Friday, July 22, 2005

quick note on Friday

I'm about to be pulled off this computer, so only have time to write a quick post with a few details. Flew in from Ft.Lauderdale early Wednesday, and that afternoon heard many, many shots from veranda of place where we're staying. Some of gunfire was from the "hot" area of Solino, a popular neighborhood (i.e.pro-Aristide) where the UN and police have been conducting operations. On Wed.said operations were conducted in middle of the day. Not much detail yet on casualties, but if the violence was anything like July 6, which Naomi Klein referenced in her recent Nation and Guardian pieces [slightly different versions of same article,also see recent Village Voice piece for more good detail], there were undoubtedly many unarmed civilians killed. This has been the pattern with UN backup of Haitian police operations for a long time, but anti-Lavalas rhetoric on radio has escalated to the point that a friend has repeatedly expressed concern that it's a situation that's created tolerance for mass media, as in Rwanda the right wing controls most media and people are hearing a non-stop drumbeat of demonizing of Lavalas. All violence is blamed on elements associated with Lavalas, even when there is absolutely no evidence to back up such assertions. And even if some desperate characters who may be pro-Lavalas are involved in crime, a majority of the country is still pro-Lavalas and everyone who calls themselves that is not representing the party as a whole, obviously. Then there is the question of provacateurs, always a factor hard to pin down. And the question of defensive violence in a situation where entire neighborhoods are under control by police, paramilitaries and UN troops bent on lethal force...a question addressed at length in "Demonstration Elections"by Ed Herman and Frank Broadhead, which is also an extremely useful book for understanding what the U.S., Canada, France and the coup regime, with full cooperation from the UN, is orchestrating vis-a-vis October and November '05 elections in Haiti. Note that Guy Phillipe, who the U.S.Embassy and DEA have linked to drug smuggling, has announced his candidacy for President, calling up memories of the ARENA party in El Salvador in the 1980s.

Last week radio commentator, journalist and poet Jacques Roche was brutally murdered after being kidnapped. The right wing has seized on this as an example of Lavalas barbarity, of course with no proof. Any journalist who investigates the murder with an open mind and a willingness to look at right-wing actors involved in kidnappings (see Anthony Fenton's recent piece at ZNet about the Latortue family and kidnappings)would risk demonization and perhaps worse. Yesterday Fr.Gerard Jean-Juste was attacked verbally, and then physically, at the funeral for Roche. Jean-Juste is a favorite target of the coup regime, and while in Florida last week was attacked on right wing Haitian hate radio as a supporter of violence, a ridiculous assertion as Fr.Jean-Juste is often referred to as the Martin Luther King of Haiti. The radio host smearing him claimed that Jean-Juste was bringing guns back to Haiti, which of course he wasn't, as officials that detained him at airport in Port-au-Prince not surprisingly discovered. Jean-Juste raises money in the U.S. to feed hundreds of starving children in his parish. In contrast, the Bush Administration admitted that it shipped thousands of weapons to Haiti this year, which are now being used on desperately poor neighborhoods who will not accept living under the heel of sweatshop profiteers and death squad veterans behind the current government. Among the guns I saw Haitian police toting yesterday were T-65s or M-16s [these two are very similar in design and impact], MP5s, and M-1s. Several were rigged with night scopes for carrying out operations in the dark.

I was in the room at Petion-Ville prison yesterday where an officer with the DCPJ (Haiti's equivalent of the FBI) asked Jean-Juste if he'd murdered Jaques Roche, when everyone in the room knew that Jean-Juste was in Florida at the time the murder took place. The DCPJ officer insisted to Jean-Juste's lawyer Mario that since J-J was accused by the people who attacked him of being responsible for Roche's murder, it was his duty to detain and question Jean-Juste.
Jean-Juste's U.S.lawyer Bill Quigley, who was also present, remarked that this was a classic example of blaming the victim. Mario later pointed out that if Jean-Juste announced that he was definitely not going to run for office perhaps the authorities would stop harassing the priest.

As Jean-Juste said to me, "every day they're looking for a reason to arrest me."

Driving around Port-au-Prince yesterday, UN troops were stationed at many intersections on trucks, with their fingers on triggers of large guns. We drove by a huge sweatshop complex where Chinese UN troops, who have a reputation for violence perhaps approaching Jordanians, are quartered. Across the street is a sweatshop complex owned by Andre Apaid, a key player in the anti-Lavalas Group of 184, an important part of the coup regime. See Thomas Griffith's report for the University of Miami on the situation in Haiti [posted at ijdh.org]for more on Apaid.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jean-Claude Jasmin said...

Simple question, Mr. Terrall: why did Jean-Juste lie to the world about his "family relationship" with Jacques Roche? What was the point? And why Bill Quigley & Co. perpetuate the lie in cyberspace?

I am in Port-au-Prince, too. But unlike you, I was born here, I know this country like the back of my hand, from Môle Saint-Nicolas to Elias Pina to Pointe Sab'... this is my country. But reading from your blog, it is as if I lived in a completely different place.

http://haitianmofo.blogspot.com

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