Our Man in Haiti

Former Dade politician Darryl Reaves was ready when the call came: The military rulers in Port-au-Prince need your help!

And perhaps not surprisingly, he continues to be cautious regarding Aristide. "He's the duly elected president of Haiti," Reaves notes without much enthusiasm, but his return wouldn't necessarily guarantee the establishment of democracy. "I would not embody democracy in any individual."

The principles and ideals of democracy, he adds, inspired him from the outset. His commitment to the struggle even put his own life in danger. At one point, he claims, he was used as a secret emissary by officials in Washington (whom he refuses to name) to deliver assurances to Cedras: If the military complied with Governors Island, Cedras would not be hauled before a "kangaroo court" in the U.S. on drug charges, a la Manuel Noriega. "Here I am, having this conversation with the general," Reaves says, recounting the episode. "I have no bodyguards. I don't have a gun. And then this other general bursts into the room and throws a fax down on the desk which contained some report contradicting everything I was saying. It turned out to be false, but I was scared. My wife has also been afraid for my safety."

Through all of this, he says, he has never been paid a cent. His expenses A hotel rooms, food, plane tickets to New York, Port-au-Prince, and Washington -- he paid for himself. He estimates the total amount to be a couple of thousand dollars. Cox Newspapers reporter Nancy Nusser, however, contradicts that contention. In her Palm Beach Post story, she quoted unidentified Haitian sources close to the military as saying Reaves was indeed "hired." The source did not disclose Reaves's supposed fee.

New Times's efforts to corroborate Nusser's information led to a man named Lynn Garrison, a Canadian who lives in Haiti and who has been an advisor to Cedras for more than two years. Often portrayed in media reports as an enigmatic character with very close ties to the Haitian military and alleged links to the U.S. intelligence community, Garrison has handled press relations for the military since the coup.

During a telephone interview last week, Garrison initially claimed not to know Darryl Reaves. But he corrected himself after he was informed it was well-known among journalists that he and Reaves socialized a great deal during Reaves's visits to Haiti. "Darryl is a neat guy," he said warmly.

Was Reaves paid for his work in Haiti? "He told you he wasn't, right?" Garrison asked coyly. "Well, I don't think he was. Neither am I. This is a charity operation."

Eager to apply the spin for which he is known, Garrison without solicitation then began to describe the scene from the window of his office at military headquarters in Port-au-Prince: children playing happily in a nearby courtyard, the twinkling lights of the city slowly coming on as dusk turned to darkness, contented people making their way home to fix dinner. An idyllic scene unfamiliar to most reporters covering Haiti. "I'm just disgusted with the way the media has portrayed this country," Garrison huffed. But he vowed to continue promoting the truth, just as did Darryl Reaves. "Darryl is one of the few people I trust," he added.

Opening up a bit, Garrison claimed to be unsure how Reaves plugged in so quickly to the military high command. "I don't know who he met, but all of a sudden he was here in the middle of everything," Garrison recalled. "I like Darryl, don't get me wrong, but the truth is he wasn't pivotal down here. He filled a spot that was never really vacant." Responsibilities for press relations, he added, have always been his.

"A lot of people come here to help," Garrison observed. "And the Haitians are tremendously polite. It's one of their great flaws. They are very tolerant." Eventually, though, Garrison explained, visitors like Reaves realize their services really aren't needed, and they leave.

Whether or not Reaves was paid, he still may have violated the trade embargo against Haiti. "The exportation of services, whether it's remunerated or not, is prohibited by the embargo," explains Bob Levine, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department, which is responsible for enforcing the embargo. While Levine recalls hearing about Reaves in the past, he is unaware of any legal action being taken against him.

Ira Kurzban, the Miami attorney and Aristide advisor, says even though it appears Reaves was providing a service to the Haitian military, Washington officials probably consider the offense too minor to investigate, especially in light of the fact that Reaves left Haiti two months ago.

Closer to home, though, Kurzban believes Reaves may have caused himself considerable harm. "It's hard to believe," he warns, "that he could ever hope to run for office in any district that included Haitians."

Reaves isn't saying if he will run for public office again, and for the time being his involvement in politics is strictly domestic. Earlier this month he was hired as an aide to Miami City Commissioner Willy Gort. He describes his position as "special assistant," working part-time as a liaison between Gort and Miami's black community.

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