Armed with machetes and knives, Haitian national police and local officials destroyed some 200 tents in a homeless camp on a public space in the Delmas 3 neighborhood northeast of downtown Port-au-Prince the morning of May 23. Camp residents, who were living there because they lost their homes in a devastating earthquake in January 2010, ran for cover or protested the action while their temporary shelters were demolished. Wilson Jeudy, the mayor of Delmas, a subsection of the capital, claimed that the operation’s target was not the earthquake victims but criminal gangs he said had been using the camp.
“This is the work of animals,” resident Guérin Pierre told the Miami Herald after the raid. “This is the worst kind of humiliation someone can experience. They chose to do this at the start of the hurricane season. This is abuse.”
In contrast to many previous evictions from the displaced persons’ camps, the Delmas 3 operation drew international attention. US congressional representatives Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) issued a joint statement on May 25 deploring the evictions. On May 26 Sylvie van den Wildenberg, spokesperson for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), announced at the occupation force’s weekly press conference that “[f]orced expulsions go against the guiding principles regarding displaced persons.”
Rightwing Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) moved quickly to distance himself from Delmas mayor Jeudy; the new evictions took place just eight days after Martelly’s inauguration, leading to suspicions that Martelly was pushing for the evictions. (AlterPresse, Haiti, May 23, May 27; Agence Haïtienne de Presse, Haiti, May 26; Haïti Libre, Haiti, May 27; Miami Herald, May 27)
According to the intergovernmental International Organization for Migration (IOM, OIM in French and Creole), some 234,000 people were removed from camps from June 2010 to April this year and 166,000 of the 680,000 people still living in camps are currently under the threat of eviction. However, a report being prepared for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is said to challenge these numbers.
LTL Strategies, the Washington, DC-based business consulting firm that is writing the report, “Building Assessments and Rubble Removal in Quake-Affected Neighborhoods in Haiti,” says it conducted a house-to-house survey and concluded that the number of people living in the camps is just 5-10% of the IOM numbers. In its May 13 report, the consultants also estimated that 46,190 to 84,961 people were killed in the earthquake, about 2.2% of the population in the affected area. The Haitian government’s estimate is 200,000 to 300,000 killed, or nearly 10% of the population in the area.
The lower numbers of victims and of displaced persons could have a significant effect on the levels of aid Haiti receives. An unnamed Haitian official found it “surprising that we should be talking about new figures now.” Mark Toner, a US State Department spokesperson, noted that the report was still just a draft and that it had “internal inconsistencies” that would have to be examined. (Haïti Libre, May 28)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29.
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