In Haiti, Shooting Incident Sparks Anger at U.N. Troops

Published today by Inter-Press News Service. Look for radio version on Monday’s Free Speech Radio News.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 20 (IPS) – Under a beating sun in the grassy field where two U.N. helicopters landed in Grand Goave last week, 19-year-old Benson Blanc moved his hands as if rapid-firing a gun into the ground in front of him and made a “tok-tok-tok-tok” sound. This is how the soldiers opened fire, he said.

Residents of this quiet seaside town an hour west of Port-Au-Prince were awoken at about 1 a.m. on Nov. 10 by the sound of helicopters flying low overhead. A curious crowd amassed around the aircrafts.

One of the helicopters had mechanical trouble and had to make an emergency landing, said U.N. spokesperson Sophie Boutaud de la Combe. To lighten the load on the damaged helicopter, the Chilean crew moved white boxes of supplies into the other helicopter for several hours.

She also said, in a radio interview broadcast here in the capital city, that troops only fired once into the air in attempt to disperse the crowd. They had called for backup from the local platoon of Sri Lankan U.N. troops.

“When the backup came they started shooting, the population ran away and hid behind the bushes,” Blanc said. “Their chief, Mr. Rodriguez, said that he is not playing with nobody’s ass. He said if anybody wants to cross the field they need to tell him first or he’ll shoot them.”

Over a week later, Rinvil Jean Weldy, 50, is still nursing a bulging wound on his right shoulder. He can’t use his right arm much because of the pain, as he tends to his family’s small beachside home. He said he’s a health worker who has worked for the Haitian government and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

“I was home then I heard a strange noise and I saw people running,” Weldy told IPS. “I wanted to give my help in case something bad happened. The crowd was too close to the helicopters so I wanted to move away. That’s when they opened fire and hurt me. I want justice and reparations.”

Haitians interviewed Sunday in Grand Goave said U.N. troops, known by their acronym MINUSTAH, fired several rounds into the ground at around 5 a.m. They said the soldiers would not let anyone, including farmers who wanted to reach the beach to go fishing, cross the field. A piece of a bullet struck Weldy, who was rushed to the hospital by Haitian police.

“When they saw the crowd getting big, they shot on the field,” said Louis Natacha, a woman who lives nearby. “There would have been more victims if we didn’t run away. Anybody could be a victim. Weldy was there like everybody, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. We want MINUSTAH to leave.”

Boutaud de la Combe, the U.N. spokesperson, told IPS there is an ongoing internal investigation into the incident. She said if troops fired into the ground, not in the air, that was a mistake. If Weldy wants reparations for his injury, she said, he needs to file an official complaint. Guatemalan U.N. military police visited him Monday, but Weldy said he did not feel comfortable speaking with them.

International officials and the Haitian government credit MINUSTAH with improving security in Haiti. But some Haitians see the foreign troops as prone to using reckless force with impunity.

When last summer massive crowds attended the Port-Au-Prince funeral of Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a popular priest, U.N. troops were seen on state television opening fire. A 22-year-old man was killed, although MINUSTAH denied responsibility for the shooting, saying the bullet’s calibre was smaller than that used by U.N. troops.

Brazilian U.N. troops arrested Franki Maze, a social leader in the Port-Au-Prince slum of Bel-Air, on the night of Sep. 9. While a medical exam from that night did not validate Maze’s claim that he was sodomised, it found bruising and inflammation on his face and body. He was released later that day.

The U.N.’s internal investigation cleared the troops of any wrongdoing and charged Maze with fabricating parts of his story. It said he was caught in possession of marijuana and tried to run away.

Mario Joseph, a human rights lawyer with Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, is frustrated with how the peacekeeping force handles accusations of abuse. “It’s their tactic: ‘All people in Haiti are liars for MINUSTAH’,” he said. “I filed two complaints in Cite Soleil cases. All the time they make their own inquires. We need to have independent inquires.”

The U.N. Security Council extended MINUSTAH’s mandate another year last month, marking its fifth year in Haiti. The Brazilian military commander, Gen. Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, told Reuters in a recent interview that the force is not likely to leave anytime soon.

“The strides we’ve made in security haven’t been matched by the socioeconomic gains we hoped for, and so that’s why we say that the status in Haiti is extremely fragile,” he said.

On Wednesday, the 206th anniversary of Haitian general Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ crushing victory over French colonial troops in the Battle of Vertières, two university professors and twelve students were arrested by Haitian police after protesting the presence of foreign troops on Haiti’s soil, according to the Haitian news agency AlterPresse. It is not clear why they were taken into custody.

6 thoughts on “In Haiti, Shooting Incident Sparks Anger at U.N. Troops”

  1. Ansel, it’s great to have someone report the facts and document these incidents in Haiti. There must be accountability for the brutal acts of violence committed by UN occupation forces in Haiti.

    Very intrigued to learn that Haiti is now so secure that MINUSTAH (according to the Brazilian Commander) can now pursue a new mission–to improve Haiti’s “socioeconomic” status. Apparently, this new work by MINUSTAH involves keeping the Haitian people away from whatever project they (MINUSTAH) are carrying out that is slated to improve the Haitian economy–makes a person wonder who’s economy is really slated for approval and at what expense to the Haitian people’s freedom and democracy.

    According to MINUSTAH, Haitians can’t be trusted–so the facts about this mysterious economic venture are a deep dark secret–to be acted upon under the cover of night. How kind of MINUSTAH to do all the heavy lifting themselves for the good of Haiti (sarcasm).

    Weldy and other Haitians who have been shot, raped and murdered during MINUSTAH’s extended sojourn in Haiti, certainly are in no condition health-wise to give a helping hand.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Listen Chantal, I agree with you, the UN soldiers MUST be accountable for their acts wherever they are; including while in Haiti. However, you made a slight inference about the soldiers infringing on our freedom and democracy. What freedom? What democracy? Is it the freedom to hate each other? The freedom to kill at will? The freedom to kidnap our own kind, even new born infants? Or is the democracy to fill ourselves with a worthless pride to be the first black independent nation while being the poorest of the western hemisphere? Again, I ask, what freedom and democracy? It’s been well over 200 years since our independence; it’s time to wake up. If we continue to believe the same thing and doing the same old stuff we’ve been doing for the last 200+ years, we will be at the same place 200+ years later. Let it be clear that I am not a proponent of any occupying force on the soil of my country. And I, undeniably, detest hearing the news of the blood of my brothers and sisters still running. Still I must say that MINUSTAH should stay until we prove that we are responsible enough to lead our own country. Until we prove, to ourselves first, that we can protect our law abiding citizens against any and all malevolent forces, the UN should stay; even if it takes another 200+ years.

      The UN did not come because everything was smooth. They came because of the pandemonium that existed. A lot of us, yours truly included, want MINUSTAH out. But if they leave, then what? There is safe and there is safer. Haiti is NOT safe! As you mention, the killing, the raping etc… I agree Haiti is definitely NOT safe, even, with the UN present! But does anyone over the age of 5 really believe that we would be safer without them. Should we remind ourselves of how many of our own compatriots we have killed, raped or otherwise destroyed during the, sometimes, short tenures of some of our head of states?

      Listen Chantal, I agree with you, the UN soldiers MUST be accountable for their acts wherever they are; including while in Haiti. However, in the absence of good, the lesser of two evils is always my choice. MINUSTAH STAYS.

      1. Unfortunately, MINUSTAH is staying, although Haitians have repeatedly said that MINUSTAH MUST GO.

        You claim that the country is plagued by coups and violence, yet the rule-of-law was subverted by outsiders in 1991 and 2004. These interventions were sponsored by the “international community.” The National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute and others were the stakeholders who paid opposition parties to stir up trouble and push their agendas in Haiti. It is well documented that the US trained so-called rebels in the Dominican Republic. Many of these thugs were former members of the disbanded Haitian army and wanted criminals–for crimes against humanity, rapes, massacres, drug trafficking…

        MINUSTAH was brought in only after chaos and the rule-of-law was subverted by the US, France and Canada. They sponsored the “kidnapping in the service of a coup.” President Aristide explained why, it was threefold, PRIVATIZATION, PRIVATIZATION, PRIVATIZATION.

        So you can take your pretense at outrage and righteously indignation at the poor majority to somebody who will buy it. The thugs were brought and paid for with money from people outside the country, who aligned with so-called civil society groups like American businessman Andre Apaid’s Group 184.

        The chaos was deliberately orchestrated by the “international community.” It is evident that the best interests of Haitians did not have a place at the table at the “Ottawa Initiative.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottawa_Initiative] No government official from Haiti was invited to attend while Haiti’s faith was being decided by the powers that be. Rather the interest of the corporatocracy and foreign governments were the only interests that mattered.

        The thugs who were paid to do the raping, murdering and killing were servicing these entities. Although the criminals who planned to scuttle Haiti’s first democratically elected government did not carry out the killings, they do have Haitian blood on their hands.

        Peace.

  2. Thanks again, Ansel. This story of UN aid (occupation) in Haiti has been retold endlessly there and in so many places – the old lies told as truths persistently until they are accepted; unfortunately, until busy, well-meaning people really quit caring whether they are true or not, even whether truth exists or not.

  3. Your comments are very interested. However, we need to think of the others

    living out there who had no say. Our own people let other nations criticize us

    because of their inhumans act. I came here at the age of 16 in 1985. It’s very

    sad to see my last visit to my native land was 5 years later when Ertha trouillot

    was president, our people did not respect diaspora specially when you go back

    to your old town & new faces live there. I almost got killed by some unknown

    that’s new to the block who make a statement & called me an “attache” until a

    old neighbor from my childhood saved me that day & explained to that group

    that I grew-up here & that’s how I can be alive today & never look back & will

    not refer my colleagues to a place where warriors live due to the type of

    government this country have. Haiti is my country although, I’m a citizen of the

    US. It is time to wake up, it is time for us citizens here to speak for the

    innocents one back there who has no voice where silent remains & crime

    rises. I’m a case worker & I’m very upset due to my previous experience in

    1990 did not trust my own land & not chosen to volunteer with my colleagues

    during their journey for the earthquake victims from the hospital where I work .

    Let me stop because it’s a shame to hear the kind of stuff that happen out

    there. In my opinion Haitians people need to be whoop specially the looters,

    the deportees, the witches including the gang leaders & the majority of them

    are well known by the haitian government who close his eyes at them.

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