor of Pestel, Lavillet Trezil, told Reuters in a telephone interview. "They handcuffed and brutalized several people as they searched house after house to look for Guy Philippe." Trezil called the operation illegal. "Haiti is a sovereign country and as a mayor I was never informed," he said. Radio Kiskeya reported that Guy Philippe's brother, Dr Seneque Philippe, was "severely molested" by the commandos, while a neighbor, Laplanche Joseph Junior, was "lightly wounded" in the arm by a "projectile." The Haitian National Police said the raid was a joint undertaking with U.S. Government agencies. But Radio Kiskeya's correspondent said that the commandos were exclusively North American with only one officer of the Haitian Police's Office to Fight Drug Trafficking (BLTS) taking part in the operation, as an interpreter. Guy Philippe said later in an interview that the raid was carried out by the FBI, not the DEA, and that "an adolescent, my brother, and a pregnant woman were struck" during the three-hour operation. The United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), the foreign military occupation force, says it played no role in the raid but was informed about it shortly before at a high-level. Last July 16, DEA and BLTS agents, dropping from five helicopters, tried to arrest Philippe at his home in Bergeau, a village in the hills near the southern city of Aux Cayes. Then as now, Philippe appears to have been tipped off about the ambush. Philippe, a 39-year-old former Haitian Army officer, police chief and unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2006, denies the drug charges against him. He was a leader of the so-called "rebels" who staged a brief media-magnified takeover of Haiti's north during the U.S.-led campaign to oust Aristide in 2004. In a recent phone interview with Reuters from a hiding place, Philippe claimed he was a victim of a plot by the United States and its allies to eliminate him. "They have a plan to kill me because I stood for the rights of my people, not because I am involved in drug trafficking, because they know it is not true," Philippe said on Feb. 29, his birthday. "If they knew I was really a drug trafficker, they would have arrested me a long time ago because I was always here [in Pestel] going about my activities," he said. "If I have to die, I will die with my head up, not down, and with the dignity and courage of a fighter." Officials at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince declined to comment on the raid. The U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida, where media reports say a sealed indictment against Philippe has been brought, also would not comment. On March 27 , Philippe announced that he plans to run in upcoming Senate elections. "You don't need to look hard for me because there are going to be elections," Philippe told Radio Vision 2000 in a telephone interview, without, however, revealing his location. "I am going to be a candidate for Senate." In an interview with the daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste, Philippe claimed that he was freely circulating around the city of Jeremie. "Those guys don't scare us," Philippe told the paper. "I consider myself already campaigning for the next Senate elections. I am going to register like everyone when the CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] announces the opening of registration." The elections for one-third of the Senate, originally scheduled for last November, were postponed as the government launched an investigation into corruption allegations against the former electoral council. A new date has not been set. Philippe ran for president in 2006 under his Front for National Reconstruction or FRN (the same name he gave his band of "rebels"), which hoped to reinstate the Haitian military disbanded by Aristide in 1995. He received less than 1 percent of the vote. Philippe told a Haitian radio show in October that he was the victim of a political plot and he dared U.S. agents to kill him. In a long interview with Peter Hallward published on Haitianalysis.com last year, Philippe denounced his former confederates of the "unarmed opposition" against Aristide, who provided him with material support. "I know that I saved the country," Philippe said. " If it hadn't been for the treachery of our professional politicians, the people who signed an unpatriotic agreement with France and the United States, then today the country would be in a much better position. These people - [sweatshop magnate and Group of 184 leader] Andy Apaid, [Alliance Party's] Evans Paul, [Organization of Struggling People's] Paul Denis, [former Aristide and Preval ally turned de facto regime facilitator] Lesley Voltaire - will be judged one day before the tribunal of history." Having helped usher in the foreign occupation of Haiti and named Ronald Reagan and Gen. Augusto Pinochet as his heroes in 2004, Philippe today postures as a progressive nationalist who was betrayed by unpatriotic opportunists. "Evans Paul, [Fusion Party's] Serge Gilles and the others were aware of all my movements since we were working together," he told Hallward. "They asked [pro-coup Cap Haitien radio owner Jean-Robert] Lalanne to call me, to ask me to come urgently to Port-au-Prince on 29 February  to have a big meeting to decide the future of Haiti; Apaid, [former Haitian Army colonel Himmler] Rebu, Evans Paul, [former Haitian Army officer and renegade Lavalas Family senator] Dany Toussaint were all at that meeting. But under international pressure they then betrayed us and they signed the tripartite accord on 4 March , which decided on the procedure for choosing a post-Aristide government. And it was them, and Andy Apaid, who advised the US embassy to kidnap Aristide in order to prevent me, Guy Philippe, from taking power and setting up a government in Haiti like the one that [President Hugo] Chávez set up in Venezuela." When asked by Hallward if he had received any help from the U.S. and France during the years he was organizing and outfitting his "rebels" in the Dominican Republic from 2001 to 2004, Philippe became evasive. "There are some things I cannot reveal at this point but everything's in [my] book which will appear in 2012, whether or not I myself am still alive," he said. APRIL 17 - 19, 2008: HABNET TO HOLD NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN BROOKLYN The Haitian-American Business Network (HABNET), a part of the Consortium for Haitian Empowerment, will hold a three-day National Conference entitled "Advancing the Haitian-American Agenda: Economic, Civic and Social Strategies" from April 17 to 19, 2008. The event is being organized in partnership with the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz. The first day of the conference will feature a celebration of Toussaint L'Ouverture's legacy, and Nostrand Avenue will be given an alternate name: Toussaint L'Ouverture Boulevard. On the second day, HABNET will have workshops on small business support services, community organizing and mobilizing, community services and development, the business and politics of healthcare, wealth building and preservation, development projects and investments in Haiti, education and workforce development, the business side of arts and entertainment and more. The first two events, the Toussaint L'Ouverture Business Awards and the workshops on advancing the Haitian-American agenda, will take place at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, on Thursday, April 17 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday, April 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. respectively. The conference will end with an Awards Dinner Gala at Glen Terrace, 5313 Avenue N in Brooklyn on Saturday, April 19 from 8:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Guest speakers and participants will include renowned human rights advocate Marlene Bastien of Haitian Women of Miami; Dr. Carole Berotte Joseph, the first Haitian provost (Boston); Jean Robert Lafortune, of the Grassroots Movement (Miami); entertainers Melanie Charles (NY), Pauline Jean (NY) and King Kino (NY). Entertainers Yole DeRose (Haiti) and Emeline Michel (NY) will also have a CD signing. Honorees will include Dr. Lesly Kernisant (NY), the founder of SYMACT and Witnez Volcy (NY), recipient of the HABNET Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Invitees include Wyclef Jean and Danny Glover. The Conference is supported by local community leaders such as Elsie Accilien of HAUP, Gina Cheron of CHE as well as elected officials. Brooklyn has one of the largest concentrations of Haitian ancestry people living in the United States, second only to Miami. Conference organizers say they have designed the agenda to enable participants to advance a common agenda by being informed of the economic, civic and social strategies that will lead to the empowerment of Haitians, individually and collectively. "When we come together with other groups to form a coalition that is multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-national and multi-religious, Haitian-Americans must not be the weak link in such a coalition," said Jackson Rockingster, HABNET's chairman. "Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to build strong economic, civic and social institutions. This conference will contribute to that endeavor. Everyone is encouraged to attend. Everyone is welcome. We must educate ourselves to participate in the civic and economic life or our community in order to elevate ourselves to a state of empowerment." For more information, contact Gracie Xavier at 877-278-9143 or Fritz Clairvil 347-996-3245. All articles copyrighted Haiti Liberte. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED. Please credit Haiti Liberte.