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#2386: This Week in Haiti 17:46 2/2/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. For information on other news in French and Creole,
please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax)
718-434-5551 or e-mail at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Also visit our website at <www.haiti-progres.com>.
"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
February 2 - 8, 2000
Vol. 17, No. 46
JALOUZI: A NEIGHBORHOOD OF MISERY IN THE HEART OF PETIONVILLE
Each week in the Creole section of Haïti Progrès, reporter Altiné
Wilkens profiles a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince or its
suburbs. With names like Bouck Chany, Ti Cheri (Little Darling),
Solino, Vilaj Site Plis (City Plus Village), Twou Vital, Ofelen
(Orphan), Bafon Filomen, and Ravin Delma 30, these quarters are
home to the majority of Haiti's city dwellers. Nonetheless, they
are generally ignored by the Haitian government, despite their
We offer a translation of this week's profile by Wilkens, as well
as an account of his run-in with the brutal CIMO police force
while on the job.
A few steps from St. Pierre Place and the Pétionville police
headquarters, right in the midst of an area where certain
bourgeois and well-to-do petit-bourgeois live and have
businesses, there is a run-down popular quarter which extends
over several acres of land. Surely, many will already know its
name: Jalouzi (Jealousy).
It is an ironic name for this quarter, with its several thousand
poorly constructed shacks, right in the heart of Pétionville
[Haiti's richest town]. There are various levels of walls which
divide the homes of the bourgeoisie on the mountains from the
shacks of the poor in Jalouzi. In fact, both above and below, the
bourgeois homes surround this wretched neighborhood. A huge
ravine which begins on Mount Calvaire, a bourgeois zone, cuts
through the middle of Jalouzi. In it there is garbage mixed with
all sorts of other debris, along with various dilapidated shacks.
Like many other popular quarters in Haiti, Jalouzi is completely
deforested. In place of trees, there are only small huts. Here is
how one man from the area describes the disastrous conditions:
"We live very badly in this area," he said. "As you can see, both
the rich and the poor have their houses here. But for us poor, we
have a very difficult life. In fact, it is hard to understand how
we are still alive."
It is truly a miserable area, with its many outhouses and poorly
made alley-ways (koridò). Furthermore there is only one entrance,
which makes one wonder what would happen if there was a fire or
Nevertheless, housing is very expensive in Jalouzi. A single
shack rents for up to 4000 gourdes ($228) for six months. Food
costs are as expensive as those in downtown Port-au-Prince. "For
those who don't own their own house here, this place is almost
impossible to live," said Janine, who sells charcoal at the
entrance into Jalouzi. "The houses are expensive, and they are in
bad shape." Furthermore, the area lacks schools, solid health
centers, and other infrastructure.
Many residents of Jalouzi have to resort to prostitution to
survive. "There are all sorts of people in Jalouzi," explains a
resident prostitute named Astride. "I get by anyway I can. There
are many girls who earn their little bit of grocery money in the
evening. Some young men also have sex with the big shots. It is
economic difficulties which force us to lead this kind of life."
As if to expand on Astride's assertion that there are all sorts
of people in Jalouzi, a lottery ticket seller adds: "There are
not yet robberies here, but this area has a lot of men who are
involved in crime." According to several people, there are places
where criminals hide in Jalouzi. But, they say, "it is not easy
to attack somebody in this area."
Although Jalouzi is in the middle of Pétionville , it doesn't
enjoy all the privileges of this bourgeois town. Many of its
children don't go to school, and many people are unemployed. A
small street merchant said she was disgusted with "the way in
which the rich people treat the area." There is a chronic lack of
electricity and water in Jalouzi, but not in the more affluent
neighborhoods of Pétionville . "Many people have illegal
electricity taps in the area," the woman said. "We have to pay
for the use of other people's telephones where they charge one to
three gourdes for three minutes. As for water, we have to buy it
on the street."
Jalouzi's biggest problem are the floods which sweep down the
ravine from the mountain. The torrential water invades homes,
sweeping many away, along with pigs, goats, and other animals.
"That water is our biggest enemy," said a voudou priest who lives
in Jalouzi. "It is our enemy when it rains and destroys our
homes. It is our friend when we need clean water to drink, bathe,
In short, the drama of Jalouzi is that it is a miserable poorly
built popular quarter in the heart of the bourgeois town of
Pétionville . It is a clear example of how the Haitian
bourgeoisie doesn't have anything to do with the town where they
live; they stay in their mansions, surrounded by high walls.
Meanwhile, Jalouzi is becoming submerged in disease, illiteracy,
the high cost of living, and delinquency. One would think this
would attract the attention of government authorities and the
Pétionville bourgeoisie, above all when you hear some
influential people in Jalouzi saying: "We are not into candidates
nor elections. That has never changed our lives."
THE CIMO'S WAR ON THE PRESS
Last Saturday, Jan. 22, the police shock-force named CIMO
(Company for Intervention for the Maintenance of Order ) was
seizing motorcycles which act as taxis in Pétionville when Haïti
Progrès reporter Altiné Wilkens was passing by. Here is his
"I had just finished doing some interviews in a poor quarter of
Pétionville called Jalouzi, when I arrived at the station for the
Pétionville /Port-au-Prince bus, where the motorcycle station
also is located. I saw several CIMO policemen taking motorcycles
and piling them into some big trucks. I stood in the street,
because some people were saying that the CIMO was committing an
injustice. I didn't know for what reason they were saying that at
that point. But I saw that the whole street was blocked with cars
and a crowd was growing.
"There were a lot of motorcyclists which the CIMO had encircled.
Looking at the scene, I saw that it was of public interest. So I
pulled out my camera, and I took one photo from a distance. It
was a wide shot. A moment later, a CIMO policeman said to another
`There is a journalist with a camera.' The other said, `Aha! You
are taking photos of policemen?' One asked me what press I
represented and I told him Haïti Progrès. Another said `I don't
give a damn about Haïti Progrès,' and he repeated `I don't give a
damn about this journalist.' Then he grabbed my camera.
"There was one CIMO dressed a little differently from the others,
he wore his black clothes over blue, and he acted like he had
more authority than the others. I don't know if he was in charge
of the operation. But he now took the camera, he told me to open
it and to take the film out. But I wanted to appeal to their
conscience to have them see that I had a right to take pictures,
and I didn't open it. Then he brutally opened the camera, pulled
the film out, and said to me: `If you don't take this camera
right now I will smash it, hear?'
"After I took the camera, they said to me `Get out of here.'
They had all surrounded me with their heavy weapons and clubs in
hand. The CIMO policemen even threatened to hit me if I didn't
leave. When they finally saw that I wasn't going to leave, they
continued with their operation. Shortly thereafter, the CIMO
policeman who seemed to be in charge of the others, crushed the
roll of film under his boot. After seizing all the motorcycles at
the station, they left the scene..."
Altiné Wilkens tried to meet with the head of the CIMO, Carel C.
Alexandre, Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 24 and 25. He was never
allowed to see him. Alexandre said he was busy.
After the acts of brutality of CIMO against the Haiti Progrès'
photographer/journalist Rood Chéry last May, the two directors of
Haiti Progrès, Maude Leblanc and Benjamin Dupuy, met with the
head of the CIMO, who gave his assurance that these acts would no
longer continue. Alexandre said that he would "distribute a
circular" to all the departments in the CIMO instructing them to
respect the rights of the press. But despite the assurances that
he would take sanctions against brutal policemen, nothing has
been done. Beatings and violations of the rights of journalists
continue. Is the CIMO a state within a state? Has CIMO replaced
the Haitian army?
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Please credit Haiti Progres.