I’ve been asked a number of times how I obtained the cell phone of the apparent assault by Uruguayan UN troops on Johnny Jean. The answer is simple: The video is circulating on cell phones in Port Salut. On Wednesday, after speaking with the family at the courthouse, they allowed me to make a copy off the victim’s cousin’s phone.
More interesting is how the video was initially obtained, through what local activist Ernso Valentin called, “the strategy of the population.” Yesterday evening I found the two young men who, by all accounts, swiped the video from a soldier’s phone. They explained to me what happened – about a week after July 18, they said, the date of the assault. It all started with an upbeat, pulsating Spanish song (which I stupidly mistook for Konpas at first).
Viaud Fegens: “Me and Jean-Michel were passing by the base. A soldier named Leo called out to us. I went and sat down and he to put the music on his telephone.”
Leveille Jean-Michel: “We were listening to some music and he liked it.”
VF: “We’ve passed by the base before playing Spanish music. This time, he liked it. He asked me to put it on his phone and he gave me his phone. So I went into his phone to see if it had cool things or nice videos on it. I took his phone, and I’m looking inside to see what it has on it. Then, I came upon the video! When I saw the video, I said [to Jean Michel], ‘Hey look at this!’ The soldier went to sit down. So we’re looking at the phone, and we see the video. I said, ‘Look, that’s my cousin. My cousin, Johnny.’ I’m looking at it and I see what they did. I said, ‘Oh mezami [roughly translates to holy crap]!’ I transmitted the video via Bluetooth onto this phone. I said, ‘Go give him his phone.’ So then I have the video, I’m watching it again, and it’s dominating me. It’s giving me problems [in my head]. So then later, we had a meeting across from the Commiseriat. MINUSTAH was there. We talked about everything bad that MINUSTAH does in Port Salut. They’re dumping their trash in aviation… Now when we come to the subject of what they did to Johnny, they said they don’t believe it happened. Then we showed them the proof. The MINUSTAH chief saw the video, and he’s shocked! He sweats!”
LJM: “He’s afraid. He’s afraid.”
VF: “There were three of them. The deputy was there too. He asked us to transmit it by Bluetooth for him. We did it. He looks again, he watches again, and he’s shocked, sweating.”
LJM: “It was weighing on me since I saw that. I was shocked when I was seeing it, it made me feel terrible. They committed the act but they didn’t want people outside to know about it. Yes, I thought it was rape. Because he’s yelling, ‘Help!’”"
VF: “He’s saying, “Problem, problem, that he’s in a problem.” And they pulled down his pants. The video is proof. Because when they saw it, they could see what the soldiers did. Everyone who sees this video can see what happens. I heard about the protest tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll attend. But MINUSTAH represents a force in the country. It’s MINUSTAH that helped created a situation where we don’t have war or gunfire. They gave us some calm. But they violated a young man, they’re dumping trash, [AH: didn't understand this part]… this isn’t good. We didn’t have these things in our country. It’s them who gave us cholera. We never had these things before.”
Viaud’s mother is worried. “Are they going to be ok? I’m scared. Will something happen to them?” she kept asking me. I left my number and tried to assure her that nothing bad would happen.
Update 9/16/11: After removing the photo and the boys names on the advice of some commenters, I’ve just restored them. I’m in touch with the boys and they want recognition for what they did. Viaud specifically asked that his photo and name be included. His mother never objected.