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Homicide Rate Study Challenges Mainstream Portrait of a ‘Violent’ Haiti
By Roger Annis
Published in Haiti Liberte, Jan 4, 2012
The 2011 Global Study on Homicide by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODP) has published its world survey for 2011. Its published figures on homicide rates place Haiti very low in comparison to the other countries of the Caribbean and Latin America.
According to the study, Haiti's homicide rate in 2010 was 6.9 per 100,000 population. That compares to Jamaica(highest rate in the Caribbean) at 52, Trinidad at 35, the Bahamas at 28 and neighbouring Dominican Republic at 24. The rate for the U.S. colonies of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (2007 statistics) is 26 and 39, respectively.
The highest murder rates in the world are in Honduras (82), El Salvador (66), Belize (42) and Guatemala (41), all of which are U.S. client states. (By comparison, Nicaragua's rate is 13, Mexico's is 20 and Brazil's is 23 (2009 figures)). Haiti's rate is only marginally higher than the U.S., which is 5.
The UN report does not contain figures for Haiti for the two years of illegal, foreign-appointed government in 2004 and 2005. But during the four years of elected government from 2000 to 2004, the annual rate was high, between 15 and 20. These were the violent years in which paramilitary forces assaulted ordinary Haitians and governing institutions in the destabilizing prelude to the overthrow of the government of Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.
The Global Study on Homicide brings together global, regional, national and sub-national homicide data in one publication. While not necessarily indicative of overall, relative crime figures in each country, it is perhaps the closest that is readily available. Homicide is a very specific, illegal act, the "crime of crimes" that is easily quantified. Other violent crime statistics compiled by the UNODP have two great disadvantages. One, the reporting from countries by the organization is incomplete. Two, definitions and measurements of the different categories of violent crime vary from country to country, as does the capacity to record them.
'Violence' as justification for military occupation
The foreign military intervention that facilitated the overthrow of Aristide in 2004 and became institutionalized through the UN Security Council military force called MINUSTAH has always justified its actions by saying that foreign soldiers are needed to save Haitians from themselves. Officials of the United Nations in Haiti as well as the embassies of the U.S., Canada and Europe never cease to claim that Haiti is permanently threatened with descent into chaos and violence.
International media typically chimes in with its own versions of this fable. Yet, the homicide figures for Haiti fly completely in the face of these claims.
This double speak deliberately confuses and conflates the so-called violence of legitimate protest demanding social and political rights, including measures of self-defence, with the violence of the wealthy elite of Haiti and its backers in the U.S., Canada and Europe as they conspire to keep Haiti poor and keep poor Haitians marginalized in their own country. Thus was the ‘violence’ of the 2000-2004 destabilization period and coup d’etat presented.
Since the earthquake, reporting of popular protests against the ongoing military occupation of MINUSTAH or the slow pace of earthquake aid and reconstruction often suggests, subtly or more brazenly, that descent into chaos constantly looms.
Contemporary media presentations of Haiti sometimes remind the reader of Haitian history of news reporting in the 19th century or early 20th century when naked colonialism still ruled in the colonies or ‘spheres of influence’ of the U.S. and Europe. Newspapers of that era regularly warned of inevitable violence and pillaging by Black people against any and all social order should they succeed in attaining their freedom.
The reported homicide rate for Haiti raises an obvious question: If the rates of crime and violence in Haiti are exponentially lower than neighbouring countries, why, exactly, is a seemingly permanent UN military occupation force of 13,000 foreign soldiers and police in the country in the first place?