Flood of Repression in Haiti Continues


S.E.: The devastation of Hurricane Jeanne and a corrupt government has already reached biblical proportions in Haiti. With over 2000 reported dead and scores more missing, the Haitian people have much to do to reclaim their Republic. The Bush administration has been oddly silent on the destruction and [there is much] irony given the campaign speeches and promises of a ‘compassionate conservatism’ and ‘peace-loving military missions.’ John Kerry has also been strangely silent, given the outrageous cost of human life. With us once again is journalist, filmmaker, and special correspondent in Port au Prince, Kevin Pina. Thank you Kevin for being with us here on Flashpoints.

K.P.: Thank-you Solange.

S.E.: Well, let’s get a quick update on what the aftermath there is in Haiti. What’s the voice of the street?

K.P.: Well, the biggest problem right now continues to be the armed gangs in Gonaives, the same armed gangs that [interim Prime Minister] Latortue had previously embraced as ‘freedom fighters’ in early March [March 20th], following the ouster of the constitutional President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aid workers have been held up at gunpoint, people have been reporting that, after they receive aid, gunmen will come into their homes and steal the aid from them. The United Nations and I think the world is beginning to see that Gonaives basically is one big city full of gangs; there’s no other way to describe it. But of course matters are made worse when Gerard Latortue, the U.S. installed Prime Minister, appoints people like Winter Etienne to be the head of the national port authority in Gonaives. Winter Etienne also is part of a large gang in Gonaives and he now controls the ports there. The United Nations had said they wanted to use that very same port to bring in aid but were discouraged from doing so when they saw that the port was completely controlled by heavily armed men.

S.E.: Kevin, do you get a sense that the current regime, the Latortue regime, whether or not they’re using all of this, Hurricane Jeanne and all of the destruction in the aftermath, as a way to really entrench their power?

K.P. Well, certainly, a lot of aid is flowing into Haiti now, so much so that the foreign minister of Canada [Pierre Pettigrew] met with Gerard Latortue and the interim President.Boniface Alexandre, and they said ‘please don’t send any more aid, the two planeloads that you sent was plenty, was enough,’ plus the money that’s been sent to the government directly to aid the victims. So, apparently there’s plenty of aid, enough so that the Latortue government is beginning to turn down offers of aid at this point. So, really it’s a question of what are they going to do on the ground as far as politically. Of course, this whole story in Gonaives, which is a very tragic story, has been covering an even more tragic story, which is the continuing repression of Lavalas.

Certainly, last weekend even the Mayor of Delmas, an area within the capital of Port au Prince, had to admit that last weekend there were fourteen bodies that were found, the majority with bullets in them; they were not identified, the bodies actually seemed as though they had been held in another locale for quite some time and then were dumped in various neighbourhoods throughout the area of Delmas. The information coming in on that is sketchy.we don’t know. But then there are also stories from Gonaives related to that. For example I think I had mentioned that people who were Lavalas political prisoners, who were in jail in Gonaives, the Haitian police in Gonaives said that the prisoners had escaped. Well, family members are still claiming that that is not true, and they believe that the Haitian police abandoned their posts and allowed those people to drown in their jail cells. So, still there is a lot of repression related, political repression related to the political climate, in the wake of Jean Bertrand Aristide’s ouster, that’s going unreported.

Tomorrow will be an interesting test, tomorrow of course is September 30th, which is the anniversary of the first coup against Aristide in 1991. Lavalas has announced that they are going to hold a large demonstration in the capital tomorrow as well as on the first of October. We’ll see how that goes. This will also be the first time that the Chinese communist police that have come to Haiti, as part of the UN police-keeping force, we’ll see their debut, I believe tomorrow, at the demonstrations.

S.E. We’re talking about the ongoing struggle of the people of Haiti. We’re going to go back to that question a little bit, and I guess what I’m really asking is whether or not the government, the installed government is using the storm as a cloak, as a cover up for these disappearances, these assassinations, this oppression, and repression of Lavalas supporters?

K.P. I mean, how can you call it a greater cover up than it already was? The only people who have been talking about the deaths, who have been talking about the political persecution, have been special delegations that have come in to Haiti such as the National Lawyers Guild [1], Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was in today with another delegation: these are the only people who are talking about that. The mainstream media has never discussed it, has never talked about it; right now the mainstream media is obsessed with the victims of the flood in Gonaives, but that’s because that’s their ‘big story’ now on Haiti, but as far as repression [goes] that was never covered by the mainstream media and they have pretty much ignored it from the beginning. So it’s hard to cover up something that’s already been covered up, even further.

Has this masked the reality even further on the ground? Absolutely. Will that be able to continue? I don’t think so, because the level of repression, as I think I said to our listeners last week, had kicked up again. There’s a new level of repression that’s touching union leaders now, it’s touching religious organizations and, again, a lot of this is being done with the collusion of a so-called human rights organization, the National Council of Haitian Rights [NCHR], which has pretty much acted as judge, police and jury in Haiti. [T]he way that their modus operandi works is that a rumour is spread on the street, NCHR will then take to the airwaves and say that they have evidence to back up the rumour, then individuals are arrested and detained by the police. NCHR never presents its so-called evidence and people rot away in prison. This is a cycle that I have seen happen over and over and over again the last couple months, and it’s continuing to happen in Haiti today. [2]

S.E. In the face of all this political repression and oppression, and in the face of all this devastation, both candidates President Bush [and] John Kerry have been oddly silent, even from the humanitarian aspect of it. Can you speak a little bit to this?

K.P.: Well, I find the silence on the Kerry camp to be really odd, particularly given that with the hurricane and the fact that what it exposed was that all of the previous investment that U.S. tax dollars had made in Haiti, such as an emergency response network to be able to forecast hurricanes and tropical storms in advance, to put supplies of water and food and tents, etc. in place in the areas where the forecasted natural disaster is aimed towards; all of those apparatuses were put into place with U.S. taxpayer dollars in building the Civil Protection Bureau. All of those apparatuses, and all of those systems that were built with U.S. taxpayer dollars, were destroyed with the ousting of the democratic government. So, Kerry certainly has a good claim to make against the Bush administration’s ill-conceived regime change in Haiti, and I still find it quite odd that either people in his camp aren’t quick enough, or I’m not sure exactly what is going on with them, but I know that there is interest out there and when people hear that story they can see clearly that what the Bush administration did in Haiti was ill-conceived.

S.E.: Thank you Kevin Pina for all your hard work over there in Haiti.

[1] For reports on the political repression, see the National Lawyers Guild reports at http://www.nlg.org, see the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti at http://www.ijdh.org, the Quixote Center delegation report at http://haitireborn.org/campaigns/lhl/ob-miss-mar04.php, see also their human rights reports. The International Action Center has a lot of information available on their site: http://www.iacenter.org; see also the Ecumenical Program in Central America http://epica.org/haiti/action_haiti.htm; also see the work of the Haiti Accompaniment Project, http://www.haitiaction.net/News/hap6_29_4.html.

[2] See “The Double Standard of NCHR” at the Haiti Action Committee, http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/9_12_4.html.

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