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26169: Holmstead: (news) Haiti: Massacre at US-backed 'Play for Peace' soccer (fwd)
From: john Holmstead <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Haiti: Massacre at US-backed 'Play for Peace' soccer
By Reed Lindsay
The Washington Times
Published August 30, 2005
A U.S.-backed effort to reform and disarm
anti-government gangs went horribly wrong 10 days ago
when hooded police and machete-wielding civilian
backers attacked participants at a soccer game,
killing at least six persons.
The Aug. 20 incident in the hillside slum of
Martissant has fueled fears of further violence in the
run-up to presidential balloting in November.
The "Play for Peace" soccer match was financed and
sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International
Development, and was designed to steer young people
away from the gang violence that has beset Haiti since
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile in
Witnesses to the Aug. 20 massacre said about 6,000
spectators were packed into the soccer stadium when
police officers ordered everyone to the ground. Shots
rang out, and people ran for the walled field's only
Police fired wantonly into the crowd, witnesses
and relatives of victims said. Outside, they said,
civilians armed with machetes and more police officers
attacked people trying to flee the chaos.
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"They came to massacre us," said Nesly Devla, 20,
showing a sewn-up, 3-inch machete gash on his forehead
and another on his hand. "Everyone was on top of each
other. There was nowhere to run. God saved me."
Anne Sosin, a human rights observer at the
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, says she
has confirmed the deaths of at least eight persons,
but the toll could go much higher.
Police spokeswoman Gessy Coicou said six bodies
were brought to the morgue. Mrs. Coicou declined to
talk further about the incident except to say that
police would conduct an investigation.
A U.S. Embassy representative said: "The embassy
is dismayed by reports of violence at the
USAID-sponsored soccer match last weekend. We express
our condolences to the families of the victims.
"The purpose of these events is to create
alternatives to violence for youth in poor
communities. We have asked the Haitian national police
and their U.N. ... advisers for a thorough
Less than a month earlier, two other grisly
machete attacks also appeared to take place with
The incidents all occurred in poor neighborhoods
of Port-au-Prince that are considered bastions of
support for Mr. Aristide and have raised doubts about
the effectiveness of a U.N. peacekeeping force that
has been in Haiti for nearly 15 months.
"These killings set a dangerous precedent," Miss
Sosin said. "How can you explain police accompanied by
individuals armed with machetes massacring spectators
at a soccer match with U.N. troops standing by
literally across the street?"
U.N. and government officials portrayed the
machete killings as a reaction from angry residents
who resorted to spontaneous vigilante justice after
becoming fed up with gang violence.
"We are worried about the cases of lynchings in
recent weeks," said Jean-Francois Vezina, Canadian
spokesman for the U.N. Civilian Police, which is
mandated with training and monitoring its Haitian
But witnesses at the soccer match said the
killings there were neither spontaneous nor carried
out with popular support. They said they recognized
some of the machete-wielding civilians as "attaches,"
or local criminals who reportedly are paid police
informants and assassins.
"According to the people we work with in the
community, this was not popular justice. They are
saying this was a planned aggression, an attack to
destabilize the community," said Philippe Branchat, an
employee of the International Organization for
Migration who manages the Haiti Transition Initiative,
the USAID-program that sponsored the soccer game.
Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All
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