Haiti: two klled in protest, electoral clash

On June 12 Haitian president René Préval finally responded to a bill Parliament has passed to raise the minimum wage from 70 gourdes ($1.74) a day to 200 gourdes ($4.97). The pay hike, the first since 2003, cleared the Senate on May 5. In an official letter to the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, Préval repeated claims of Haitian business associations that the wage increase would jeopardize the subcontracting sector, the free trade zone (FTZ) factories that assemble goods largely for export. He proposed an increase to 125 gourdes for that sector, and called on Parliament to be open to negotiations on the measure. (Haiti Press Network, June 17; Radio Métropole, Haiti, June 18)

Students from the State University of Haiti (UEH) continued the militant protests in Port-au-Prince that they began on June 3 to demand that Préval make the full wage increase official by promulgating it in the government gazette, Le Moniteur. Early on the morning of June 17, students used burning tires to create barricades near the Medical School and other parts of the university. As on previous occasions, Haitian police and police agents from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters. The students seized a MINUSTAH police car and set it on fire; the agents fled the vehicle. Protesters also burned a bus and smashed windshields with rocks. UEH protests began earlier in the year over curriculum changes, but the demands now include the minimum wage increase and the removal of MINUSTAH, a Brazilian-led 8,000-member military and police operation that has been in Haiti since June 2004. (Radio Métropole, June 17, 18; AlterPresse, Haiti, June 17)

Anger at MINUSTAH intensified on June 18 when supporters of the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004) accused Brazilian soldiers of the shooting death of an unidentified young man outside the Port-au-Prince cathedral. Lavalas supporters had attended a funeral service there for Father GĂ©rard Jean-Juste, a well-known Catholic priest and Aristide sympathizer. According to witnesses, the MINUSTAH soldiers had been firing in the air, although it is not clear why. An angry demonstration followed in which protesters smashed windshields; the action ended with protesters carrying the young man’s body to the National Palace, the president’s official residence. (AlterPresse, June 18)

Jean-Juste, who died in Florida on May 27 after a long illness, had run a popular food distribution service at his church in Port-au-Prince and was a founder of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami. He was imprisoned in July 2005 by the interim government that was put in place after Aristide was forced from office in February 2004; Jean-Juste was released in January 2006 to undergo treatment for leukemia and pneumonia in the US.

At least one person died in clashes during a runoff for a third of the Senate seats on June 21. The victim—identified as Jean Pierre Wilfrid, a supporter of the social democratic Fusion party—was reportedly killed in an altercation with supporters of the Lespwa (“Hope”) party of President PrĂ©val. (AlterPresse, June 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 21

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  1. haitiquotidien.com
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  2. UN denials in Haiti
    U.N. denials in Haiti

    by Kevin Pina

    Haitian priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a symbol of strength, courage and leadership to a great many, was to be laid to rest by his family, friends and supporters on June 18. Few expected the solemn occasion would be transformed into confusion and terror as U.N. forces opened fire towards Haiti’s national cathedral following the arrest of one of the mourners. A victim of a single gunshot wound to the head would be discovered moments later. Witnesses say his body writhed and convulsed struggling with the inevitable as blood slowly formed a crimson background around his head.

    Jean-Juste would probably not be surprised by the shooting given that he was a leader of Lavalas and this was after all a Lavalas funeral. He would most likely recall many other instances of human rights abuses committed against Lavalas where the U.N. was complicit or directly involved. He would often criticize the U.N. mission in Haiti for killing unarmed civilians in Cite Soleil and for training the Haitian police as they regularly shot up peaceful demonstrations, performed summary executions and falsely arrested Lavalas supporters following the ouster of Aristide in Feb. 2004. Jean-Juste more than most, would understand that this incident is but one more in a long list of violent offenses committed against the movement of the majority of the poor in Haiti as part of the U.N.’s current experiment in political landscaping.

    FULL ARTICLE: http://haitiaction.net/News/HIP/6_30_9/6_30_9.html