Friday, July 22, 2005

Fwd: [Lethaitilive] Aina Hunter on July 6 Cite Soleil Massacre

Haitians Accuse the U.N. of Massacre
Submitted by editor on July 19, 2005 - 1:25pm.

By Aina Hunter
Source: Village Voice

Haitian New Yorkers are protesting again, the latest round Saturday in
front of the United Nations. They're upset over the latest
"peacekeeping" operation in Cite Soleil, a slum of Port-au-Prince that
festers just a stone's throw from the Bahamas. In theory, the troops
are there to maintain order until the elections the interim government
says they're planning take place. In practice, their presence has
resulted in reports that innocent citizens are being killed.
What's undisputed in this case is that some 300 U.N. troops descended
on the shanty town at 3 a.m. on July 6, rolling through in tank-like
APC's, or armored personnel carriers. Witnesses say they shot up
pretty much everything, in some accounts in a battle with armed gang
members loyal to the ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But
while eyewitnesses and human rights workers say a minimum of 20
people, including women and children, were gunned down, some through
the walls of their shacks, the U.N. says no civilians were harmed.

One Haitian human rights worker, who says he cannot risk identifying
himself for fear of being shot to death by the Haitian police or those
working under the direction of the U.N., captured some of the gore on
film from which stills have been taken.

Seth Donnelly, a Bay Area high school teacher and labor activist,
happened to be in Port-au-Prince as part of a delegation sponsored by
the San Francisco Labor Council when it all happened. The next day he
found a translator to accompany him into the ghetto where he says he
was surrounded by "hysterical, grieving" people who showed him bodies
waiting for burial, including that of a baby shot in his mother's
arms. Donnelly also filmed homes riddled with bullet holes so big he
says they could only have come from tanks.

U.N. military spokesman Elouafi Boulbars told Agence France Presse
that the troops only fired into the slum because "bandits" fired
first. Their goal was to find and capture Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme—a man
hated and feared by the U.S.-supported Haitian government. He was
reportedly killed in the raid.

Whether you consider Wilme a dead gangster or a slain hero depends
largely upon whether you sleep in plush government housing or in a
Cite Soleil sewer, and the hundreds of slum dwellers who attended
Wilme's July 9 funeral fall into the latter category.

Few of the approximately 75 New York Haitians gathered at the U.N.
went so far as to call Wilme a hero, but Bernier Achille, who works
for the post office, angrily insisted there is no problem with gangs
in Haiti. "It's code to demonize you," he said. "In Iraq they call
them insurgents, in Haiti they call them gangs." Most protesters were
more circumspect, preferring to keep the focus on the dead civilians
as they waved graphic photographs they said were of the machine-gunned

Two days after the slaughter, when Donnelly interviewed two high
commanders in Haiti, Lt Gen Augusto Heleno and Colonel Morano, at the
swank Christopher Hotel in Port-au-Prince, both officials said that to
their knowledge no Civilians were hurt.

This is particularly odd, not only because stills from the film
footage clearly show unarmed men and women being shot, but because
officials at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Port-au-Prince
say they received more than the usual number of machine-gun victims
from the often violent Cite Soleil on the afternoon of July 6: Twenty
women and children, as well as six men. The patients told their
doctors they'd been shot by U.N. soldiers.

When asked about the 20 or so bodies eyewitnesses say remained after
the U.N. rolled out, Morano said that maybe gang members killed people
after the peacekeepers left. What the colonel has going for him is
that because the graphic footage only shows people being killed, and
not the killers, it is impossible for someone who wasn't there to
confirm without a doubt that the UN is responsible.

Brian Concannon, director of the Oregon-based Institute for Justice
and Democracy in Haiti, says the peacekeepers could easily have
verified the number of people killed and injured, and how—if they had
stayed on the scene long enough to clean up. Because they did not,
"it's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt they created."

People at Saturday's protest believe the U.N. is responsible. Lucas
Batteau, a Brooklyn electrician, said "everyone knows" the U.N. is the
real gang in Haiti. "There's no difference between the Haitian police
and U.N.," he says. "The ones they call 'gangs' are fighting against
the occupation."
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