Repression in Haiti


Bernstein: Today we continue our drumbeat coverage of the situation on the ground in Haiti. While it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the extent of the killings, arrests, kidnappings, torture and general intimidation, we know that the death toll is rising for members of the pro-democracy movement and many more Haitians are going into exile or at least trying. There’s clearly a plan afoot on the part of the U.S. installed puppet government to purge the Lavalas movement – the majority party that elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide in the last election in a landslide. Aristide, in exile in South Africa, denied accusations that he was fomenting the violence from South Africa and implored the puppet government of Latortue to “stop the lying, stop the killing.” We now go again to Port au Prince where we are joined by our special correspondent Kevin Pina. Kevin, welcome back to Flashpoints.

Pina: Thanks Dennis

Bernstein: Alright Kevin we have been daily as we do this we’ve been checking in, in terms of father Jean-Juste, one of several priests kidnapped; he was kidnapped as he was attempting to serve food to poor children; while he was doing that he was surrounded and kidnapped by people who call themselves police who wore masks. He’s now I guess he’s surfaced again in prison?

Pina: He’s currently held at the National Penitentiary. The situation there is no better for him. It’s not a great place to be, believe me Dennis. The conditions there are terrible, it’s overcrowded. Apparently, as I told you yesterday, the U.S backed government has made the official charge ‘public disorder’ which actually according to the penal code is a $0.40 fine in U.S. dollars and no jail time. Of course the government has yet to bring him before a judge. He’s been in jail now for 8 days and it doesn’t look as if they are going to move on his case at all. His attorney’s are doing their best to try to force the justice system, but the more that they do the more threats that they receive. His lead attorney, Haitian attorney Mario Joseph was just [mentioned] today in a special alert by Amnesty International; someone who’s life is in danger due to the innumerable death threats that he’s received in the last couple of days alone

Bernstein: You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio that’s our correspondent Kevin Pina talking to us on the ground in Port au Prince. Alright Kevin sum up, if you could, the atmospheric pressure now and some of what you can tell us beyond Jean-Juste in terms of the conditions for pro-democracy activists or what do we know about this ongoing collaboration between the UN peace keeping forces headed up by the Brazilian General and their collaboration with the illegal police and death squads that have now been welcomed back into Haiti.

Pina: Well I mean this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve ever seen the United Nations actually be used in a manner to prop up an undemocratic government, an unelected government while it was exercising such a widespread campaign of repression against the majority political party. I can’t remember any example during my adult life where that’s been the case – certainly not on this level.

There have been reports that I corroborated today that 25 people were arrested in Bel Air again just yesterday. The police have begun these massive sweeps again through the poor, pro-Aristide slums. They will create a dragnet if you will on any young male, even if you’re just walking down the street – it does not matter; any young male is thrown into the back of the truck and taken away to jail. They are just massive sweeps – indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests that they’re carrying out throughout all the poor neighborhoods – that’s Martissant, Grande Ravine, Cite Soleil, and of course, Bel Air. On the other front you know that the United Nations finally lifted the 13-year embargo that was imposed against Haiti after 1991 for the purchasing of arms. The U.S imposed arms embargo was lifted yesterday by the United States. It appears as if they’re program for disarming the country is to allow the Haitian Police to buy more arms. How that can make sense mathematically, I guess it does make sense politically, but mathematically a lot of people on the ground are shrugging and scratching their heads wondering how that’s going to make Haiti anymore of a safe place given that the police already seem to have more than adequate weapons to carry out this campaign of repression in clear collusion with United Nations forces on the ground.

Bernstein: Alright let’s just come back to Father Jean-Juste for a moment because if they can take this man – he’s a 69-year old priest, he’s legendary in Haiti and outside of Haiti working with the tenth department of Haiti – which are those that were forced out of the country over so many U.S supported dictatorships and coups and a consistency of U.S policy that undermine the will of Haitian people. I think you need to talk a little bit more about who Jean -Juste is and why it’s so important for them to take this guy, this priest, and what it means that the world community, the major media – even though we did get a statement from Amnesty International – the rest of the world seems to turn a blind ear to this slaughter. What does it mean that they’ve got this guy and they’re silencing him and they’re willing to take him in?

Pina: Well what it means is if this U.S installed government can get away with taking a priest and arresting him with virtually no charges and in violation of the Haitian constitution, it means that they can get away with it with anybody and they have been getting away with it with anybody they want. The police just published another so-called arrest list where there is often $20,000 Haitian rewards for approximately 32 individuals. The list when it was originally published a few months ago was 37 but they managed to kill 5 on the list already. A lot of people know that this is not actually an arrest list; it’s a hit list basically. So someone of Jean-Juste’s stature, who survived the military coup of 1991, who refused to go into exile, who confronted the military with non-violence, urged others to do so – if they can take him that means they can and they are taking anyone that they wish.

And it was exactly that kind of climate and witch-hunt which created the first powder keg which was sparked by the police firing on the unarmed demonstrators September 30th. It was that context that had led to that harsh reaction by the population because their leader had been kidnapped, they’d been imprisoned, they’d been forced into exile, there have been mass arrests, there have been arbitrary detentions, there have been murders and assassinations carried out by the Haitian police. The Haitian police meanwhile had been militarized – the former military integrated into them. Today the new office of military integration was open inside the prime minister’s office. They’re going to incorporate another 200 on top of the ones that have already been brought into the police force. It was this situation that created that powder keg that was sparked by the police firing on those unarmed demonstrators on September 30th. So now what are they going to do? They’re going to continue the pattern; they’re going to continue building up the pressure among the popular neighborhoods because Aristide and Lavalas still have tremendous support among the majority of the population, who are the majority of the poor. And the more they squeeze, the more they tamp that down, the more likely there is that this will blow up in their faces again. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ it’s a question of ‘when.’

Bernstein: Is the resistance in Haiti now, is the pro-democracy movement arming itself? Is there a growing resistance movement? Are people fed up to the point where they’re going to give up the peaceful struggle?

Pina: I think it’s closely reaching, unfortunately, in my opinion, it’s been forced to that place by Bush policies, by this ill-conceived regime change, by the repression of this Bush-supported government. I believe and I regret what I am saying, but I believe that it is reaching that phase of the beginnings of a popular insurrection against yet another U.S backed government in this hemisphere. Of course you’re going to see that portrayed in the press, they’re going to be portrayed as “terrorists,” as “bandits,” as popular movements always are that face down a U.S installed, U.S backed government in this hemisphere. There’s a long history of that.

But the point is you can portray it anyway you want but even they know the truth on the ground here. The United Nations and the Bush administration know the truth and that’s that they’re not confronting small, isolated groups of “bandits” and “terrorists.” What they’re doing is confronting entire communities. And like I said the situation, especially with the lifting of the arms embargo, the militarization of the police force, the continuing witch hunt, arbitrary arrests, etc, – all it’s going to do is tap down that powder keg again and it’s just going to take another spark – and it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ this is going to explode again their face.

Bernstein: And just to be clear – and they, if the government, this puppet government supported by the U.S coup-makers – if they are to carry out their plan, if they’re going to be successful in whatever their vision is, they’re going to have to kill, and exile and arrest, and torture a lot of people because this is a big majority movement. Is that about right?

Pina: It’s going to require an action on their part tantamount to genocide.

Bernstein: That’s the voice of Kevin Pina. I want to tell you that Kevin is coming to the Bay area for those of you in the Bay area. I’m really glad that I’m going to have a chance to be with him on October 29 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at (Cedar at Bonita). Then he’s going to be speaking at the First United Methodist Church in San Rafael on October 31, and the he will be appearing at the Bissap Baobab restaurant in San Francisco…[Ed. See http://www.haitiaction.net/Events.html for details]

This is one of those stories that the mainstream simply doesn’t seem to care about. There’s a lot of racism here, and there’s a lot of power on the part of the U.S. government to silence this show. The mainstream press, most of my friends at NPR, have dropped the ball and it is sickening. Kevin, we will stick with this…

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