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Labor delegation reports massacre in Port-au-Prince

Published Jul 12, 2005 10:09 PM

United Nations troops patrolling in Haiti carried out a massacre of Haitians in poor, working-class areas of Port-au-Prince on July 6, according to a visiting labor delegation from the United States. Haitian police carried out another massacre on July 8. The massacres occurred in communities where the support for deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the strongest.

UN troops on patrol in Haiti.

U.S. Marines had kidnapped Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004, and removed him from office and from Haiti as part of a right-wing coup. The troops of three imperialist countries--the U.S., France and Canada--first occupied Haiti after the kidnapping. They have now been replaced by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which was created by the Security Council.

According to the U.S. delegation's report, 350 UN soldiers from Peru and Jordan, using 35 armored personnel carriers and two helicopters, began their assault on Cite Soleil between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on July 6.  Once the troops were in position to seal off the alleys of Boisneuf and Projet Drouillard--two neighborhoods inside Cite Soleil--with tanks and troops, they began firing around 4 a.m. It appears that the Haitian National Police (PNH) did not have much of a presence in this operation.

This massacre was only lightly reported in the imperialist media. AP carried a story of 440 words, UPI used 67 words. Five or six Canadian newspapers picked it up, and about the same number of U.S. papers. One British paper, the Independent, ran a longer story.

But, unfortunately for the UN forces, which claimed that only two to six people were killed, a labor/civil rights delegation was in Port-au-Prince at the time. Dave Welsh, a member of the San Francisco Labor Council, had organized a delegation to a congress of the Confederation of Haitian Workers.

Welsh told Workers World, "One member of our delegation, Seth Donnelly, who belongs to the California Teachers Association, went to Cite Soleil 24 hours after the UN attacked. He and a team of Haitian human rights workers counted 23 bodies lying in pools of blood in the streets and in their homes."

The delegation interviewed scores of people and videoed where the attack took place. According to Welsh, their footage shows "the homes--in some cases made of tin and cardboard--that had been riddled by bullets, tank fire and helicopter ammunition."

He continued, "The team also filmed a church and a school that had been riddled by ammunition. Some community members allowed the team to interview them, but not to film their faces for fear of their lives. People were traumatized."

'Systematic firing on civilians'

The press release from the delegation goes a bit further: "'There was systematic firing on civilians,' said one eyewitness to the killing. 'All exits were cut off. The community was choked off, surrounded--facing tanks coming from different angles, and overhead, helicopters with machine guns fired down on the people. The citizens were under attack from all sides and from the air. It was war on a community.'"

The chief target of the UN attack on Cite Soleil appears to have been a popular leader of Fanmi Lavalas, Emmanuel (Dread) Wilme, who had organized a number of mass protests for the restoration of democracy, the return of Aristide and the overturn of the interim government.  He, his wife and one of his children were killed and his house destroyed.

The head of the police, Leon Charles, was quite definite that Dread Wilme had been killed, even though his body had not been recovered.

Many people in Cite Soleil--young and old, men and women--spoke highly of Dread Wilme, referring to him as their "protector" or "father." Earlier this year in April, Dread Wilme had been a target of a UN attack and was wounded. He gave an interview to Radio Lakou, a Kreyol station out of New York. Some of its broadcasts are also available on the Internet.

At that time, Wilme said, "Well, the situation is very serious, not just in Cite Soleil but all over Haiti. ... The way things are in the country today, journalists are being killed, school children are being killed, business people are being killed. Many people who would have been useful to the country are being killed. As Lavalas militants throughout all parts of the country, ... we are standing up to defend our rights, to demand that President Aristide return to the country and for us to live in peace, because without President Aristide there can be no peace."

Police shoot into houses

According to the Haitian Press Agency (AHP), an independent press service headquartered in Port-au-Prince, a dozen people, most in their own homes, were killed on July 8 in the district of the capital called Bel Air by Haitian cops driving in a red Nissan patrol car. As the Nissan drove up and down the streets, the cops fired blindly into houses. AHP reported that six cadavers lay in a pool of blood on Macajoux Street until the end of the afternoon.

The UN forces' mandate states that every operation of the PNH has to be approved by the commander of MINUSTAH, Brazilian Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira. He in turn answers to the UN Security Council, which is dominated by the imperialists.

Family and friends of the victims denounced these summary executions, but said the killings would not shake their determination to keep on demonstrating until democracy was restored with the return of President Aristide.

The day before the attack on Bel Air, the leader of Fanmi Lavalas there, Samba Boukman, denounced the assassination of Dread Wilme as "brutal and indiscriminate."  

The same day as the police attack on Bel Air, dozens of people who work for the city of Port-au-Prince demonstrated in front of the Ministry of the Interior. They hadn't been paid for 18 months and accused the mayor of Port-au-Prince, Carline Simon, of acting against the interests of the poor and working people of the city.