'Shadow' plays dirty tricks in Haiti: A Canadian adventurer is behind the smear campaign against Aristide, writes Phil Davison in Port-au-Prince

HE LIKES to be called 'The Shadow'. That is perhaps because Lynn Garrison, a Canadian, former fighter pilot and Hollywood stunt man, likes to lay low, is close to the CIA and is paranoid to the extreme about being photographed.

Perhaps it is because he shadows Haiti's military ruler, Lieutenant-General Raoul Cedras, the man facing down President Bill Clinton and the international community. Or perhaps it is because of the more than shadowy nature of his work for General Cedras, in a PR role that makes 'dirty tricks' sound euphemistic.

Mr Garrison, who collects vintage airplanes and flew stunts in the film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, is the man behind the recent smear campaign against Haiti's elected but exiled President, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide. His description of the soft-spoken priest as a 'psychotic manic depressive with homicidal and necrophiliac tendencies', and his description of the President's alleged calls for 'necklacing' opponents (setting fire to petrol- filled tyres around their necks), formed the basis of CIA reports that caused splits in the United States over policy towards Haiti and may have led Mr Clinton to back away from his earlier commitment to Mr Aristide's return home.

There is little hard evidence to back up the allegations against Mr Aristide, whose unarmed supporters have turned violent only after massacres by para-military gunmen, and whose followers see him more as a Gandhi figure than the madman recently portrayed.

How can one Canadian adventurer, who speaks neither French nor Creole, whose own mental make-up is at the very least unusual, have played such an important role in a country whose people are dying of terror and famine? Because, it seems, the CIA took him seriously, and his interpretation of diaries, paintings and medicaments he 'liberated' from Mr Aristide's private headquarters after General Cedras' coup in September 1991.

Mr Garrison, who served as a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force from 1964 to 1971 before plying his skills in Hollywood, is, by his own account, in contact with the CIA and Republican senators, including Jesse Helms and Robert Dole. It was Mr Helms who branded Mr Aristide a 'psychopath' on the Senate floor recently. Mr Dole has expressed similar sentiments to discourage Mr Clinton from risking the lives of US troops on Mr Aristide's behalf, democratically elected or no.

Mr Garrison was called to Haiti by the coup leaders 'to lend a hand' the day before they overthrew the populist President in 1991. He came, he insists, merely as a 'friend of Haiti', unpaid (although provided with a bodyguard), and has been here since, often sleeping at military headquarters as a security measure.

His first task? To go through Mr Aristide's private possessions at the palace, according to the rare interviews he has given. He found Mr Aristide's diaries and handed copies over to a friend, Colonel Pat Collins, the then US military attache in Haiti who is now in Mogadishu. Mr Garrison kept the originals for his private collection at his Los Angeles home.

Mr Aristide's doodlings of eight-headed monsters, a common voodoo symbol, led to many of Mr Garrison's later allegations. Then there were the nave paintings found on Mr Aristide's walls, some showing people being tortured and killed by what is known here as 'Pere Lebrun'. Pere Lebrun was the name of a former tyre manufacturer in Haiti, whose advertisements showed a smiling black face sticking his head through a tyre. In Haiti, the 'Pere Lebrun' paintings, like those of voodoo ceremonies that depict the biting off of chickens' heads and people in trances, are common. But Mr Aristide's collection was apparently what led to the allegations that he advocated what in South Africa is commonly known as 'necklacing'. Contrary to reports circulated in the US, Mr Aristide never mentioned 'Pere Lebrun' in a speech before the 1991 coup, although he did refer to 'that wonderful smell' - which could have been an abstract reference to the practice. His actual words have been non-violent.

Mr Garrison also keeps the paintings in his Los Angeles collection, along with Mr Aristide's pyjama top, which he claims is of a voodoo design. The fact that his own military and police bosses practise voodoo as much, if not more, than the next man, Mr Garrison apparently considers irrelevant. Michel Francois, the Port-au- Prince police chief, recently visited a renowned hougan (a voodoo priest) called Dieupere and sacrificed a bull in an eerie night ceremony, according to witnesses. Colonel Francois was apparently invoking the help of voodoo spirits in his face-off with Mr Clinton.

Along with General Cedras, Colonel Francois was supposed to step down and allow Mr Aristide to return by 30 October under the UN-brokered Governor's Island agreement.

Mr Garrison has also made much of Mr Aristide's medicine cabinet, whose contents he keeps in a box at military HQ and claims back up the allegations over the President's mental health. But those who have seen them say the medicine bottles appear designed for a man with heart trouble rather than mental problems.

Nevertheless, Mr Garrison's one-man campaign may have tipped the balance in the US as Mr Clinton kept US marines on alert for a possible intervention. While ostensibly continuing to back the exiled President and his return, US officials began using phrases such as a 'weird, flaky guy' and Mr Clinton himself made a faux pas when, in an attempt to back Mr Aristide, he said: 'Look at the alternatives.'

Mr Garrison has also accused Canada's ambassador to Haiti of having irregular links to the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. One wonders if it is his influence at work when virtually every Haitian official who is attacking opponents raises some alleged connection to Col Gaddafi.

A US cameraman, waiting to film an interview with General Cedras last week at military headquarters, was idly twiddling a small automatic camera. 'He took your picture,' said a Haitian woman who appeared to have a close relationship with Mr Garrison. The cameraman had not. But the Canadian 'friend of Haiti' ripped out and exposed the roll, saying: 'A man could die for this.' At the cameraman's insistence, he replaced the film with a fresh roll.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital