Apr 4, 2005
It's been more than a year since Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to leave. The political, economic and social situation of Haiti has hardly evolved. The economy runs slower. Unemployment and misery strike the immense majority of the population.
The transition government of Gérard Latortue (put in place with the blessing of the United States, France and Canada) has shown itself unable to reestablish a bare minimum of public services (roads, water purification, electricity, clinics ... ). Insecurity has struck the entire country. Armed bands – whether they be the police, supporters of former president Aristide (the chimPres), former soldiers, hoodlums and drug traffickers or United Nations soldiers – continue to confront each other. Each day, their activities create new victims among the population.
The following excerpts come from articles published in La Voix des Travailleurs (Workers Voice), put out by the Organization of Revolutionary Workers in Haiti.
The principal victims of the gangsters are the inhabitants of the workers' neighborhoods like Bel-Air, Solino, Cité-Soleil, Cité de Dieu, etc... At 5 PM each day the residents lock their doors, fearing the armed bandits, often hoodlums, who live in the area. These criminals, in order to do their dirty work, force the people to go home or be the victims of gangsters. They occupy the area with weapons such as knives and hand guns to extort and rape people who have to go out to the city to go to other districts. In the majority of cases, according to the declarations of the residents of the area, they rape the women and beat up the men after having stripped them of all they have. Those who live near the national highway hear the noise of crying women and men trying to escape the hands of the bandits.
The population is caught between two fires: the gangsters who extort from them and the police who rain bullets on them or arrest them while taking them for bandits.
A police spokeswoman, Jessy Cameau Coicou, declared in a press conference that the inhabitants of the workers' neighborhoods support the actions of the gangsters. Some middle class people even say it more boldly: they want the neighborhoods burnt down to eliminate all the people who are found there. According to them, there are no innocents in these neighborhoods, everyone is a gangster and the fact that they remain in the neighborhood instead of moving proves they sympathize with the gangsters.
These middle class people, as stupid as they are cynical, seem unaware that the people in these neighborhoods are caught in a trap. Of course, the people want to leave these areas, because they are the main victims of the gangsters' aggression. They would like to lead a human life like the wealthy who live in Pétion-Ville and Péguy-Ville. But how can they? How can they pay for housing in a residential neighborhood that costs 70 gourdes a day? (The average income is less than half that much.) What about those who don't even have a wage, because they don't have a job?
Not only did Jessy Cameau Coicou make declarations. She demanded that the police take action. In Cité de Dieu, on Friday, January 13, around 2 PM, they did. The police killed two youths. One of them was a student, the other a 14-year-old youth.
This student died, because a cop demanded he lie down and he asked for the reason. The police took the student's body and demanded $600 from his relatives before they returned it. The relatives gave $600 to these police who double as assassins and body traders. This fact shocked several small merchants of the area and other people in the workers' neighborhoods.
According to the relatives of the victim, his father died some years ago and his mother is a street vendor who lives from her resourcefulness selling bread to educate her son.
That evening, the police spokeswoman claimed the police had killed two bandits in Cité de Dieu. These are the two bandits, these young innocents that we just cited.
The police know the gangsters very well. They speak on the radio stations. They launch declarations of war publicly. The police feel so powerless to confront these bands of gangsters that they beg the journalists of the radio station Mega-Star to stop letting them speak. It's easier for the police to kill disarmed innocents, while pretending it's a question of bandits, rather than confront the armed bandits themselves.