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a617: December 17 Events: A Report of CEDH (Part II) (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>


.- Declaration of Jessie Benoit to the Press, Wednesday December 19, 2001

I, Jessie Benoit, wife of Victor Benoit, Coordinator of KONAKOM and one of the leaders of Convergence Démocratique, certify and attest that:

1.- On Monday, December 17, 2001, at 12:00 a.m., (noon) a commando of mercenaries, acting in the name of Lavalas, appeared at our residence located in Lilavois.  Four (4) vehicles loaded with heavily armed men:

-	one black Four Runner Toyota not carrying any license plate;
-	one Official white Nissan Patrol, carrying a license plate No. O824
-	one  double cabin Toyota pick-up truck, not carrying a license plate
-	one brown Rava Toyota.-

The commando's mission was to assassinate, in addition to Victor Benoit, all living things (humans and animals) found on the site.  We were all present at the house, Victor Benoît and myself, as well as three (3) adult relatives and four (4) adolescents, when the commando arrived.

After having spread terror at our neighbors', our assassins invested the and the house.  They set fire to the house, room by room, paying more attention to closed rooms.  Our lives were only saved by the solidarity chain spontaneously organized by the inhabitants of Lilavois.

3.-  I accuse the Haitian National Police, and more particularly the Bon Repos Precinct, for NON ASSISTANCE TO PERSON IN DANGER.

I accuse  Lavalas of attempted murder on my person, and on that of my husband Victor Benoît as well as on of our family  members who were in the house with us.

4.-  I say to the Haitian population at large:  Yesterday, it was the Pres, with Jean Dominique, Brignol Lindor. Today, it is Convergence Démocratique, with Victor Benoît, Gerard Pierre-Charles and other leaders and members of Convergence.  Tomorrow, it will be all the sectors of Haitian society who fight for a free and democratic society .
Let's all move forward, let's not be afraid, let's support one another to build-up that wall that will block the way against dictatorship.


Jessie Ewald Benoît_________________

.- Testimony of Suzy Castor:  Sacking of Residency of Suzy Castor /Gerard Pierre Charles

On Monday December 17, Suzy Castor was listening to the morning news inside the residence where she lives with her family in Petion-Ville, in the neighborhood of Morne Hercule, when she received a phone call from a friend, insisting that she leaves her home immediately.  He had just heard that a group of armed men were headed for the house, probably to set it afire.  Without taking anything with her, Suzy Castor fled with her three grandchildren to seek refuge at friends' house.

It is 9:30 a.m.. Half an hour later, the group of assailant, consisting of an estimated one hundred individuals, arrived at Charlemagne Péralte Street, which it tramped up and down, before being able to identify the house.  That troop, among which one inevitably noticed the presence of children and adolescents, were armed with guns, revolvers, machetes and piques.  They massed in front of the house and began throwing rocks.  A few policemen then arrived, there were 5 or 6 of them, placing themselves in the back of he assailants and stood there without intervening against the attempts to destroy the encircling wall.

It is at that moment that the security guards, inside, shot in the air, to disperse the group.  Then, the assailants asked for backup: calls on their radios were heard by numerous witnesses. Very quickly, 2 CNE trucks and other pick-up trucks of Police, among which one marked "Cité-Soleil" arrived and unloaded armed civilians, some carrying machine guns.  The inhabitants of the house, among which Suzy Castor's daughter, abandoned the house, climbing over the back fencing wall in the garden.  It is at that moment that a CIMO team arrived.

The assailants try to force the front gate. Having succeeded in penetrating in the yard, they set the two cars that were there on fire while shouting: "There's no way they can escape, we are going to get them, we are going to chop them down one by one".  As no one came out, the assailants entered into the neighbors' house, looking for its occupants who had fled. Using a cocktail Molotov, they set one the main rooms afire.  According to numerous testimonies, during the course of these events, Senator Prince Sonson Pierre, Petion-Ville's mayor, Sully Guerrier and Parliamentarian Felito Doran were present and observing the unfolding of operations. All this happened with either the police or the CIMO agents intervening to control or curtail the assailants to avoid the worst.

Pursuant to numerous calls from alarmed friends and other citizens, the firemen arrive, the first time without water.  They are finally able to control the fire.  Soon after, at about 4:30 p.m., the is given -up to the looters. Everything was either pillaged or destroyed.  Some spectators who have tried to raise a protest or to intervene were given a rough handing and hit.  Many witnesses saw the pillagers climb aboard the Police vehicles with they plunder. To persons inquiring about these facts however, Pétion-Ville's Precinct declared not to be informed of the matter.

NB.-  That Monday 17th of December, Professor Gerard Pierre-Charles was in Miami attending a seminary on political parties organized by the O.A.S.

- Suzy Castor's testimony:  The destruction of CRESFED

On Monday December 17th, at about 1.00 p.m., a group of individuals, most of them very young, almost children, armed with guns, head for CRESFED' headquarters, located at 10, Jean-Baptiste Street in Canapé-Vert.  Obviously, they are not familiar with that address, as they walk by the building without recognizing it, and question the inhabitants of the neighborhood in order to identify the house.

The only watchman of the building having fled upon arrival of that troop, the latter penetrate the main yard without any difficulty. Two trucks of the Police Department accompanied the group and witnessed the looting and setting the building afire.  The presence of City Delegate for Canapé-Vert, Analès Obas was also noticed.  The premises were totally ransacked.  The rooms are set afire one by one. What cannot be looted is destroyed, then set afire.  For example, all the printing equipment, as well as transmitters needed for the operation of an educational radio*. The toilets were filled with copies of the Constitution, and large number of books were systematically burned.  The building itself is vandalized:  floor tiles, doors, windows, air-conditioning equipment, wrought ironworks.

CRESFED's watchdog, according to witnesses, was wetted with gasoline and burned alive.

On the next day, scattered samples of CRESFED'S specialized collections of                                 books were already being sold on the Capital's sidewalks.  It must also be noted that priceless archives on the political and syndical History of the country were destroyed, as well as the collections clandestine periodicals under the Duvalier regime.  It is therefore part of the memory of the Haitian people that has disappeared.

-  A witness on the Champ-de-Mars square public square

"Very early in the morning, almost at daybreak, I heard rumors about a coup.  I wanted to go see with my own eyes.  I went to the Champ-de-Mars square with a friend at about 5:30 a.m.  Having arrived on the site, near the Mupanha Museum, I saw a Police Toyota pick-up truck, in which two policemen were weltering in their blood, apparently dead. There were about a thousand people there.  It was not the same huge crowd as before.  "Leaders", dressed in pea-green outfits, and heavily armed, roamed the Palace's courts.

We arrived near the Court House (Palais de Justice), at the main gate. There are no traces of breaking-in on the gate. I say, parked nearby, a white Chevrolet bearing a governmental license plate ("Service de l'État").  Men dressed in black, with hoods over their heads, were distributing weapons: Galil, G3, M16 guns, UZIs.  At about 6:30 a.m., the arms distribution was completed.  Around me, people were talking about "Dominicans" who were inside the Palace. One Swat Team policeman walked-up to the gate to say that the situation was under control, and that there was one dead, and two persons captured.

At about 7:30 a.m., official cars arrived with people armed with revolves and guns.  A tractor was trying to force the Palace's right gate. Vehicles bearing the inscription "Cité-Soleil 1,2,3, Delmas" arrived and began patrolling the surroundings of the Palace. A little later, some journalists entered into the Palace's court. They said that they saw one person dead. They were told that the assailants had fled that "specialized" policemen had gone to search for them in the area of Morne-à-Cabrits.

At about 10:00 a.m., there was heavy fire near the Palace.  Rumors circulated that someone had shot into the crowd.  We see a man running and the crowd running after him.  A few minutes later, I saw somebody brandishing a forearm*.I caught sight  of Parliamentarian Ernst Vilsaint with some demonstrators. He sent into the Palace with a few "chimeres" (pro-government armed thugs).  Around me, there were groups discussing that were going to burn down the headquarters of opposition parties.  Talking about Convergence: "There cannot be two Palaces". Some were saying that Gerard Gourgues' school should no be touched: "Only if we could get our hands on Gérard Gourgues himself *.!"

I must say that was chocked seeing arms being distributed such young people, almost children, having the appearance of "chimeres": filthy, neglected, wearing "torn-up shorts", sandals, and headbands.  Some wore hoods with holes around the eyes and mouth.  Vehicles from the Telephone company (Teleco) and Governmental vehicles ("Service de l'Etat") were driven by drivers wearing these same hoods.  They could be seen roaming town until 5 p.m.

I saw Senator Toussaint who in the crowd giving orders. He was standing near Ronal Kadav.  Then the latter left. Later, there was a rumor according to which his vehicle had broken-down on the heights of Morne Lazarre, on the Bourdon-Pétion-Ville road.  During that all the time that I was there, until about 1 p.m., I did not see the CIMO intervene as they were in the
"Anti-Gang" building, across The Internal Revenue Office (DGI).  They answered to the "chimeres" who were calling upon them that they had not received any orders and that wouldn't move.  When I left, at about 1:00 p.m., there was a large crowd on the square".

-  Testimony of Chavannes Jean-Baptiste

On Monday 17th of December, a group of "chimeres" arrived in two trucks with Jerry-cans of gasoline in front of the Mouvement Paysan Papaye (MPP) headquarters in Hinche.  Numerous militants and sympathizers notified of what was being prepared massed in the yard. Their presence and determination disconcerted the assailants upon their arrival and the latter decided to back-up, cutting-down the telephone wires which connected the foundation which has been since deprived of a telephone line.

.-  Testimony of a resident of Capois Street

*  I moved towards the people who wanted to set afire the parties buildings to try to discuss with them, but I had to give up that idea when saw commandos of youths arriving on the site.

In the afternoon of the 17th, at about 4:00 p.m., I wanted to tour the neighborhood, but as I was leaving my home I stopped in order to observe strange maneuvers that were taking place.  The neighbor was behind his pick-up truck's wheel, and that vehicle was loaded with young men, all armed with long weapons, they were being followed at some distance by a police car.  They went back and forth, then the pick-up truck left but then it was one of the youths driving. In fact, the neighbor had been "kidnapped" and had come back to the house to find some money in exchange for his release.  They had "borrowed" his pick-up truck.  The rumor was circulating that they were systematically disarming all security guards in the area, like those for example of Royal Market  in Turgeau.

-  Testimony of residents of Martissant-Fontamara

On Sunday, December 16th, at about 7pm, residents of Martissant-Fonamarra who were heading back home, had to negotiate their passage at several checkpoints established by groups that were busy installing barricades in various locations in these neighborhoods.  The were surprised to face such situation that nothing announced, as that Sunday had unfolded without any particular incident, these people tried to inquire as for the reason for these preparations.  The answer was laconic:  "We're going to let you go through, but don't ask any question, just go home".

-  Testimony of a resident of Delmas #32.

At about 6:00 a.m. we were alerted that there was "coup". At 7:00, I went out and saw that there were many people on the streets. Groups armed with local fabrication guns ("Zamm kreyòl), Twelve mm guns, had massed in front of the Delimart Supermarket between Delmas #3 and #34.  Then Police vehicles arrived and the crowd gave way to them; addressing the crowd, the policemen were telling the people: "Hang in there, stay firm".

A group of armed men entered into Delmas #32 to call upon their affiliates to joined them with their guns and to go to the Palace'  "The Government is threatened, whatever you have (guns), use them.  It is at that moment that I was able to see the large number of weapons (Twelve mm guns, caliber 38 pistols) that were in the possession of the neighborhoods residents. I was shocked.  All these people left, leaving a totally panicked population, not knowing what to expect. I went back home to stay with my family and only came out of the house the next day.

-  Testimony of a teacher in Gonaïves

During the Sunday, 16th of December, a series of festivities, gatherings had been organized by the Government, which on that occasion, had distributed Gdes 15.000 to female street food-vendors, within the framework of the Ministry on Women's Issues ("Condition féminine").

Around 9:00 p.m., "authorities" that had come from Port-au-Prince distribute guns, ammunitions, and money to leaders of grass-root organizations.  Delegate Kenaz Jean-Baptiste St. Pierre, Mayor Stephen Moise and Adjunct Mayor Beauvoir Ulysse are present. Around 4:00 a.m., Police (PNH) and Town Hall vehicles transporting used tires are seen and barricades are erected.

At 8:3- a.m., Delegate Kenaz J.B. St. Pierre announces the closing of schools, of business and Indus try.

At 9:30 a.m., Rev. Luc Mésadieu's (MOCHRENA) home in Gattereau, at the city's north entrance, is set afire.  The group seizes two men, and necklaces them. One of the victims was a security guard named Ramy, the other man could not be identified.

At 11:20, we learn that the Manassé school of Rev. Sylvio Dieudonné in Bigot, at the city's west entrance, was also burned down.

At 11:35 a.m., Rev. Sylvio Dieudonné's private home is invested and burned down.  Among the assailants were: a renown group leader by the name of Amyot Métayer (a.k.a. "Cubain"), Mayor Stephen Moïse (a.k.a. "Topa"), Adjunct Mayor Beauvoir Ulyssse, Gracia Joseph (a.k.a. "Tot"), coordinator of Fanmi Lavalas, and local administrator of the Port Authority (APN), as well as William Joseph, also from APN, and coordinator of  Organisation Démocratique de Raboteau (OPDR),
e tak
At 12:30 p.m. that same group set afire the home of Anorès Difficile, a sympathizer of Convergence Démocratique.  From 2:00 p.m. and on, the demonstrators and partied and dined in street restaurants with the money distributed by the Ministry on Women's Issues.

During the events that were talking place, the Police stayed cantoned at the Departmental precinct of Artibonite.

-  Testimony of a University professor.

Between 10 and 11 a.m., I left the house on foot, head towards Teleco's building on Pont-Morin.  The residents of that neighborhood were in front of their doors.  The groups that stood facing the headquarters of Convergence and Konakom came visibly from other places.  I see pass by a pick-up truck loaded with groups of youths; some are wearing a black kerchief-headband.  Most are dressed in  torn-up shorts, and rags.  They are all armed with pistols.  I did not stay watching.

- Testimony of Senator Gerard Gilles, "Guest of the day" on a Vision 2000 Radio broadcast   (excerpts)
RV 2000 - "I want to talk about the sources from which you obtained your information, the first information*:

GG- "This first information, be kind enough my dear friend, to remind them to me, and in light of the events, take-on responsibility for them, once more".

RV 2000- "Very well, * 12 pick-up trucks have taken over control of the National Palace, namely"

GG - "Exactly ! * at about 1 or 2 in the morning, a friend who lives near the National Palace, called me to inform me that he had seen some double-cabin pick-up trucks who have attacked the National Palace, and he has seen with his own eyes, as he was very close to the Palace, that there was a car in which there were policemen which was simply attacked by these men armed with M-50 machine guns.   These are the information that I was given by a friend who lives near the National Palace*."

RV 2000 - * "then the first information that were available to you mentioned some pick-up trucks which allegedly had taken-over control of the National Palace, however, in the end, Police sources mention only 2 or 3.  How do you explain this discrepancy?"

GG - "..at  about 1 -2 a.m., I told you, a friend who lives near the National Palace talked to me, not even of 12, but of several vehicles with M-50 machine guns on their top, which were attacking the National Palace."

RV2000 - "I imagine that your informant is a specialist in weaponry*"
GG- "No.. he spoke about machine-guns, *he did not specify that they were M-50s, it is a young university student who informed me *."

RV 2000 - "..where did these people find "these guns"?

GG - "Yes, I am preoccupied by this fact, it is not only these people, one must say that there also children, adolescents, who have "found"* at gun point, thousands of armed people, we have seen it also on TV, who have defended, who * normally * have permitted that this be aborted*. Where did they find these guns.  Since 1986, efforts were made to disarm the population, people spoke about it, you remember* nothing was done in this sense; I feel that the National Police must give more serious consideration to this a4rming that we have seen*.."

RV 2000 - "But, GG, allow me* poor country, filled with poor people* where were they able to find money to but these weapons*.?

GG - "Be careful, Valery, since 1986, it was always asked that the population be disarmed,  the Haitian people has always asked that the population be disarmed*.:

RV 2000 - "Do you fear that these guns may turn against you one day?"

GG - "Never!*"

- Testimony of merchants on the Champs de Mars public square

Around 8:oo p.m., a patrol from the National Police ordered the vendors working in the area of the squares located near the Palace to leave the area.

e tak

III.- REACTIONS: Déclarations, Interventions, after the events of December 17

In the hours following the official announcement of the "coup", foreign governments reacted instantaneously to condemn such an initiative.  The unfolding of the events of December 17th however, were, as soon as the next day, cause a second wave of reactions, both at the national and international levels, where we see a questioning of the facts as reported, but also the categorical condemnation of acts violence perpetrated against the media and their representatives, political parties and their leaders, and this, in most cases, in presence of the National Police force.

Since then, numerous reactions from various sectors are ceaselessly being registered: