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#3594: Haitian Refugees: A reply to Grey
> Then there were the camps in Guantanamo, where Haitian
> women fleeing rape and torture at the hands of the Haitian military were
> treated to rape and torture at the hands of the American military.
I spent a week in Guantanamo Bay with hubby treating 20 Haitian refugees a
day. sometimes more, depending on their dental needs. If there was such thing
I didn't see or aware of it. The reason is many of the soldiers in
Guantanamo were Haitian Nationals. There was a lieutenant named Margaret
Jean Louis. She was well liked by the refugees. The refugees were
encouraged to paint and painting supplies were given to them. Their work,
which was mainly a reflection of their experience in the camp, was exhibited
at the McDonald in the base which I have pictures of. Lieutenant Jean Louis
was one of the military personnel who was recognized in a painting.
I saw other Haitian servicemen who were so kind to these people I was touched
by their kindness myself, and that had given me hope that there is still an
ounce of goodness in the Haitian hearts if only they will let it show and not
be so dominated by ego.
I saw a white American soldier who took in his arm a young girl, who may have
been eight. The soldier laid down his weapon and in that little bit of shade
on the back of the medical tent he placed the girl on his lap where she felt
asleep. I have a picture of that too. I was observing him at a distance and
when I saw that I was so touched I took a pic of it.
Another African American from Louisiana who worked as a dental tech in the
tent, with three children back home himself is another example. I met a
woman with three children who said she has a sister in New Jersey who didn't
know she was in the camp. That woman has a young girl who was close to
twelve, a young boy of six, and a nine month old baby boy who had chicken pox
then. She was a smoker. That AA from Louisiana had gone above and beyond the
call of duty to help this family. He made sure that woman has her cigarette
when she needs to. He even purchased Mcdonald food for the entire family
when she expressed her uneasiness with the oatmeal served with rice that was
offered to her and her family. Although Haitians were placed in the kitchen
to help with the preparation of food, the food was not inviting. The
refugees complained that the food was tasteless, and that has nothing to do
with the fact that Haitians love spicy food. It is simply not in the
American culture to add spice to their cooking. Rather, the salt and pepper
were given separately to the Haitians to be added to their food as they wish.
For good reason too because some may have had high blood pressure and were on
limited salt intake. This way it was safer.
That Haitian family didn't speak English and had a hard time communicating
with the American soldiers, but for some reason before I arrived to the camp
there was already an established communication system between the AA and that
family. As I befriended that family I was able to learn more about the
situation and translating back and forth between the two. The six year old
boy, one morning, asked me to translate to the AA that he's willing to
exchange his twelve year old sister if he will get him a motorcycle (You
can read anything you want into this).
I also met a Haitian soldier who fell in love with a 19 year old refugee
girl. He wasn't fluent enough in Creole to express his emotions thus he came
to help for help. Through his efforts, the girl's father who was in Miami
then was able to come in contact with her and that girl was released to him.
Upon my return that girl called me from her Miami's parents home to tell me
she was pursuing her High School degree and she was still dating that HA
This HA soldier was the lucky one. Another soldier (from the Navy) whose
story made the "Nouvel Lakay," and "Sak Pase" Newspapers, a Gitmo's paper,
wasn't so lucky. Whether he indeed raped the girl or was it consential I
cannot say, but he was not in any position to let his emotions get the best
I was able to stay in the Officers Quarters, and when I go to the tent to
work with my husband I was allowed to be accompanied by a soldier to tour the
camp. To communicate with the refugees in ways many of the INS translators
were not allowed to do. The reason was I was not under anyone or group's
watch. As long as I had a soldier in uniform to walk with me I was allowed
to visit all the camps, and talk to any refugee I wanted to talk to. A
newspaper was published in the base to inform the refugees, radios were
provided for entertainment, dominoes and card games, art supplies were
provided to anyone with interest or talents as a passtime. Im not aware of
any Haitian prisoner in Haiti who has been treated with so much consideration
The only thing I thought, in my opinion, was inappropriate was the carnival
advertisement in the "Sak Pase" newspaper of Feb. 22, 1992. A large picture
of a decorated coast guard yatch with written words that read " Ale nan
Kanaval! Yon Jou, yon nuit epi ouap kote ki guin kanaval la." "Pran plezi ou
nan kanaval Jacmel, Cap Haitien. Vwayaj 29-27 Feb.
To me, these people didn't risk their lives in their search for a better
existence simply to return for Carnival. To these people there is more to
life than enjoying Carnival, and by leaving the country the way they did they
had proven it. I thought that was very inconsiderate in the part of the
>From what I saw in that camp: from the individual efforts that were made on
behalf of these Haitians and my one on one discussions with the refugees I
can say it will not be fair to view the US in a negative way in this case.
In fact, I saw a side of those Haitian soldiers in the US Joint Military
Task Force I never thought was posible considering the brutality that is
associated with men in uniforms in the Haitian military. Perhaps they are
not in an environment where unbecoming conducts are encouraged. This is not
to say that men in US military are not capable of barbarism, however, in this
case cruelty was unwarranted and was not encouraged.
This is my take on this. I do believe at times when US does good things for
Haitians they should be noted and not constantly bashing the US as if it has
never done anything good for Haitians.