'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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before