Haiti: UN troops shoot again

Chilean troops from the Brazilian-led United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) wounded one local man in the early morning of Nov. 10 when they opened fire on a crowd in Grand-Goâve, a town south of Port-au-Prince in the West Department, according to Haitian witnesses. Chilean Gen. Ricardo Toro Tassara said airborne troops from Chile’s 514-member contingent landed during a nighttime training exercise when one of their UH-1H helicopters developed a mechanical problem. At daybreak a crowd of 200 residents gathered around the helicopter asking for food and water, Toro Tassara said, and when some came “closer than necessary,” the soldiers fired into the air to disperse them.

Residents who were at the scene said the soldiers would not let anyone cross the field where they had landed, including farmers who wanted to reach the beach to go fishing. The troops fired several rounds into the field, according to the residents, and Rinvil Jean Weldy, a health worker from the neighborhood, was shot in the shoulder. “I want justice and reparations,” he told the Inter Press Service (IPS). “Weldy was there like everybody, he wasn’t doing anything wrong,” resident Natacha Louis said. “We want MINUSTAH to leave.” (EFE, Nov. 11; IPS, Nov. 20)

Haitians have repeatedly accused MINUSTAH troops of firing indiscriminately. Two or three people, including a 10-year-old boy, were reportedly wounded in early June during protests by university students in Port-au-Prince for a higher minimum wage, and a young man was shot dead during the funeral of popular priest Gérard Jean-Juste on June 18. On Nov. 18 Haitian police arrested two professors, 12 students and two employees of the State University of Haiti (UEH) as they protested to mark the 206th anniversary of the defeat of French forces by Haitian general Jean-Jacques Dessalines at the battle of Vertières. The demonstration was organized by the UEH Crisis Committee, the Association of Dessalinian University Students (ASID), the Autonomous Federation of Haitian Workers (CATH) and others to protest the handling of a curriculum dispute at UEH and “to say ‘no’ to the occupation of the country by a foreign force.” (AlterPresse, Nov. 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 24

See our last post on Haiti.