CRIME RATE SOARS AS POLICE PREPARE TO STRIKE
ACTIVISTS ACROSS U.S. LAUNCH WEEK OF SUPPORT
link to website> Haiti Progres: This week in Haiti Aug 11-17, 2004
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CRIME RATE SOARS AS POLICE PREPARE TO STRIKE
Haiti has seen a violent crime wave of unprecedented proportions in recent weeks. The grave state of affairs was the subject of an Aug. 2 New York Times article entitled "Five Months After Aristide, Mayhem Rules the Streets."
Correspondent Michael Kamber reported from Cap Haitien that "mayhem is reaching ever higher levels, with murders, rapes and bus robberies becoming routine." He writes "a tense inertia has spread over efforts to police this shattered society, allowing armed factions and marauders to move in."
This is largely because the former soldiers making up most of the "rebels" who helped overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29 have neutralized the remnants of Haiti's police force, which in turn is mostly unarmed, unmotivated and underpaid.
Furthermore, the "rebels" set free almost all of Haiti's convicted criminals as they took over towns.
Now crimes are not just more numerous but more gruesome. Dismembered bodies are turning up all over the country. For example, in Caperlier, near Petit-Goave, on Aug. 4 peasants discovered the chopped up remains of a man named Toutou Gaillard. The same day, in the Artibonite town of Gros Morne, the body of a young woman without legs was found near a river. Her face was too mutilated to identify her.
Another body was found in the same condition on Jul. 27 in Belle- Fontaine near Croix-des-Bouquets. "Heavily armed bandits came into the area yesterday morning and proceeded directly to the home of Ti Betiz," said Celestin Jean Victor, the coordinator of a local peasant organization. "They killed him by decapitating him and taking away the head, leaving behind the body with the arms amputated. During the same day, the same individuals went to Grande-Savanne where they shot a certain Jacquelin, leaving him for dead."
On July 30 in Gona•ves, four men on motorcycles ambushed a car driven by businessman Bernard Douze, the owner of the city's Shell gas station. Before being riddled with bullets, Douze veered his vehicle wildly and plowed into a group of market women, killing three of them and injuring several others.
On the desolate stretch of highway north of the capital near Morne Cabrit on National Road 3, armed bandits leisurely hold up motorists and buses without any interference from the de facto authorities.
In the capital, the situation is also bad. On July 27, people in the Delmas 33 neighborhood discovered the body of Jocelyn Saint- Louis, a former deputy from St. RaphaÎl. On the evening of August 4, Guy Solon, a popular organization member said to be close to Aristide's Lavalas Family party, was gunned down in Delmas 19 by men in the back of a pick-up truck.
In some areas, people have taken matters into their own hands. In the northeast commune of Monbin-Crochu, peasants lynched three suspected thieves on the night of Jul. 29. The peasants said they have no choice but to organize aggressive self-defense brigades with no authorities in the region.
Meanwhile, the Haitian police are threatening to strike for a 100% pay increase that they were promised in June. De facto police chief Lèon Charles told the policemen that they should be satisfied for the time being with the 30% hike that the government is now offering. Charles said that police officers who strike will be fired.
Last week, Haiti's former soldiers gave the de facto government a deadline of Aug. 10 to formally reconstitute them as the Haitian army and give them 10 years back pay. As the deadline elapsed, Rony Bernard, the spokesman for former soldiers in southern Haiti, said that a contingent of 150 former soldiers from the south would go to the central plateau town of Pernal, a former "rebel" stronghold, to "receive instructions" about how to force the government to give them back pay, according to the Haitian Press Agency.
On Aug. 9, former soldiers dressed in white T-shirts saying FAd'H, the acronym for the disbanded Armed Forces of Haiti, marched in Cap Haïtien. "If they want our weapons, they have to resign first," the former soldiers declared to the de facto government which has called on them to disarm by Sep. 15 (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 22, No. 20, 7/28/2004). The former soldiers say, with some justice, that their weapons put the de facto government in power. "Down with ingratitude!" they shouted.
by the Haiti Action Committee
Beginning a week of non-violent demonstrations in the United States, representatives of the Bay Area-based Haiti Action Committee today called for people of conscience to support the Haitian people's ongoing struggle for basic freedoms. The U.S. actions are in support of peaceful protests being staged under dire conditions in Haiti.
The Haiti demonstrations will be held in the area of Cap-Haïtien and Milot in the North of Haiti from August 12 to14. That region has seen brutal crackdowns on the popular mass movement Lavalas by paramilitary forces. Meanwhile, candlelight vigils, pickets and teach-ins are planned in various U.S. cities in solidarity with Haiti.
Robert Roth, a San Francisco educator who just returned from visiting Milot with a human rights delegation to Haiti, said, "The democratically-elected mayor of Milot, Jean-Charles Moïse, is now in hiding after soldiers stormed his home in the middle of the night on June 14, in violation of the constitution, which forbids late-night raids of this kind."
In 1998, Mayor Moïse visited California, where he was received by the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County and the mayors and City Council members of Oakland, Berkeley and Davis. These cities proclaimed a day in Mayor Moïse's honor, recognizing his extraordinary contribution to the Haitian people s struggle for justice and democracy.
A candlelight march to demand an end to the persecution of Mayor Moïse and other Lavalas members, and the return of President Aristide, will take place at 9 p.m. on Friday, August 13, starting from the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists at the corner of Cedar and Bonita in North Berkeley. A public forum, featuring Haitian community leader Pierre LabossiËre and media activist Maria Gilardin, will precede the vigil at 7 p.m. at the church.
Actions in Cap-Haïtien and Milot will include a "Caravan of Justice," in which people will place candles at sites of military attacks on civilians. This cycle of protest will conclude with a march on August 14, commemorating the beginning of the Haitian Revolution in 1791. Due to the extreme repression in the region, international human rights observers will monitor the protests and help insure safety of participants.
Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee called on U.S. residents to pressure their Representatives to support H.R. 3919, The Responsibility to Uncover the Truth About Haiti, or T.R.U.T.H. Act. Introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the bill calls for an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the Bush Administration's involvement in the February 29, 2004 coup d'Ètat in Haiti.
On February 29, representatives of the Bush Administration kidnapped the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and flew him to the Central African Republic. President Aristide now lives in involuntary exile in South Africa. The Haitian people overwhelmingly elected him twice, only to see both terms of office brutally interrupted by military coups.
President Aristide s ouster was the culmination of a U.S.-led destabilization campaign which included withholding of loans, funding of political opposition groups, and arming and training of former military officials and death squad leaders.
Since the military insurgency began in late January, militias have murdered thousands of people, burned hundreds of homes, and forced tens of thousands of activists in President Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas Party to flee for their lives. Food prices have skyrocketed, with the price of rice doubling, creating an unspeakably horrible situation for the overwhelming majority of Haitians.
An occupation force led by the United States, France, Canada, and Chile replaced Haiti's legal government and installed as President a Haitian exile, GÈrard Latortue, a resident of Florida, who had not set foot in Haiti for 15 years. UN "peacekeepers" lend undeserved legitimacy to the coup government. Former military officials currently control the police, while formerly exiled and jailed death squad leaders again spread terror.
The U.S.-engineered coup in Haiti is in clear violation of U.S. and international law. The Caribbean CARICOM countries and Africa Union have repeatedly condemned this removal of Haiti's democratically elected President.
For further information, visit www.haitiaction.net or contact: Pierre LabossiËre email@example.com, Robert Roth 415-297-7869, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Leslie Fleming 510-558-0371, <email@example.com>.
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