Haiti: Domincan authorities probe US flights over border zone

Two US Black Hawk combat helicopters were observed flying over the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti on at least two occasions in March: 4:00-4:30 AM on March 23 and 10 PM-12:00 AM on March 24. The flights, reported by Dominican military commanders in Duverge and Jimani, in the southwestern province of Independencia, alarmed the residents of several communities.

The Dominican military was not informed about the flights, army head Major Gen. Jose Ricardo Estrella Fernandez said on March 28. “Not only the [helicopters] were put at risk but also the lives of their crews and passengers, if Dominican troops had opened fire on them,” an unnamed Dominican military source told the daily El Nacional. But Armed Forces Secretary Adm. Sigfrido Pared Perez insisted, also on Mar. 28, that there had just been a failure of communication between the US and Dominican forces and that the problem had been corrected. Dominican pilots with training in night flying accompanied the US pilots in the helicopters, he said; the flights were authorized by the Civil Aeronautics Board, and the helicopters did not fly over any restricted areas, such as military installations.

The Black Hawks are stationed in the Dominican Republic in connection with the “New Horizons 2006” joint Dominican-US military operation, based in the city of Barahona, in Barahona province, about 100 kilometers from where the flights were reported. According to the US, the operation will employ some 3,500 US soldiers—but not more than 450 at any one time—building schools and clinics in Barahona province before it ends in May. Dominican activists have repeatedly demonstrated against the presence of US troops, asking why the soldiers have brought tanks and helicopters to build clinics and charging that the US is planning to build a military base in the Dominican Republic. (El Nacional, March 28, 29; Hoy, Santo Domingo, March 28; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, March 29)

Deportations continue
According to the Haiti-based Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GARR), more than 3,000 immigrants were deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti during the month of March. Just on the night of March 29-30, GARR encountered 400 deportees at Anse-a-Pitre, in the Southeast department, across the border from Pedernales. Belladere, in the Central Plateau department, received 1,726 deportees in March. People were also deported to Lascahobas (Plateau Central) and Malpasse (West department). (AlterPresse, April 7)

Protests for prisoners, against occupation
On March 29, the 19th anniversary of the passage of the Haitian Constitution, and again on April 6, Thierry Fagart, a French attorney who heads the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), called for the release of all prisoners who have not been charged within the constitutional time limits. According to official figures, 4,034 prisoners are currently held in 17 prisons; only 450 have been convicted and sentenced. Fagart demanded that the authorities respect the constitutional requirement for prisoners to be charged or released within 48 hours of their arrest. (Haiti Progres, NY, April 5; Agence Haitienne de Presse, April 6)

On March 18 dozens of people attended a meeting the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA), a non-governmental organization, convened to push for an end to the United Nations occupation. “The time has come to force the foreign soldiers to withdraw,” said Ansy Vixamar of Tet Kole Ti Peyizan (“Union of Small Farmers”), calling for a common front to defend Haiti’s sovereignty. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, March 18 from AlterPresse)

On March 25, 17 human skulls were found in a vacant lot in Petionville, an upscale Port-au-Prince suburb. PNH agents and MINUSTAH soldiers removed the skulls for analysis. Another 11 were found on March 27 in Port-au-Prince’s Canape-Vert neighborhood. (Agence Haitienne de Presse, March 25; Haiti Press Network, March 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 9

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