Haiti: are authorities about to evict more quake victims?

Students from the Faculty of Ethnology of the State University of Haiti (UEH) set up barricades at the nearby Champ de Mars, Port-au-Prince’s main park, early in August to protest what they said was an increase in crime in the area. The protests started after an ethnology student, Philibert Sergo, was killed in a robbery in July. According to police inspector Dupont Joseph, 23 armed robberies were reported in the zone in June and July, although he said the number was declining.

The Champ de Mars, which faces the ruins of the National Palace, became a vast tent city within hours of a massive January 2010 earthquake as Port-au-Prince residents fled their damaged homes. Thousands of people continue to live there in improvised shelters 19 months after the disaster, providing an easy target for robbers and rapists. Residents say the National Police of Haiti (PNH) has proven incapable of taking on the criminals, while some accuse the police agents of actually being in league with them. The justice system simply releases most suspects after they are arrested, according to the victims, who say they are scared to report crimes to the police, since they fear reprisals once the suspects are free.

The students, who have reportedly burned tires and thrown rocks at patrol cars, called for the government to restore peace to the area by moving the camp residents to decent housing in suitable locations. They stressed that they opposed the sort of forced relocations that have occurred at other encampments. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Aug. 12; Radio Métropole, Haiti, Aug. 12)

On Aug. 10 Port-au-Prince mayor Muscadin Jean Yves Jason announced his intention to relocate some 20,000 people from the park, if the national government approves the plan. Apparently this would be part of what President Michel Martelly has called a “special program” for “six priority camps” to “allow 30,000 people to return to their original neighborhoods and to live in decent housing and urbanized neighborhoods.” But Patrick Rouzier, a housing and reconstruction consultant with the national government, told the online Haitian newspaper Haïti Libre that Mayor Jason wants to move the families to “Morne Cabrit,” a mountain north of the capital. He said the national government has reservations about the plan. (HL, Aug. 13))

Apparently Rouzier was referring to Morne à Cabrits (“Goat Mountain”), a small mountain in the dry, sparsely inhabited range north of Port-au-Prince; it is about 25 miles from the city. In June Mayor Jason proposed a $76 million construction project for the area. (Le Matin, Haiti, June 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 14.

See our last post on Haiti.