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25273: Blanchet: <news) Fwd: Fw: Attack destroys Haiti market; 11 die (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
From: Jocelyn McCalla
Posted on Thu, Jun. 02, 2005
The killing of at least 11 people in a Haiti marketplace marked a gruesome
setback in the struggle to restore security to the troubled nation.
BY JANE REGAN AND JOE MOZINGO
PORT-AU-PRINCE - The charred remains of nine people were removed from the
smoldering wreckage of a downtown marketplace Wednesday, the latest victims of
a surge of violence that has prompted the U.S. Embassy to send some of its
Dozens of gunmen stormed the market in central Port-au-Prince Tuesday around
noon, unleashing a torrent of bullets to scare away police and merchants
before setting the two buildings on fire with Molotov cocktails.
Witnesses said the gunmen claimed to be supporters of former President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide, and that police at a station next door fled the scene when
one of them was wounded.
The attack left nine people burned to death and two others shot fatally, and
removed a cornerstone of Haiti's already teetering economy. With some 2,500
merchants, the Tet Bef (Cow's Head) Market was a critical hub of commerce
where wholesalers hawk everything from underwear to soap.
Haitian officials depicted the destruction -- as well as the killing of a
French honorary consul in an apparent robbery attempt the same day -- as part
of what they have been calling ``a destabilization movement.''
The U.S. State Department last week ordered the departure of non-essential
U.S. Embassy personnel and all family members after an embassy van was sprayed
with bullets downtown.
''The truth is that we are at war in Haiti today,'' Police Chief Leon Charles
said last week. ``It is an urban guerrilla situation.''
Charles and other Haitian officials repeatedly have blamed the upsurge in
violence on partisans of Aristide, who fled the country during an armed revolt
Yet on Tuesday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, whick is
independent, released a report blaming the violence on a broad range
of ''spoilers'' who would benefit from lawlessness and chaos.
At the top of the group's list of likely culprits: drug traffickers and money
launderers who have turned Haiti into a lucrative transit point for Colombian
cocaine heading to U.S. markets. Others included militants who claim
allegiance to the ex-president, business families that pay few taxes and
``politicians not yet ready for elections or fearful of a possible Lavalas
But for some of those directly affected by Tuesday's fire, the blame lies
squarely on the armed pro-Aristide gangs.
''The same guys who come here to shoot and scare us and call for Aristide to
come back are the ones who did this,'' Rachel Pierre, a soap vendor, told the
Herald. ``They'll do whatever it takes to stop the elections.''
Robert Anglade, general supervisor of the market, said gangs have been making
threats to burn down the place for months.
He would not explain the motive behind the threats, although merchants say
that pro-Aristide gunmen regularly extorted them for cash both before and
after his departure.
As Anglade spoke, survivors dug through the ashes looking for anything they
The older of the two buildings, a brick-walled railway station for long-gone
banana plantations, had fallen to rubble. Inside the burned concrete shell of
the other, the naked metal frames of merchant stands were the only remnants of
the once-thriving commerce.
A body lying in one corridor had an arm extended as if trying to crawl to
safety. Three other bodies were entwined together, huddled in the smoke.
Although police officially said that five people died, both the market manager
and a reporter working with The Herald counted nine burned bodies.
Gerda Lereau, 41, stood desolately on the spot where she once sold imported
''When they started to shoot we ran to hide,'' she recounted. ``They came in
and spread fire everywhere. We hid and then we found a way out.''
But firetrucks were unable to prevent the disaster. With only one functioning
fire hydrant in the area, the trucks go back and forth filling up their tanks.
``The entire market burned down. I am ruined. The firetrucks don't have water.
They spray some water and then they have to go get more water. What kind of
country is this?''
While most of Haiti has returned to relative peace since Aristide's ouster,
recent violence has plunged the capital deeper and deeper into a state of
panic and paranoia. Kidnappings and carjackings have become epidemic. Whole
swaths of the city are no-go zones.
The 7,400 U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti have been accused of being too passive
and unwilling to confront armed militants.
''There are places you can't go anymore,'' said Jerry Tardieu, vice president
of Haitian Chamber of Commerce. ``There are no police, there are no businesses
open. . . . It seems impossible that the government has no control over large
areas of the capital.''
© 2005 Herald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Jocelyn McCalla | Executive Director | National Coalition for Haitian Rights
275 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 | www.nchr.org
V: (212) 337-0005 | F: (212) 741-8749 | C: (862) 452-7196 | Email:
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