Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

Haiti continues to disintegrate

The violence in Haiti just continues to grow, prowling the streets like a lion on the hunt. Many countries have sent or are sending aid to Haiti, but you have to wonder just how long this tinderbox can smolder before it catches fire and explodes into war.

Peacekeepers move in on Haitian militants
Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Using armored cars and earth movers, U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police moved into an area early Sunday controlled by militants loyal to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, protecting workers removing burned out cars used as road blocks.

One police officer was shot and killed, said Brazilian Col. Luiz-Felipe Carbonell, apparently in early resistance that ended when scores of troops moved in.

The chant of hymns wafted from church services and a U.N. helicopter roared overhead as the operation got under way in Bel Air, an area of concrete homes on a hill overlooking the National Palace.

Dozens of Brazilian troops and police arrived two days after the government said it would root out gangs that have blockaded areas of certain neighborhoods.

On Friday, interim President Boniface Alexandre called the gangs "terrorists" and urged people in several troubled neighborhoods to cooperate with authorities to "expel these bandits."

Sunday's operation began at 5 a.m. and continued through the morning, becoming the first to last several hours in Bel Air since troubles began Sept. 30. Previous incursions into the neighborhood were brief because gunmen fired on authorities.

Violence has left some 56 people dead in recent weeks, including the officer killed Sunday.
Daniel Moskaluk, a spokesman for an international police force training Haitian officers, said Jordanian and Haitian riot police would remain in the neighborhood. He said his group would help set up a permanent Haitian police station.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has defended the government's decision to aggressively root out the pro-Aristide street gangs it blames for the violence.

Peacekeepers used a sledgehammer to knock down a second-story wall of a corner building in Bel Air that Gen. Americo Salvador said was used by snipers.

A bulldozer pushed burnt out cars down Rue Macajoux to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where front loaders lifted them into garbage trucks. Graffiti scrawled across a church wall said, "Return Aristide" and "Long live Aristide."

Aristide fled Feb. 29, accused of corruption. He left Haiti on a U.S.-chartered plane as ex-soldiers leading a bloody rebellion neared Port-au-Prince.

Now in South Africa, Aristide has accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster and insists he remains Haiti's democratically elected leader. The United States denies his charges.
One officer in Bel Air struck the butt of a young woman several times as she walked down the street and crowded her into an alley where a group of officers giggled. He let her go when he saw a journalist watching.

Asked why he had done that, the officer said the woman's husband had been seen firing at police and that he wanted her to tell him where the man was.

Human rights lawyer Renan Hedouville said Sunday that his organization has received reports of women and young girls being raped in many of the troubled areas in Port-au-Prince, with the most reports coming from Bel Air. Many of the reports involve former Haitian soldiers who helped oust Aristide, he said.

At the top of Rue Macajoux, a group of young men jeered at police officers, calling them "bandits."

"All we want is to have President Aristide returned," said Aristide Carlo, a 20-year-old student. "The police accuse us of terrorism, but it is they who are the bandits."

One fearful family peered from behind a door in Bel Air. A woman, who said she was scared to give her name said she locks her doors at 6 p.m. every evening because bandits start shooting. She said the youngest of her four children — a 3-year-old — trembled each time gunshots crackled.

The woman, a widow, said she has resorted to prostitution to make ends meet, but the recent violence has prevented her from going out at night. With less than $1 left, she said her family has only bread, sugar and water to eat.

"All our neighbors have run away," she said. "We would run away too if we had somewhere to go."

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1098625568370_2/?hub=World

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