Death Squads Sow Terror in Port-au-Prince’s Poor Neighborhoods

By: Isabelle L.
Papillon – Haiti Liberte
Some popular
neighborhoods around the capital were in turmoil over the past week. Heavily
armed government thugs, or “legal bandits” as they are commonly called, wearing
pink bracelets sowed panic in the areas of Simon Pelé, Cité Soleil, the
Croix-des-Bossales market, and the suburbs south of Port-au-Prince.
            This violence comes at a time when
the Haitian people are mobilizing against the political persecution which the
government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is
waging against partisans of its political opposition. The people are also
demanding the release of political prisoners such as Jean Robert Vincent, Louima
Louis Juste, Jean Matulnès Lamy, and Joshua and Enold Florestal. Progressive
political activists rot in prison without trial for years while gang leaders
like the kidnapping kingpin Clifford Brandt, Colombian drug-traffickers, and
other notorious criminals are released, as was the case when 327 prisoners
“escaped,” with the patent collusion of prison authorities, from the modern new
prison in Croix-des-Bouquets. Meanwhile, Haitian diaspora visitors and citizens
from the United States continue to be victims when arriving on Haitian soil.

            On Wed., Aug. 20 in Cité Soleil,
Clifford Charles, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization was
killed following a demonstration by residents demanding the release of their
imprisoned comrade Louima Louis Juste in the National Penitentiary for the past
six months for his political opinions. As a leader of the Movement of the
Opposition in Cité Soleil (MOPOSS) Louima Louis Juste had been very active at
the head of every demonstration demanding the resignation of the reactionary
Martelly-Lamothe regime. Another MOPOSS member, Junior Louimé Louis Juste said
that Louima’s arrest demonstrates how far the neo-Duvalierist Martelly
government is willing to go in persecuting its political opponents.
            The general coordinator of the
Popular Movement of Haiti (MOPHA), Pierre Lemaire, meanwhile points out that
the Martelly government has undertaken a propaganda campaign to pretend it is
trying to reestablish the rule of law when, in fact, the regime is working to
restore a dictatorship in flagrant violation of democratic gains. The proof is
everywhere: since the illegal arrival of this regime in power in May 2011, no
elections have been held, the municipal administrations throughout the country
are led by de facto executive officers appointed by Martelly, the Senate is cut
by a third, and the Chamber of Deputies is vassalized as it undertakes its last
session, and the negotiations to hold new elections are still deadlocked.
            Every day, one sees a terrible
political climate emerging which is not conducive to the holding of elections.
On Sat., Aug. 23, 2014, the people of the Bélécourt section of Cite Soleil
discovered the bodies of five people killed by the “legal bandits,” four boys
and a woman. The victims were on their way to where they try to make a living.
The residents of Bélécourt point to a man in the area known as “Gabriel,” a
gang leader in the Soleil 17 neighborhood, as the person behind the killings.
“These crimes were committed by Gabriel, the leader of the Soleil 17 gang,”
said one resident. “He works in Cité Soleil for Laurent Lamothe and Michel
Martelly. He said he was ordered by the authorities to control Cité Soleil.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe visited him last week.”
            On Thu., Aug. 21, in downtown
Port-au-Prince at the Croix-des-Bossales market, heavily armed bandits began
firing weapons and breaking things. Larger stores were forced to close their
doors while small sidewalk merchants were forced to flee, sandwiching buyers in
the melee. The panic resulted in an unspecified number of people killed and
wounded, according to reports.
            On Mon. Aug. 25, lawyers André
Michel and Newton Louis Saint-Juste were taken hostage in Petit Goâve at the
town’s courthouse by “legal bandits” who are in the pay of the president of the
Chamber of Deputies, Stevenson Thimoléon. The lawyers went to Petit Goâve to
defend their clients, victims of these bandits. They were attacked by the thugs
in the court itself. Officers of the Haitian National Police (PNH) had to
intervene to save the lawyers’ lives and escort them from the building.
            According to some observers, the
climate of panic and political persecution in the capital is being generated
purposefully to distract from the brief escape of gang leader Clifford Brandt
and the dismal scores students got in state exams despite the government’s
incessant propaganda that it is providing free, universal schooling for which
$1.50 is arbitrarily levied on international money transfers and 5 cents on
each minute of every international telephone call.

            One is also justified in wondering
if the surge in violence is the result of the distribution of arms to the
“legal bandits”?