[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
#1801: Fw: Sunday Observer article on Haiti - for those of you who haven't seen it (fwd)
From: Mary Durran <email@example.com>
Am forwarding to you for the list an article on Haiti from the Sunday
Observer. I find its tone quite offensive, with shades of "Haiti, who
goes there?". List members may like to comment.
Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2000 10:13 AM
US quits Haiti's hell fires
As Clinton's 'liberators' go, fetters of fear still bind a nation
Ed Vulliamy in Port au Prince
Sunday January 9, 2000
The body lay face down in the dust of the pot-holed road, opposite a busy
market place piled with mangoes and bananas. He lay stinking in the putrid
morning sun, trousers pulled down around his buttocks.
He had been stoned to death, explained the small crowd, approving its
handiwork. The bloody gash behind his left ear had been cut with a machete.
The stones that killed him were piled upon his back in triumphal mockery,
along with a handwritten card reading, 'Sak vol kriminel' - a coded
description in Creole French of his crime: he had raped a 14-year-old.
There was no sign of the police or any authority, just the usual shoppers
and traffic chugging past. Two armoured cars drove by, American GIs with
guns at the turrets, then a military ambulance with a big red cross,
ignoring the body - it's just another corpse in the dust.
The Americans are leaving. There were 15,000 troops here after 'The
Immaculate Invasion' of October 1994, as writer Bob Shacochis called it
when US forces intervened to restore President Jean Bertrand Aristide and
end violence in the Caribbean state. The last 480 troops began to leave on
'All roads lead to Arkansas,' said Sergeant Jamie MacDonald cheerily
through the fence of Camp Fairwind, built with the lusty energy of worker
bees within hours of the Immaculate Invasion, and now a ghost encampment.
There is no chance of 'mission creep' for a mission one of its commanders
once described as 'politically motivated junk'.
Before the Americans arrived in their most recent intervention in Haiti,
returning the adored priest President Aristide, the bodies in the dust were
victims of the dreaded Attachés - heirs to Papa Doc's Tontons Macoute. Each
morning the bodies were there on the streets; supporters of Aristide's
Lavelas rebellion mutilated with machetes.
The killing briefly stopped after those same filthy streets were lovingly
swept clean to greet President 'Titid'. And as Clinton's 'Operation Restore
Democracy' kicked in, it was a novelty for the star-spangled banner to be
flying over the banana trees to signify liberation of the masses.
But now fear has returned to the Cité Soleil, the poorest and most wretched
shanty town, where shacks are built on garbage landfills and children sick
with boils play in the excreta that flows along open sewers.
In the old days, Marcel Bendy was an endangered revolutionary with the then
underground Lavelas, plotting to restore the liberator who would deliver
Haiti from General Raoul Cédras's regime.
I first met Bendy in summer 1994 packed into a concrete hut with 30 others
watching Italy play Norway in the World Cup on a black and white TV plugged
into a car battery. At half time it became clear that the heated
conversation was not about football: this was the only way Lavelas cadres
could meet without drawing the attention of the Attachés .
The second meeting months later was the day of Aristide's return. Bendy,
prey-turned-hunter, was patrolling the muggy night with his crew, offering
to show the press where the Attachés lived, to seek them out and hew them
to pieces. Now, says Bendy, Lavelas - once the party of hope against the
Attachés - 'is like a chopped worm, crawling about itself in pieces'.
And life in the Cité Soleil is worse and harder than ever. The authorities
empowered by the US invasion have become a tragic joke. Two weeks ago 402
shanty huts were burnt down after a savage vendetta by a local gang.
Nothing has been done.
The gang warfare ripping through the shanties is fuelled by what has
replaced politics post-Aristide: prostitution, drugs and ritual.
Before they torched her house, the incinerators took Marie Erat's two
children Wilson and Vera, and 'pushed them against a dead boy's body so
they would not forget the lesson'.
'This was my house,' says old Olest St Victoire, who once had nothing and
now has less, wearing a US Navy cap in the charred shell of what was once a
ghastly home but home none the less. 'I have only my hat, shirt and
trousers. They even burnt my shoes and social security card.'
The truth that lies behind this violence is that the US-created police
force is dysfunctional, with some 900 officers dismissed for corruption and
human rights violations. The judiciary is a tragi-farce: 80 per cent of
prisoners await trial.
Economically the news is just as bad. Sixty per cent of factories have
closed: no one is interested in swallowing the pills of economic reform.
'If you are in a sinking ship and you jump out are you really saved?' asks
Georges Sassine, vice president of the Association of Haitian Industries,
who had to close his own factory, laying off 260 last year.
The Attachés and former puppet masters of Cédras are biding their time in
wealthy suburbs that overlook the slums. In 1994, in the chic 'Bali' disco,
Paul Dalmacy made no bones about being 'Macoute' at heart. Now he sips piña
coladas at an expensive hotel spitting anti-American rage and pledging
merciless revenge against 'collaborators' and 'traitors. When the times
comes round again.'
The Attachés have a keen ear for rumours that Aristide may stand for
re-election in next year's presidential vote, and should win. 'Au revoir
Titid' reads one defiant graffiti in Attachés territory, 'à bientot'.
And there has emerged another threat. It is evident in Jacmel, an old
coffee port on Haiti's southern shore, which is a target for the latest
corrosion of an already rotten society - the adoption of Haiti by Colombian
cocaine cartels as their export hub to the US.
Haiti is the perfect lawless merry-go-round for their speedboats and global
positioning systems. This has generated gang war in the shanties and Rolls
Royces atop the hills, but also unexpected fortunes as peasants become
overnight millionaires after finding a fraction of the vast quantities
drifting ashore - now one fifth of all cocaine passing to the US.
Jean-Charles Duffaut is fourth generation in a line of distinguished
painters from Jacmel and relates how 'people have thought the cocaine was
flour and made bread with it - they didn't sleep for days'.
Sunrise in Jacmel is greeted by a new kind of beach-combing, as people
trawl the shoreline for what they call le main du ciel , the hand of
heaven. But most of the powder either finds its intended destination or
enriches the very people charged with stopping it from doing so. Senior
police officers have been dismissed for joining the search on the beaches
Jean-Charles ponders the American departure with the ambivalence of a
society where people are mutilated with machetes and flowers painted on
walls.' He recalls a Creole proverb: Derrie mon gen mon (behind the
mountain more mountains). It goes on and on, the nightmare of being
And as for the rocks: a few of them are still there, piled on the body of
the rapist in the market place, his stench now sickly another five hours
later. The corpse is now alone in the dust but for casually passing
shoppers and the pig that has begun to gorge on his lifeless, rubbery
The jury and executioners have, however, left their calling card: a thick,
sturdy bamboo stuck up his ass.