Haiti: US blamed in reporter’s death

Foreign troops and not Haitian demonstrators killed Spanish journalist Ricardo Ortega in Port-au-Prince during a protest on March 7, 2004, according to the reporter’s family. Haitian judge Bernard Saint-Vil has dismissed charges against the Haitian suspects in the killing, Ortega’s parents, Jose Luis and Charo Ortega, told the media in Madrid on May 9; Saint-Vil reportedly blamed the foreign soldiers deployed in the country during the three months after then-president Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed from office on Feb. 29, 2004.

Ortega and four other people were reported killed when armed people fired into a March 7 march by opponents to Aristide. Initial reports pointed to Aristide supporters in Ortega’s death. Jesus Martin, who worked with Ortega at the Spanish Antena 3 television network, originally blamed pro-Aristide gangs, but an investigation by Antena 3 on the ground six months later changed Martin’s mind. The family now believes that Ortega and his translator had been in a courtyard contacting the US ambassador to get medical attention for a wounded US reporter. Ortega was shot as he and his translator left the courtyard and headed for the street. Witnesses reported that a soldier in a passing “Hummer”—a US military vehicle—fired the shot, even though there was no sign that the soldiers were in danger. Martin said the soldier probably wasn’t targeting Ortega.

According to Ortega’s family, an autopsy carried out in Spain after Ortega’s body was returned showed traces of bullets from the heavy arms used by US soldiers. The family ruled out any possibility that Ortega was shot by French or Canadian troops, the other components of the interim “peacekeeping” force that occupied Haiti from the time of Aristide’s removal until the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) took over in June 2004. The family is asking the Spanish government to demand a clarification from the countries that made up the interim force. (AlterPresse, May 9; La Rioja, Spain, May 10 from Reuters)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 11

See our last post on Haiti.