Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Violence Spikes in Soleil

by Kim Ives & Jean Baptiste Jean Ristil, Haiti Liberte, April 8 - 14, 2009,
Vol. 2, No. 38

One week after the inauguration of a refurbished police station there, gang
wars have erupted in the seaside shanty town of Cité Soleil. The violence
began on the morning of April 6 when sweatshop magnate Andy Apaid visited Cité

On that morning, several raras, the mobile musical bands that chant topical
refrains to throbbing horns and pounding drums, began circulating around Cité
Soleil playing songs to protest Apaid's presence in Cité Soleil, which was a
bastion of support for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Prior to and during the February 29, 2004 coup against Aristide, Apaid had
financed gang leader Thomas Robinson, alias Labany , who battled pro-Lavalas
groups in Cité Soleil. Apaid was also the leader of the so-called Group of
184, a National Endowment for Democracy-supported "civil society" opposition
group which played a key destabilizing role in the 2004 coup. Labany was
betrayed and killed by one of his lieutenants, Evens Jeune, in 2005. Jeune is
in the National Penitentiary since early 2007 awaiting trial.

Among the raras in the streets of Cité Soleil that morning were Bay Kaw t,
Shalom, Afrikrara, and Medellin. As the bands arrived near the former base of
Evens Jeune, a gang leader and former soldier of Jeune named Jimmy forbade Bay
Kaw t, the rara from the Bo Kanteen neighborhood, to circulate in the area of
Upper Boston, the neighborhood of Medellin. For an unknown reason, Jimmy then
struck another man named Ricardo, a bodyguard for Haitian hip-hop artist Wyclef
Jean and a member of Jean's NGO, Yele-Haiti. Jimmy then drew a pistol and began
shooting, causing others in the large crowd to do the same.

Soon there was a full-scale war between Upper Boston, the neighborhood of Jimmy
and Medellin, and Lower Boston, the neighborhood of Ricardo and Bay Kaw t.
Jimmy's gang came into Lower Boston and began destroying houses and shops,
beating up people, and shooting in the air. Jimmy went to Ricardo's house on
Rue La Bonté, behind the National School, and completely destroyed it. Jimmy
also beat up another man named Frantz Siyou, also a member of Wyclef Jean's
Yele-Haiti. Many people around Rue La Bonté hid in their homes or fled the
neighborhood altogether.

Meanwhile, a gang from Lower Boston, headed by a leader called Toutouba, went
to Upper Boston where they fired shots, threw bottles, destroyed property and
made threats. Despite much shooting, which continued through the day and late
into the night, there were no reported deaths.

Quickly the police and occupation troops from the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti
(MINUSTAH) intervened. They arrested several people, but most of them were
released after being briefly detained at the new police station (see Haiti
Liberté, Vol. 2, No. 37, 4/1/2009)

On the morning of April 7, the police and MINUSTAH made another show of force
in Cité Soleil, driving around in trucks and armored vehicles.

Haitian Police Inspector Rosemond Aristide declared that the police would
conduct such operations in all of Cité Soleil's hot spots until the
disturbances were quelled.

But historically, such police repression and intimidation tend to make matters

For example, since April 5, gangs in the Cité Soleil neighborhoods of Cité
Lumi re and Ruelle Sonson have been battling gangs in the Revolcy neighborhood.
Heavy police and MINUSTAH intervention has had little or no effect in stemming
that fighting.

Meanwhile, insecurity is growing. On April 7, around 8 p.m., gunmen armed with
9 millimeter pistols robbed two small food merchants, Madame Jean and Madame P, in Projet Drouillard. Route National 1, which runs by Cité Soleil, is also
still controlled by bandits, despite the new police station only one hundred
yards away.

Some have speculated that the spike in violence is a reaction to the reinforced
police and MINUSTAH presence in Cité Soleil, where money is being spent on
repression rather than relief of the population's every deepening misery.
Others conjecture that the police and MINUSTAH may be fomenting the violence to
justify their presence and the use of their new anti-riot gear and equipment,
provided by the U.S. military contractor DynCorp.

(Photo by John Carroll)

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