Lynchings in Haiti; ethnic cleansing in Dominican Republic

Escalating violence continues to make life unlivable in Haiti, with police forces and foreign “peacekeepers” contributing to the bloodshed–while those who flee to the neighboring Dominican Republic face racist attacks and mass deportations. From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 21:

Haiti: Police accused in lynchings
According to witnesses and reports on Haitian radio, at least 15 people were hacked to death with machetes in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Bel-Air and Solino during the two weeks before Aug. 18. Police acknowledged during the week of Aug. 8 that seven people had died in such attacks but declined to comment on witness reports that several of the killings had occurred in the presence of police agents. A cameraperson for the Reuters wire service filmed youths with machetes as they chopped the face and body of an unarmed man who had just been shot by police. Police did not deter the attack and described the victim as a bandit. During the week of Aug. 8 several neighborhood residents congratulated themselves on local radio after killing an alleged bandit known as “Chabba,” and thanked the police for their support. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, Aug. 18 from Reuters; Agence Haitienne de Presse, Aug. 17)

The reports of lynchings came during what appeared to be a period of increasing violence by both criminal gangs and police agents. At least 35 people were shot dead in Port-au-Prince Aug. 6-9, according to hospital officials.

On Aug. 10 the police carried out an operation against gangs in Bel Air. Witnesses said the police, some of them masked, fired indiscriminately and then stood by as men in civilian clothes attacked suspected gang members loyal to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Police spokesperson Gessy (or Jessie) Cameau Coicou said the police only opened fire to keep suspects from being lynched before they could be arrested; one or two people were killed, according to Cameau. But a witness, Genel Gilo, said police fired at him and others as they hid inside a house, killing a teenage boy. Another witness, Peterson Larose said civilians accompanying the agents stabbed his 17-year old pregnant girlfriend to death. Witnesses said the civilians lynched three other people as police watched; video footage taken by a news agency appeared to support their account. (HSG, Aug. 11, 12 from AP)

New information has come out about a July 6 operation by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in Port-au-Prince’s Cite Soleil neighborhood targeting pro-Aristide gang leader Emmanuel Wilmer (“Dread Wilme”). According to a confidential United Nations account, the 12-hour operation, code-named “Iron Fist,” involved 1,400 heavily armed soldiers from Brazil, Peru and Jordan, backed by Argentine and Chilean helicopters. An advance unit of Peruvian soldiers fired 5,500 rounds of ammunition, grenades and mortars at Wilmer’s residence when they encountered resistance from his well-armed and well-trained followers. A Brazilian mechanized company providing perimeter security fired more than 16,700 rounds of ammunition in the densely populated neighborhood while they were pinned down for seven hours by dozens of Wilmer’s supporters.

French MINUSTAH officials Jean-Marie Guihenno conceded “there may have been some civilian casualties” during the raid; local residents say as many as nine civilians were killed. The confidential report concluded that despite the massive operation, “the area remains under gang control.” (Miami Herald, Aug. 16)

Dominican Republic: Three Haitians set on fire
Three Haitian immigrants were seriously burned in what appeared to be a murder attempt the morning of Aug. 16 in Haina, a town near the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo. Unknown attackers apparently bound and gagged the three immigrants, poured a flammable liquid on them and then set fire to the building where they were sleeping, near a cabinet maker’s shop. A fourth immigrant reportedly escaped unharmed. The victims, all young men, were taken to Luis Eduardo Aybar Hospital, where they were still alive but in serious condition as of Aug. 18. The hospital’s burn unit director, Dr. Carlos de los Santos, identified the victims as Pablo Marcos, Gilberto Dominique and Willie Pie, with burns on 57%, 85% and 52% of their bodies respectively. (AlterPresse, El Diario-La Prensa, New York, Aug. 19)

The incident in Haina followed a number of attacks against and deportations of suspected Haitian immigrants since Aug. 4, when residents of Nuevo Pueblo in Valverde province attacked immigrants after a murder was blamed on a Haitian; a similar wave of attacks and mass deportations occurred in May. The Dominican daily Hoy reported on Aug. 19 that the Immigration Bureau had detained some 2,000 undocumented Haitians “in recent days” and deported them to Haiti. (Hoy, Aug. 19) Although the anti-Haitian attacks have started when Haitians were accused of crimes, Raul Martinez, the district attorney in the northwestern city of Santiago, noted that his office does not consider Haitian immigrants “a significant sector of the criminals reported.” (AlterPresse, Aug. 19)

See our last post on Haiti.