June 21, 2004
By LUCSON PIERRE-CHARLES
The recent disastrous floods that killed more than 2,000 people, left some 1,800 missing and 10,000 more homeless have been a tragedy of enormous proportion and unless some drastic measures are taken, this disaster could be seen as a preview of the things to strike Haiti. Such a tragedy is the consequence of years of bad policies and mismanagement inherited by the current administration. The Prime Minister's reaction to the disaster demonstrated undoubtedly that his administration is reluctant to deal with one of the most important crisis facing this impoverished nation today. He blamed deforestation for what happened and promised, among other things, to create a forest protection unit made of former soldiers of the demobilized Haitian army. Blaming deforestation as the only cause is easy but the environmental degradation is much greater than that. It is a chain-linked dilemma and until Haitians pull up their forces together, the prospect will remain grim.
The situation on the ground is dreadful. The country is in desperate need but meaningful assistance fails to materialize. Following Aristide's ouster, the United Nations called for $35 million in emergency funds from foreign donors but so far has only managed to raise about $9 million. The country is descending into chaos and to have a better understanding of what lies ahead, one needs to look no further than to the latest travel warning for Haiti issued by the Bureau of consular affairs at the State Department.
According to that statement, the "situation in Haiti remains unpredictable and potentially dangerous despite the presence of foreign security forces." This warning followed a report issued in early May by the United Nations reaching a similar conclusion.
On June 1, the U.N. troops headed by Brazil, deployed to the island in order to replace the current contingent of American, French and Canadian soldiers. According to Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, the Brazilian general who will head the U.N. contingent, this mission will be Haiti's last chance to end decades of violence. The Prime Minister, Mr. Gérard Latortue, will certainly count on these troops to disarm all rebels and gangs. Knowing that the survival of his administration depends largely upon the presence of the foreign troops, he is appealing to the Americans - even 100 troops - to extend their mission but mindful that the last American soldier will leave at the end of June, he is shifting reliance upon the new U.N. troops by inviting them to stay until February 7, 2006 when the new President will take office. The job of this latest U.N. mission is manifold but disarmament of all factions will not be part of it. This latest transfer of command is nothing more than a window dressed opportunity designed to give this puppet administration some imaginary stability in order to run a farcical election where the winner will be drawn from the same party affiliation.
The whole mission's contingent will be around 8,000 troops but so far only Brazil has provided 1,400 troops, with Chile to send 600 and Argentina, 500. Following the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994, a contingent of 20,000 Marines failed to disarm the newly disbanded army. Hence, one must wonder where this small U.N. contingent will find the necessary means to carry out such a colossal task? In order to get a glimpse of how disarmament will take place, one needs to look at a recent incident where 8 ex-soldiers decided to parade in the capital with their heavy-loaded weapons. These so-called rebels were arrested by the American-led troops. But following protest by other ex-soldiers, they were released but refused to leave the facility without their weapons. After two days of intense negotiations, the administration and the police remarkably bowed to their request and granted them three of the weapons.
This interim administration boasts itself about being technocratic and bringing tangible change to the population. But, as it is becoming clear, these technocrats have not only embarked on a regressive trend, they have set the stage for a complete turnaround toward chaos. The security apparatus is in the verge of collapsing due to the proliferation of small arms, the mere presence of the heavily armed rebels and Aristide loyalists, the increasing gang activities, the rampant rise in kidnappings and the release of 3,000 prisoners by Guy Philippe and his squads following the ouster of Mr. Aristide. Some of the rebels will be integrated into the police force despite the fact that they killed a great number of policemen and burned down police headquarters in the lead up to the coup.
In most parts of the country, they appointed themselves as mayors, police chiefs and judges. Under Mr. Aristide's leadership, the police force was often criticized for being too heavily politicized. Under this technocratic administration, the police force will consist of convicted human rights abusers, murderers, rapists, thugs and death squads who have committed some of the worst atrocities during the first coup in 1991.
Military strategists and commanders often argue that victory - or success for that matter - is measured not only by the defeat of the enemy but most importantly by what is left behind. In 1994, 20,000 Marines were sent to return a democratically elected President to his office. They left behind a disbanded army but not disarmed, which will later be used to undermine the same democracy that the Marines went to uphold in the first place. Ten years later, the U.S.-led troops will leave behind these same ex-soldiers heavily armed once again but this time in control and set to prolong the reign of abuse and impunity. They even have plans to run the country and make laws - they recently established their own political party.
In such a context, providing security and stability - put forward as a pretext for military intervention - was never a priority for the American-led coalition. It was to get rid of a democratically elected President, establish a puppet administration - disregard the constitution for instance - and lay the groundwork for the upcoming capture of the presidency by the oligarchy. Such an intervention was to ultimately show the rest of the world that this endangered island is incapable of self-governance and to highlight such dismal legacy, disarmament must take a back seat. But if history is to repeat itself, the people will somehow find ways to overcome this challenge and portray a different story.
Lucson Pierre-Charles, a native of Haiti, now lives in Maryland.