A street gang leader who led the rebellion that forced Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to flee has been arrested in Miami, officials said today.
Butteur Metayer was taken into custody by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and “is currently going through proceedings and his case is active in litigation”, spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said. She declined further comment.
Metayer’s family told The Miami Herald yesterday that he arrived at Miami International Airport from Haiti on November 28 for treatment of stomach pains and to see his mother. At the airport, he was detained by US Customs and Border Protection agents.
Family members told the newspaper that his passport and US residency card were seized by Homeland Security agents. After five hours of questioning at the airport, Metayer was told to appear at immigration headquarters in Miami the next day, said his cousin, Madene Jacques, who was traveling with him.
When he arrived, he was arrested and taken to the Krome detention centre in south-west Miami-Dade County. Metayer has told family members he is being held because he overstayed his visit outside the United States.
Metayer was leader of the Cannibal Army, which turned on Aristide after gang leader Amiot Metayer, Butteur’s brother, was assassinated last year, accusing the government of silencing him to prevent him from giving damaging information about Aristide.
Aristide has denies any involvement with the gang. Butteur wore bands of bullets across his chest during the uprising, declared himself president of Haiti’s central Artibonite district.
Gang warfare erupted in Gonaives after floods from a September tropical storm that left 3,000 dead and missing.
Many Haitian street gangs – with political connections or not – have dealings in cocaine-trafficking that provides the United States with 14% of all its cocaine.
Haiti is the major drug transshipment country for the entire Caribbean, US officials have said. The trafficking did not stop after Aristide was forced to flee at the end of February and the United States subsequently accused him of profiting from the trade.
Under Bush administration policy, Haitians are usually kept in detention until they are deported or granted asylum months or years later.