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2006-01-17

Independent Journalist Reports on Ongoing Violence in Haiti, Upcoming Elections

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We speak with independent journalist Reed Lindsay about the latest in Haiti, where nearly two years ago the elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown. Haitians have yet to vote for a new government. In the wake of the recent death of the commander of the UN force in Haiti, Lindsay speaks about how UN raids on poor neighborhoods killed and wounded civilians and the upcoming elections. [includes rush transcript]

The US-installed interim regime has delayed elections four times. The latest announced date is February 7th.

In a shocking development, the commander of the UN force in Haiti, Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, was found dead in his Port-au-Prince hotel room last week with a gunshot wound to his head. UN officials called his death a suicide. Bacellar had recently clashed with his superiors and Haitian business leaders over his opposition to their calls for a crackdown on the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil.

Last week, Brazilian Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto announced investigators were probing other possibilities before confirming Lt. Bacellar’s death was a suicide. Chilean Gen. Eduardo Aldunate Herman has been named interim head of the UN force. Gen. Herman was one of 11 former high-ranking Chilean military officials under former dictator Augusto Pinochet who trained at the US-run School of Americas. Herman’s appointment has stoked fears the UN will step up its raids on poor neighborhoods like Bel Air and Cite Soleil. These raids have already killed scores of innocent people. Many Haitians allege the raids are part of a campaign against Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party. Lavalas demonstrations are routinely targeted, and most of their leaders are in jail or exile.

One of them is the Reverend Gerard Jean Juste. He was jailed in July for a murder that occurred while he was out of the country. Government officials subsequently prevented his bid to run for President, claiming he could not run from jail. He remains in prison despite an international outcry and the recent diagnosis he is suffering from leukemia. Meanwhile, another Lavalas leader, the folk singer So Ann Auguste, has been in prison since May 2004. Last week, Amnesty International declared her a political prisoner and called for her release.

  • Reed Lindsay, an independent international reporter who has written for many publications, including the Observer of London, the Boston Globe and Newsday.
    - Website: ReedLindsay.com

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to Haiti right now to speak about the latest with Reed Lindsay. He’s an independent international reporter who has written for many publications, including The Observer of London, the Boston Globe and Newsday. He joins us from Port-au-Prince. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Reed.

REED LINDSAY: Thanks a lot.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us the latest at this point?

REED LINDSAY: Well, the latest happening here is yesterday there was a sit-in, or so they called it. It was a demonstration organized by the Group of 184 in front of the United Nations to protest what they feel is a lack of U.N. action in the face of recent kidnappings and to call for stronger action in Cite Soleil, to lift Cite Soleil, or as Reginald Boulos, the President of the Chamber of Commerce said, to "cleanse" Cite Soleil of criminals there.

AMY GOODMAN: And the elections that — well, four times put off — the latest is they will take place February 7. Who will run?

REED LINDSAY: Yeah, those — that date seems pretty certain now. There’s not a lot of talk at this point about changing the date again, and — but the clear-cut favorite is Rene Preval, and there have been some polls, and he’s been leading in polls. But, you know, just walking in any poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince and asking people who are they going to vote for, there’s either — some people are very apathetic and disillusioned with the whole process and aren’t going to vote and don’t like anybody, and there are many who will vote for Rene Preval. But it’s very difficult to find people who are enthusiastic about any other of the 35 candidates.

AMY GOODMAN: And the latest U.N. admission that in a recent raid of Cite Soleil, that they killed a number of innocent civilians there, something that we reported on Democracy Now!, that the people of Cite Soleil have been saying for quite a long time, as well as the latest information about the death of Bacellar?

REED LINDSAY: Right. Well, you know, I was in Cite Soleil the other day, and the hospital there, the public hospital — it’s the only public hospital in Cite Soleil; it’s an enormous neighborhood — has received a record number of bullet wound victims the last month and a half, about nearly 100 since the beginning of December, and they keep coming in every day. And you go into the hospital, the wing of the hospital where the bullet wound victims are, and every single one [inaudible], they say they’ve been shot by the United Nations, and [no audio]

AMY GOODMAN: Reed, are you there?

REED LINDSAY: — It’s difficult to prove whether it’s the U.N. that’s shooting them. But on the other hand, with the amount of shooting that is going on every day, I think that some of these people, you have to believe what they’re saying.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Reed Lindsay, we have to end it there. We’ve come to the end of the program. We’ll continue to report on Haiti this week here on Democracy Now! Reed Lindsay, speaking to us from Port-au-Prince.

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