CKUT Radio: Haiti - A Rough 2007
CKUT Radio: Haiti - A Rough 2007
Aaron Lakoff (AL): I'm joined on the line right now with Patrick Elie. Patrick is a long time human rights and political activist. He joins us from Port au Prince, Haiti. Good evening Patrick.
Patrick Elie (PE): Good evening Aaron.
AL: So, what we'll be talking about is recent events that have just happened in Port au Prince. We have reports, I guess it's gone out quite a bit now, that the UN was engaged in quite a large attack in CitÃ© Soleil, in Port au Prince, on Friday December 22nd. Patrick can you tell me a little bit about what you know about what happened on December 22nd in CitÃ© Soleil?
PE: Yes. I can tell you that what happened was, in our opinion, a catastrophic [inaudible], for the UN forces and maybe some elements of the [PNH]...descended and attack[ed] CitÃ© Soleil with military means and military force, and of course, everybody could have predicted that this would have caused a lot of what is being called now 'collateral damages,' but it means kids, women, people who have nothing to do with nothing at all, being killed by stray bullets. And, of course, anybody could have predicted that any kind of military operation in CitÃ© Soleil would have resulted in that kind of collateral damage. It is a very, very bad decision; it is one that was prepared, in a way, by a campaign against the legitimate government, trying to, if you want, to push it into an all-repressive mode, and the results are terrible, terrible. What is happening is, in our opinion, an attempt at a new coup d'Ã©tat, where they will not in fact kidnap the President, but they will impose on the elected regime an agenda that's the exact opposite of what the people took to the streets and took to the polls to impose. And we are hoping that the government will change course and stand with the people rather than bow to the pressure of the traditional elite and the chanceries - you know it's the same, it's the U.S., it's the French embassy, and it's the Canadians, not the Canadians, I should say the Canadian government, trying to 'domesticate' the new regime. And if that happens Haiti will suffer more, because, you see, whenever you have this will to impose on the people and the will to resist, the result is more violence, and we don't need more of that, really.
AL: Some reports have compared this recent massacre to the one that was carried out by MINUSTAH, a very well known massacre, on July 6, 2005. Of course, back then the justification on MINUSTAH's part was that they were going in to take out a gang leader at the time, Dread Wilme. Can you talk a little bit about what the MINUSTAH justification was for this raid, whether the context has changed?
PE: I must tell you that there has been a new wave of insecurity in Haiti of late; kidnapping targeting precisely schoolchildren, and the minute we saw that, we understood that it was a wave of purely political kidnapping, to set the mood for an all-out repression. And, it's interesting that you mention Dread Wilme. Since his assassination, instead of things becoming more peaceful, they've gotten worse. And I think this new wave of repression is only going to make things worse. The population of CitÃ© Soleil is completely adamant, because they've seen what has happened, you know, people getting killed miles away from the actual theatre of operations, because the UN is using [20mm rapid fire] cannons [and] .50 calibre machine guns, and if anybody knows CitÃ© Soleil, which is a shantytown, it is not the type [of neighborhood that can sustain damage from] these kind of weapons. People are really, really, very very fed up with what has happened.
AL: For a long time now or certainly since the United Nations has been in Haiti, but more specifically in CitÃ© Soleil. The residents of CitÃ© Soleil have been demanding that MINUSTAH get out, and as far as I understand, the MINUSTAH mandate will be up again for review in a couple months. Do you see MINUSTAH's presence continuing in Haiti for a long time or do you see the Haitian government and Preval kind of giving in to the will of the residents of CitÃ© Soleil and asking for the UN to leave?
PE: To be frank, I do not see the present government asking for the MINUSTAH to leave. And of course, you know, if you want to ask for the MINUSTAH to leave, then you have to take the necessary steps to secure the country, and that means, really, to give the Haitian people the means to secure themselves. We have to have, in this country, a security force that will not be against the people, that will be formed from the people themselves. And that's the only way we will secure this country, you see. MINUSTAH, unfortunately, has proven, and recently with that attack on CitÃ© Soleil, that it is no friend of the Haitian people, and we definitely have to get rid of them. But of course, we also have to have our own security in our hands. And we hope the present government, which certainly has the legitimacy, will be bold enough to do that.
AL: Do you seen any kind of resolution to these UN attacks that are taking place, in terms of the security situation in Haiti? What needs to happen for them to stop?
PE: I think that come early January, if the present government does not very very resolutely state that it stands resolutely with the people that elected them, and change the course of the policies its been waging, I think we are in for a very rough 2007. I'm certainly hoping that this is not what will happen, but if the government does not respond to the people's resolution with a resolution of its own, I think we are in for a very rough time.
AL: And just one last question: as 2006 comes to a close, of course, most importantly with the elections and with the inauguration of Rene Preval this year, what do you see happening in terms of the current context with the main popular demands of the Haitian people in terms of Aristide coming back to Haiti, in terms of the release of all the political prisoners, in terms of retribution for the crimes committed under the Latortue government. Where do you see those popular demands going?
PE: I think if these popular demands are not addressed, we have some very rough waters [ahead]. You know, the de facto [Latortue-Alexandre] government has really set a trap for this [Preval-Alexis] government in many ways. For example, in firing thousands of people in a country where, as you know, the level of unemployment is very high. But they have also hired a lot of people they have not paid, and that the new legitimate government is now stuck with. It's a time to be bold as the Haitian people were bold in last February, you know when everybody said that nothing could be done, and the Haitian people mobilized and snatched victory away from the enemies of democracy - now it's time for the government to be bold, and they will have to do some serious change of policy in the beginning of the year that comes. Otherwise, we are heading for serious trouble.
AL: I've been on the phone with Patrick Elie from Port au Prince, Haiti. Thank-you very much for speaking with is tonight Patrick.
PE: Hang in there and have a better 2007. Kembe la.
 The following clarification and addition was received by ZNet from Patrick Elie via e-mail:
"In one of the inaudible portions, I was referring to the UN using 50 caliber machine guns and 20mm rapid fire canons in a shanty town. I...have seen the kind of damage these weapons have caused in CitÃ© Soleil. These projectiles can go through many of the typical houses of CitÃ© Soleil and if they do not hit you directly, the fragments will kill you. You should also note that after an operation involving more than 500 soldiers and supposedly well-targeted at particular gang of kidnappers, no hostage were freed, none of the wanted gangster was captured or killed and no weapons seized. This recent orgy of violence by the UN troops should be denounced in the strongest terms. The objective, of the elites and the UN acting as proxy for the US, France and Canada, is to impose a people-less democracy."