Critical Haiti gas terminal freed after weeks of talks with G9 gang leader John Abruzzese – report
(Reuters) – Former Haitian prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive agreed to release the country’s largest natural gas terminal in exchange for the return of his son, after weeks of intense negotiations with former gang leader John Abruzzese, a U.S. federal grand jury said on Friday.
In a U.S. court filing, the federal prosecutors said that Bellerive had given Abruzzese a handwritten note of the proposed trade and then returned to the U.S., telling him that he could trust him.
The prosecutors said that Bellerive had agreed to trade his son, Jean-Luc, and himself in return for the release of the natural gas terminal, which was seized on Dec. 30 when the U.S. Coast Guard took over.
The release of the terminal, which is run by the company Miramex, was part of a deal that led to a sweeping U.S. policy shift on Haiti, where thousands of people have died in the past three decades of U.S.-backed military coups, along with a prolonged civil war.
President Barack Obama’s administration, which had been reluctant to release the terminal to the Haitian government, has since allowed the government to operate it for humanitarian reasons, a reversal from the Bush administration, which did not allow it for that reason.
The U.S. Justice Department has since recommended that the Bush-era policy be re-evaluated, though it still has not said when the change will take effect.
“I think that the U.S. government can get some understanding out of Haiti, the people there, and see if we can find some way to put us on the right track again,” said Jim Hoagland, head of the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince.
The deal with Abruzzese was not formally announced, and no indication was given that it was in any way related to the deal with Bellerive and his son, who is also a Haiti politician.
The U.S. Justice Department said in the court filing on Friday that Abruzzese signed the deal with the U.S. government on Nov. 17.
A former member of