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#4850: This Week in Haiti 18:21 8/9/2000 (fwd)
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"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
August 9 - 15, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 21
MILOT MAYOR STANDS UP TO U.S. MILITARY'S "HUMANITARIAN WORK"
Moise Jean-Charles is not your typical small town mayor. Two and
a half years ago, he went into hiding for months after Haitian
police SWAT teams trashed a peasant radio station in his town and
crushed an attempt by local peasants to take back land stolen by
big landowners (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, No. 1, 3/25/98).
Milot is also not your typical small town. About 15 kilometers
south of Cap Haïtien, it was once the seat of power when northern
Haiti was ruled in the early 19th century by the legendary Henri
Christophe, builder of the famous mountain-top fortress, the
Citadel. In the generations since, the people of Milot have
maintained a tradition of militancy and resistance.
So it was particularly imprudent when last week a squad of armed
U.S. soldiers pulled up their bulldozers, graders, and heavy
trucks into an area near town called La Fossette to supposedly
work on an orphanage named the "Children of Promise." But Mayor
Jean-Charles immediately put a stop to the construction, saying
that the foreign troops had no permission to be doing anything in
"We regret that," he said in a press conference last week in Cap
Haïtien, "but even if it was the President of the Republic who
gave them permission, that permission is not valid for us as long
as they don't come to the mayor's office to get authorization for
construction in the commune of Milot."
Since the closure of its permanent 500-man base in Port-au-Prince
last January, the Pentagon has deployed about 200 U.S. troops at
a base in the Cap Haïtien suburb of Vaudreuil as a part of the
Southern Command's "Operation New Horizons," a program to provide
the U.S. military with training, public relations stunts, and an
excuse to be in someone else's country.
U.S. Commander Michael J. Brennan, who is in charge of the "New
Horizons" operation in Haiti, tried to downplay the confrontation
in Milot, saying that it was "an unimportant problem which
shouldn't affect the continuation of our activities."
But Mayor Jean-Charles, who was re-elected to his post on May 21,
was in no mood for arrogance. "If they continue construction
without getting permission, we will tear down all the
construction they do there," Jean-Charles said. "They say they
have a lot of other things to do in the area, but we don't know
who is coming with these projects. For what interests have they
come to do these things in the area? We asked to see the papers
for the land they supposedly bought, but they couldn't show them
to us. They couldn't show us any papers."
In fact, Brennan had to admit that the construction on the
"Children of Promise" orphanage was completely unauthorized by
any Haitian authorities, who have only approved repairs on the
Justinien Hospital and National School Jean 23 in Cap-Haïtien.
According to Brennan, his military engineers had "volunteered"
their services to work on the orphanage, at the request of ... a
U.S. non-governmental organization!
Furthermore, the continued deployment of the U.S. troops on
Haitian soil is a flagrant violation of a law passed by the
Haitian parliament two years ago forbidding the presence of any
"armed forces parallel to the National Police (PNH)."
Former deputy Joseph Jasmin defended Mayor Jean-Charles' actions,
noting that "for some time now foreigners, in particular U.S.
soldiers or military engineers and other uniformed technicians,
have been circulating around the Northern department." Usually no
Haitian authorities or civilians know what the U.S. soldiers are
up to, Jasmin said. "They are prospecting just about everywhere
in the mountains, even at night, and this has had an effect upon
the population," he said. "We always know that, in addition to
their cover activities like humanitarian work and repairing
schools, which is very useful, but they have the real activities
which they hide from us so we never really know them."
There are many rumors and stories in the North of soldiers
roaming the mountains with Geiger counters, drilling holes in
remote places, and doing other unexplained activity with
Meanwhile, this week, Washington closed its program for training
the Haitian police, using the excuse that the program's funding
was cut. The Justice Department-run program, known as ICITAP
(International Criminal Investigations Training Assistance
Program), was set in place after the return to power of former
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Sept. 1994 and has cost about
$72 million. It employed about 40 police trainers from the U.S.,
Canada, and France.
The suspension of this program is very telling. It shows that
Washington is continuing to step back from the Haitian
government, which refuses to scrap the results of May 21st
elections. The polling was largely carried by the Lavalas Family
party. The U.S. disagrees with how the votes of Senate races were
"We are going to tighten our belts to continue to construct our
country which has been abandoned," President René Préval said in
a Jul. 28 speech at the National Palace. "It took them over 20
years to recognize our independence, and now they can take the
time they want to recognize the victory of May 21."
Significantly, however, the government and the Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) have not yet made the results of the
legislative elections official, as they were expected to do last
week. Publication of the final tallies in Le Moniteur, the
government's journal of record, will be the real point of no
Meanwhile, U.S. and European diplomats continue to threaten Haiti
with a general aid cut-off. (Last week, Japan announced that,
contrary to press reports, it did not intend to cut its aid to
But the Haitian people, as in the case of Milot, will not be
intimidated. For the second time in two weeks, several hundred
people demonstrated in the streets of the northwestern city of
Port-de-Paix demanding that the U.S. and allies stop meddling in
Haitian affairs. "We ask the international community to stop
pushing its eyes and nose into our country's affairs because it
pretends, above all the Americans, that they are your benefactor,
that they are helping the country, when in fact they are
plundering the poor," one demonstrator declared.
Motivated by the same outrage, Haitian community groups and
activists in New York are coming together to organize a large
demonstration in front of the United Nations on Sept. 8 to demand
an end to foreign interference in Haiti, particularly from
And this is the same sentiment which motivated Milot's Mayor
Jean-Charles to declare last January: "If the U.S. military
deploys in my commune, even if I don't have the physical force to
fight them, I will mobilize the population and national opinion
to stop those U.S. soldiers."
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