Haiti: reports of violence, fears of “undercover occupation”

Reports rose Jan. 18 of looting and vigilantism among increasingly desperate earthquake survivors as Port-au-Prince awaits the deployment of more US troops. A 12,000-strong US contingent is expected to arrive by the end of the week, to assist the 3,000 police and some 9,000 troops from the UN force MINUSTAH in the city. The reported lynching of one suspected looter along with shootings have led to an increase in UN patrols. The country’s legal system and government are largely non-operational. Some 1,000 US troops have already landed in Haiti, with 3,000 more working from ships. Lt. Gen. Ken Keen of the US Southern Command was cited acknowledging that violence is hindering the aid effort. “We are going to have to address the situation of security,” Keen said. (AP, Jurist, Jan. 18; MINUSTAH website)

But Keen downplayed the violence in Port-au-Prince later, saying the incidents were isolated. “I would say these are pockets of violence and we are being very vigilant to watch that closely,” he told reporters on a conference call. (Sphere, Jan. 19)

The US has taken control of the Port-au-Prince airport with approval of the Haitian government, and acknowledged that several aid flights have been turned away due to a backlog at the airport. Several complaints have been made about the diverted flights. France and Brazil have reportedly filed specific criticisms to the State Department. (Fox News, Jan. 18)

Alain Joyandet, the French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to “clarify” the US role amid claims the military build-up is hampering aid efforts. Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport’s control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight. “This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Joyandet said. (The Telegraph, Jan. 18)

The UN World Food Program reached an agreement Jan. 18 with US military authorities to give aid flights landing priority. The deal that came after the US was criticized for giving priority to military flights. (Canadian Press, June 18)

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which can accommodate up to 1,000, left its home port of Baltimore for Port-au-Prince Jan. 17. (Gannett) The fact that it left five days after the earthquake led Shirley Pate to comment in Monthly Review that “the US is concentrating on getting military boots on the ground first.” Accusing Washington of “disaster imperialism,” she charges the media with hyping reports of violence. Pate cites an anonymous report from a Canadian in Haiti with the Canada Haiti Action network of a stark class/race disparity in responding to the injured. The aid worker says rescue teams are refusing to go into popular neighborhoods because they fear “violence.”

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez also raised fears of a new US occupation, saying in his weekly TV broadcast: “I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals, that’s what the United States should send. They are occupying Haiti undercover.”

He added: “On top of that, you don’t see them in the streets. Are they picking up bodies? …Are they looking for the injured? You don’t see them. I haven’t seen them. Where are they?” (Reuters, Jan. 17)

See our last posts on Haiti.

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  1. Haiti: “undercover occupation”?
    Hugo Chávez is calling the US rescue mission to Haiti an “undercover occupation.” Is he cynical, paranoid or right? Please vote here.

      1. Venezuela sends aid to Haiti
        From Xinhua, Jan. 19:

        CARACAS — The Venezuelan government increased its humanitarian aid to quake-ravaged Haiti on Monday, sending 616 tons of food, medicines and drinking water in two shiploads, along with medical and rescue staff.

        Venezuela on Sunday sent to Haiti a planeload of food, medicine and drinking water.

        In Monday’s humanitarian aid, there are 116 tons of special machinery for Haiti’s reconstruction.

        Some 120 rescue workers aboard the two ships will join the Mexican team of 79 rescuers who had arrived earlier.

        Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami said his country was sending to Haiti a tanker loaded with 225,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline.

      2. do you mean lately?
        Venezuela and Cuba jointly created a 1 bn fund to develop Haiti’s energy resources in 2007, and Venezuela also increased their petroleum supplies at rates equal to that of ALBA of which they are not a member. [Non-Aligned News Network factsheet]

        Venezuela also aided Haiti during the hurricanes of 2008. [Venezuela World, Sept. 9, 2008]

        Venezuela has sent so far 2 contingents of specialists (doctors, firemen, assessors) as well as 12 tons of humanitarian aid to Haiti in the wake of the earthquakes. [Prensa Latina, Jan. 15, 2010]

        There was also the $80 million to build a 10,000 gallon/day refinery in Haiti, the $56 million to build a 60-megawatt electricity plant, the $4 million to build a LNG re-gasification plant, the $21 million to $21 million fund to build homes, acquire unspecified equipment and provide medical aid by supporting the work of Cuban specialists offering health care to Haitians, the $57 million to fund expansion of the Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien airports, and $3 million for garbage trucks. [Quixote Center, Aug. 29, 2007]

        Looks pretty good to me.

  2. USNS Comfort
    Right, like the US can just man, supply, and get a hospital ship underway in a few hours. A week is not bad concidering that they need to pull doctors and nurses from all over the country. Not to mention all of the other crew and resorses needed to take care of over 1000 patients. The world loves to bash the US. As usual, what is the rest of the world doing ??

    1. What is the rest of the world doing?
      Plenty, actually, and it is meeting with as much controversy. AFP reports that China has denied accusations that its rescue team in Haiti is only searching for missing Chinese nationals. Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said “[T]hese comments are false and are made out of ulterior motives. The Chinese rescue team departed China immediately after the quake. They not only found the bodies of the Chinese peacekeepers, they also found the bodies of UN officers in Haiti and many others.” The 60-strong Chinese medical team in Haiti has already treated more than 200 locals and China has air-lifted rescue supplies and aid to the devastated country, he said.

      Israel established a field hospital in Haiti on Jan. 15. (The US still hasn’t.) A baby has already been born there, and the father reportedly named the baby “Israel” in gratitude. Stephenie Gutmann, writing in the The Telegraph sneers sarcastically in her headline: “Anti-Zionists not fooled!” She opens: “Clever people the Jews… oops, I mean the Israelis. Look at the lengths to which they have gone to distract the world from their daily ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The latest trick is an Israeli field hospital, rushed into Haiti last Friday and erected in a soccer field.” She goes on to provide a few examples of such (non-sarcastic) verbiage from the Judeophobe crowd.

  3. Hey France! how about we pack up and leave! It’s yours!
    Dear France,
    Charles DeGaulle liberated France from the Nazi’s! Right? Oops!! Delivered to the beaches in American and British ships, wearing American uniforms, and fighting with American weapons.

    How about you send your carriers…..oops…carrier and your 259,000 troop military to show us how it is done? We can leave it to you. We don’t have enough white flags anyway.

    1. “White flags”?
      Um, this is supposed to be a rescue mission, not a combat operation, so the surrender-monkey-baiting is rather off-point. But, hey, any excuse for a jingoistic display of fashionable francophobia… no matter how lugubrious.

      1. a poor website
        Our biggest problem with your reporting has been on Haiti. Over the years your website has ignored the violence targeted against the Lavalas movement and the grassroots in Port-au-Prince. Your reports on Haiti always just cite some of the elite “progressive” civil society groups that are heavily funded by foreign dem prom organization, or you cite radio kiskeya , one of the stations heavily involved in propaganda against hte aristide gov 2000-2004. Maybe some day you’ll go back and report on some of the people killed by death squads 01-06. Plenty was reported on this in the alternative media, but you seem just to echo what some of the “talk left, walk right” ngo/radio folks say. I guess this is part of the rigid horizontal strategy of dem prom anarchism.