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25712: Haiti Progres (news) This Week in Haiti 23:18 7/13/2005 (fwd)
From: Haïti Progrès <email@example.com>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 13 - 19, 2005
Vol. 23, No. 18
EVIDENCE MOUNTS OF A U.N. MASSACRE IN HAITI
by the Haiti Information Project
In the early morning hours of July 6, more than 350 UN troops stormed
the seaside shanty town of Cité Soleil in a military operation with the
stated purpose of halting violence in Haiti. The successful goal of the
mission was to assassinate a 31-year-old man and his lieutenants that
Haiti's right-wing media and reactionary business community had labeled
a "bandit" and armed of supporter of ousted president Jean-Bertrand
According to residents, Emmanuel "Dread" Wilmer and four others were
felled in a hail of gunfire that came from all directions including a
circling helicopter. "Armed bandits who had tried to resist were either
killed or wounded," said Colonel Eloufi Boulbars, a military spokesman
for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), according to the
On July 6 in Cité Soleil, a weeping Fredi Romélus recounted how UN
troops had lobbed a red smoke grenade into his house and then opened
fire, killing his wife and two children. "They surrounded our house this
morning, and I ran thinking my wife and the children were behind me," he
said. "They couldn't get out, and the blan [UN] fired into the house."
Exclusive video footage from an HIP reporter captured the interview as
well as images of the three victims. Lying in blood on the floor of the
modest home were Mr. Romélus' 22-year-old wife, Sonia Romélus, who was
killed by the same bullet that passed through the body of her
one-year-old infant son, Nelson. She was apparently holding the child as
the UN opened fire. Next to them was her four-year-old son, Stanley, who
was killed by a single shot to the head.
Officially, the UN has responded that they only opened fire after being
fired upon and have discounted non-combatant casualties. The HIP video
shows 31-year-old Leonce Chery moments after a bullet ripped through his
jaw. Chery was clearly unarmed as he lay bleeding to death in a pool of
his own blood. In fact, the majority of the victims shown on the video
were unarmed, felled by a single shot to the head.
The international medical group Doctors without Borders, reported 26
people from Cité Soleil were treated for gunshot wounds at St. Joseph's
hospital following the UN operation on July 6. According to reports, 20
of the injured were women and children and one pregnant woman lost her
child during surgery. Many wounded and untreated victims of gunshot
wounds are reported to be hiding in Cité Soleil. They fear leaving the
area to seek medical treatment for fear of reprisal by the UN and the
The U.S. State Department and Haiti's wealthy elite had called for the
UN to take tougher action against supporters of Aristide's political
movement known as Lavalas. Dr. Reginald Boulos, the president of the
Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called on the UN to step up
its military operations against the "bandits" on May 27. Meanwhile, the
term "bandits" has become a code word to signify Lavalas supporters in
the elite-run Haitian media.
In response, the U.N. and the Police Nationale d'HaVti (PNH) launched a
major offensive against Cité Soleil on May 31. At least 3 people were
killed and scores injured after U.N. and PNH security forces reportedly
entered the area with "guns shooting everywhere," according to
This was followed by a four-day siege of the pro-Aristide neighborhood
of Bel Air that began on June 2. At least 30 people were killed and more
than 15 homes were reportedly burned to the ground. Human rights
observers described the tactics being employed by the Haitian police
during the raids as a "scorched earth" policy. The Haitian police moved
against Bel Air again on June 17, killing at least 10 people in another
bloody raid. Among the first victims shot by the police that day was
17-year-old Natalie Luzius. She was clutching her 6-month-old son
Fritznel Luzius to protect him at the moment a police bullet struck her
in the head and killed her.
The U.S. State department responded by adding its support to the
anti-Lavalas crusade. Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for
Western Hemisphere Affairs, directly accused Aristide on June 24 of
personally fomenting violence in Haiti. Noriega asserted in a Miami
Herald interview: "We believe that his people are receiving instructions
directly from his voice and indirectly through his acolytes that
communicate with him personally in South Africa."
On July 4, U.S. Ambassador James Foley gave the green light for
violently clamping down on Haiti's majority political party. "Today in
Haiti they are burning houses, they are burning stores, they are
attacking means of transportation and communication links," he said.
"They are kidnapping people of all social classes. They are
assassinating, torturing and raping. All of this has a name: The use of
violence against civilians for political purposes is the very definition
TIME TO TAKE ACTION ON HAITI
by Dan Beeton
As the US becomes increasingly bogged down in the quagmire of occupying
Iraq, there is another country that continues to suffer occupation in
the wake of Bush administration-imposed regime change: Haiti. But the US
has outsourced this occupation to a truly international operation:
United Nations forces, who sometimes provide backup for homegrown
Haitian gunmen whose mission is to prevent the restless masses from
rising up and reclaiming their country's democracy and self
While Haiti briefly captured the world's attention during the 2004 coup
d'etat, the world's first Black republic has since been largely
overlooked. Even the recent prolonged hunger strike by the legitimate
Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, to protest his illegal detention has
received little attention. And while the spotlight has turned instead to
stories like Terry Schiavo and the Michael Jackson trial, the new regime
in Haiti has literally been getting away with murder, with the US as a
While the media willingly ignored Haiti, the U.S. began quietly shipping
thousands of new arms to Haiti's regime, despite a 13-year arms embargo,
in order to better equip the police and former soldiers. The US has done
this despite considerable evidence of the daily terror these police and
former soldiers - who are sometimes one and the same - inflict on
Aristide supporters and young men in the slums around Port-au-Prince
(see "Year 201: Imperialists Bring Horror to Haiti," May/June issue,
Left Turn). So common and frequent are these politically motivated
killings and assaults that human rights investigators were able to
compile a litany of abuses - documented by graphic photographs - in a
two-week trip in November. The US cannot feign ignorance of these
routine attacks on slums like Cite Soleil, or the numerous killings of
protestors demanding Aristide's return and a return to constitutional
The regime that Washington installed has rolled back significant reforms
carried out by Aristide. The pretender to the throne, Prime Minister
Gerard Latortue, reincorporated former soldiers into the police forces.
This maneuver undermined one of Aristide's great achievements: the
dissolution of the army, the state apparatus that had long been used to
oppress the people. And in May the new Supreme Court overturned the
convictions of 15 men for their role in one of the previous coup
period's most notorious massacres, when in April 1994, paramilitaries
surrounded Raboteau - a shanty town near GonaVves - killed over 20
people, assaulted others, and burnt down homes. The regime is sending a
message to the Haitian people and to those who terrorize them: crimes
committed in the service of the state will be carried out with impunity.
A clear example of the workings of the new Haitian justice system is the
case of Yvon Neptune. For the first ten months of his imprisonment,
Neptune was held without having been brought before a judge - despite
that Haitian law requires this within 48 hours of arrest. Instead, the
regime held Neptune under the pretext that he "orchestrated" a massacre
of anti-Aristide protestors - never mind that investigators have found
no evidence that the supposed massacre ever occurred. Contributing to
Neptune's apparent innocence is the fact that he turned himself in when
he heard a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
During most of his imprisonment, Neptune has been held in a filthy
concrete cell without running water or electricity and has survived
attempts on his life. Yet it was only after a month-long hunger strike -
and a few editorials and articles in newspapers - that the regime
finally relented and charged him.
It is hard to imagine another country where the Prime Minister of a
legitimately elected government could be subjected to such treatment
without international outcry. Yet in Neptune's case, there has been
scant media attention and little concern. Even worse, the case is in
some ways typical. There are around 1,000 Fanmi Lavalas members,
Aristide supporters, and other politically suspect individuals
languishing indefinitely in filthy prison cells. In many cases the cells
are so overcrowded that the prisoners cannot even lie down.
It is worth noting that Haiti's Minister of Justice, Bernard Gousse,
used to work for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems - a
US-based entity that was deeply involved in orchestrating the political
opposition to Aristide - and before that, for the US Agency for
International Development. The National Democratic Institute - one of
the core grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy - is currently
"advising" the justice ministry, according to ministry officials.
As of this writing, the US appears to be considering sending troops to
Haiti to "ensure security" for this fall's scheduled elections. The
extent to which a more direct role in this occupation could affect the
people of Haiti is unclear. But what is certain is that the current
situation - with the ongoing political repression and persecution, and
the impunity with which the authorities are able to carry out grievous
abuses - is a situation in which free and fair elections are impossible.
Until the people of Haiti are guaranteed their political rights and
Fanmi Lavalas is free to participate in the electoral process, the
election plans must be opposed. Otherwise, Haiti could be on track to
legitimize an illegal regime with only a fraction of the population
voting. Without serious challenges to this process, the international
community would be able to present the new regime with a stamp of
Meanwhile, where is the international solidarity for Haiti? Where is the
attention it deserves? The ongoing situation is largely ignored by major
human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The US Congress is - not surprisingly - generally unconcerned, if not
outright supportive of the Latortue regime. Even the Congressional Black
Caucus has failed to take strong leadership on the issues and use the
situation in post-coup Haiti to embarrass the Bush Administration,
demonstrate the obvious racism and hypocrisy, and in the process, exert
pressure for the restoration of constitutional democracy in Haiti.
Yvon Neptune has demonstrated with his hunger strike that a little
pressure on Haiti will go a long way. What Haiti needs then, is
solidarity. Eleven years ago, during the first coup against Aristide, it
was an international movement demanding his return that eventually
forced the US to allow him back - albeit with conditions. A similar
movement today would force drastic changes in Haiti. The US has its
hands full in Iraq and can't afford to invest significant political
capital or resources in Haiti, and the UN mission there is already
showing signs it is beginning to crack. The antiwar and global justice
movements must take up Haiti's banner (don't forget that the World Bank
and the Inter-American Development Bank also played a major role in
preparing for the coup d'etat). There are several organizations doing
important work on Haiti, such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy
in Haiti (www.ijdh.org) and the TransAfrica Forum
(www.transafricaforum.org), but they need support.
The 200-year history of U.S.-Haiti relations demands action from us in
the US today. On the US side it is a history mostly of racism, bigotry,
occupation, isolation, exploitation, and subjugation. On Haiti's side it
is a history of resistance, rebellion, and emancipation. We must decide
which side we want to be on - and act accordingly.
Dan Beeton is a global justice and antiwar activist based in the
Washington, DC-area. He formerly worked as a consultant with Haiti
Reborn and continues to engage in Haiti solidarity work. This article
was originally published in Left Turn Magazine.
Next week, we will present the third and final installment of Anthony
Fenton's "Have the Latortues Kidnapped Democracy in Haiti?"
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.