Haiti: marchers shot at battle commemoration
At least four demonstrators were wounded in the northern Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas on Nov. 18 when counter-demonstrators opened fire on an opposition march commemorating the anniversary of the 1803 Battle of Vertières, which marked the final defeat of French forces trying to regain control of Haiti. The several hundred marchers had reached the neighborhood of Delmas 32 and were about to turn back toward downtown Port-au-Prince when they were met with a hail of rocks. The marchers responded with more rocks, and the police used tear gas against the attackers. The gunfire started a little later. Two people were hit in the neck, one in the knee and one in the side; all four were taken away for medical care. The police said they recovered more than a half-dozen 9 mm caliber cartridges from the site. The marchers dispersed after the attack.
Some protesters reported seeing a lifeless body lying near a motorbike, and protest organizers held a press conference on Nov. 21 to charge that three people had been shot dead and that police agents had taken their bodies away. The authorities denied the charge, and reporters noted that the press conference didn't include relatives of the three people said to be missing.
The Nov. 20 march was largely sponsored by opponents of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky") and included groups associated with the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Populist senators John Joel Joseph and Moïse Jean-Charles and legislative deputy Arnel Bélizaire were among the politicians present. According to the online news service AlterPresse, the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), which is associated with the leftist labor organization Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle"), also participated, but the union's "demands against the presence of United Nations forces in the country [and] for a decent minimum wage…were drowned out by the anti-Martelly slogans." The Martelly opponents were especially incensed because of an opinion piece by Communication Minister Rudy Hériveaux posted on Martelly's blog on Nov. 17. Entitled "The Cockroach Syndrome," the article described anti-government protesters as "roaches" who "trot around in a disgusting folklore in the streets to try to assault the government." Hériveaux is a former FL senator and until a few years ago led a faction of the party. (AlterPresse, Nov. 19, Nov. 21)
In related news, two opposition leaders arrested after an Oct. 26 protest, Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé, have been placed in isolation in the National Penitentiary, according to the daily Le Nouvelliste. Meanwhile, attorney André Michel, who frequently represents opposition figures, was ordered to appear on Nov. 17 before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire, who is charging him with property destruction in connection with an Oct. 17 demonstration. Michel refused to attend, saying Judge Bélizaire had no authority to order his appearance. (AlterPresse, Nov. 17, Nov. 21)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 23.