By: Isabelle L. Papillon - Haiti Liberte
Some popular neighborhoods around the capital were in turmoil over the past week. Heavily armed government thugs, or “legal bandits” as they are commonly called, wearing pink bracelets sowed panic in the areas of Simon Pelé, Cité Soleil, the Croix-des-Bossales market, and the suburbs south of Port-au-Prince.
This violence comes at a time when the Haitian people are mobilizing against the political persecution which the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is waging against partisans of its political opposition. The people are also demanding the release of political prisoners such as Jean Robert Vincent, Louima Louis Juste, Jean Matulnès Lamy, and Joshua and Enold Florestal. Progressive political activists rot in prison without trial for years while gang leaders like the kidnapping kingpin Clifford Brandt, Colombian drug-traffickers, and other notorious criminals are released, as was the case when 327 prisoners “escaped,” with the patent collusion of prison authorities, from the modern new prison in Croix-des-Bouquets. Meanwhile, Haitian diaspora visitors and citizens from the United States continue to be victims when arriving on Haitian soil.
On Wed., Aug. 20 in Cité Soleil, Clifford Charles, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization was killed following a demonstration by residents demanding the release of their imprisoned comrade Louima Louis Juste in the National Penitentiary for the past six months for his political opinions. As a leader of the Movement of the Opposition in Cité Soleil (MOPOSS) Louima Louis Juste had been very active at the head of every demonstration demanding the resignation of the reactionary Martelly-Lamothe regime. Another MOPOSS member, Junior Louimé Louis Juste said that Louima's arrest demonstrates how far the neo-Duvalierist Martelly government is willing to go in persecuting its political opponents.
The general coordinator of the Popular Movement of Haiti (MOPHA), Pierre Lemaire, meanwhile points out that the Martelly government has undertaken a propaganda campaign to pretend it is trying to reestablish the rule of law when, in fact, the regime is working to restore a dictatorship in flagrant violation of democratic gains. The proof is everywhere: since the illegal arrival of this regime in power in May 2011, no elections have been held, the municipal administrations throughout the country are led by de facto executive officers appointed by Martelly, the Senate is cut by a third, and the Chamber of Deputies is vassalized as it undertakes its last session, and the negotiations to hold new elections are still deadlocked.
Every day, one sees a terrible political climate emerging which is not conducive to the holding of elections. On Sat., Aug. 23, 2014, the people of the Bélécourt section of Cite Soleil discovered the bodies of five people killed by the “legal bandits,” four boys and a woman. The victims were on their way to where they try to make a living. The residents of Bélécourt point to a man in the area known as “Gabriel,” a gang leader in the Soleil 17 neighborhood, as the person behind the killings. "These crimes were committed by Gabriel, the leader of the Soleil 17 gang,” said one resident. “He works in Cité Soleil for Laurent Lamothe and Michel Martelly. He said he was ordered by the authorities to control Cité Soleil. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe visited him last week."
On Thu., Aug. 21, in downtown Port-au-Prince at the Croix-des-Bossales market, heavily armed bandits began firing weapons and breaking things. Larger stores were forced to close their doors while small sidewalk merchants were forced to flee, sandwiching buyers in the melee. The panic resulted in an unspecified number of people killed and wounded, according to reports.
On Mon. Aug. 25, lawyers André Michel and Newton Louis Saint-Juste were taken hostage in Petit Goâve at the town’s courthouse by “legal bandits” who are in the pay of the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Stevenson Thimoléon. The lawyers went to Petit Goâve to defend their clients, victims of these bandits. They were attacked by the thugs in the court itself. Officers of the Haitian National Police (PNH) had to intervene to save the lawyers’ lives and escort them from the building.
According to some observers, the climate of panic and political persecution in the capital is being generated purposefully to distract from the brief escape of gang leader Clifford Brandt and the dismal scores students got in state exams despite the government’s incessant propaganda that it is providing free, universal schooling for which $1.50 is arbitrarily levied on international money transfers and 5 cents on each minute of every international telephone call.
One is also justified in wondering if the surge in violence is the result of the distribution of arms to the “legal bandits”?