December 10, 2002
Lavalas Senator Dany Toussaint Accuses a High Official for Attempt on his Life
Lavalas Senator Dany Toussaint accused by name Lavalas State Secretary for Public Security, Jean-Gérard Dubreuil, for the attempt on his life that took place last Friday near Pétion-Ville.
Toussaint made the point that Secretary Dubreuil betrayed himself and claimed responsibility for the attempt when he said on Saturday that “the police did not have any wounded officers within their ranks.”
The Secretary for Public Security gave this comment to the press on Saturday before explaining the reasons that pushed the authorities to remove Dany Toussaint’s security detail. Dubreuil explained that this decision was part of a program to improve the security the police provide to the population, which resulted in a reduction of police staff allocated to the protection of VIP’s.
The Senator for the West Department, who is not about to shed tears regarding this decision, feels that Secretary Dubreuil should have had the decency to notify him in order to give him the time to take the necessary measures for his protection. Senator Toussaint stressed the strange coincidence between the decision to remove the 8 officers assigned to his protection and the attack on him the same day.
When questioned about a potential political motivation behind the attack, Senator Toussaint indicated that such motivation was probable. “I am seeking information along this line and I am not neglecting the political angle for the time being.”
He also referred to his denunciation of cases involving corruption and kidnapping by police officers and he accused the Haitian National Police for the attack on him last Friday.
Caribbean leaders call for new elections in Haiti. Aristide briefs summit on country’s political crisis
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) — Caribbean leaders on Sunday called for the immediate establishment of a provisional electoral council in Haiti to allow for new elections to end a political stalemate.
Heads of states of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), meeting at a summit in Cuba, also urged opponents of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to cooperate with his government in establishing the electoral council.
The 14 leaders said in a statement they were deeply concerned with “the continuing instability and the prospect of a breakdown in the social order” in Haiti, where tensions and violence have been mounting.
Aristide, whose country became the 15th member of Caricom in July, told the meeting that he had picked his representative for the electoral council, a step welcomed by his neighbors.
“Heads of government call for the immediate establishment of the Provisional Electoral Council. … So that free, fair and transparent elections can be organized during the first half of 2003,” the statement said.
Aristide, who faces criticism at home over violence allegedly committed by his supporters and a disintegrating economy, briefed the Caribbean leaders on the political crisis.
Caricom urged international financial institutions to “relaunch” aid programs for Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation.
The Caribbean leaders attended a weekend summit in Havana hosted by Cuban president Fidel Castro to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations with the Communist-led island.
Four Haitian journalists hiding from pro-Aristide gang
Plight of group underlines peril facing profession across nation
BY MARIKA LYNCH
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Esdras Mondelus named his station Radio Etincelle, literally Radio Spark, because he wanted his broadcasts to illuminate people’s lives. But the light has gone out.
The station’s four reporters, plus three others, are in hiding here, living in fear.
Two weeks ago, the so-called Cannibal Army, a gang that supports President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, went hunting for them at their station in the northern town of Gonaves. The journalists jumped a wall and hid in the local bishop’s house until police escorted them to the capital.
Meanwhile, their headquarters was torched.
The group represents some of the 64 Haitian journalists threatened over the past two years, says the Haitian Journalists Association, which filed a complaint on their behalf to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. In other cases, journalists were beaten by police, attacked by protesting university students, and one says he was assaulted by members of the presidential guard, according to association documents.
In Haiti, where nearly 85 percent of the population can’t read, radio is king — a powerful and often feared force.
Reporters risk their lives, or even lose it like Jean Dominique, the popular news director at Radio Haiti Inter who was shot to death in his station’s courtyard.
A year later in 2001, another reporter, Brignol Lindor, was hacked to death with a machete after the local mayor denounced him.
”You have armed groups linked to the government constantly threatening journalists. What’s worse is that the government often doesn’t make sure these people are punished. That’s the most serious threat to press freedom,” said Joseph Guyler Delva, head of the association.
The government realizes that ”some journalists are being persecuted for voicing criticisms,” said presidential spokesman Luc Especa. The violence is part of the political polarization in Haiti right now, Especa said.
”The government is doing the best it can to establish order and to urge everyone to remain calm,” Especa said.
Delva concedes there is a measure of press freedom in today’s Haiti. For example, he said, unlike Haiti under the Duvalier regime, reporters can criticize the government and not worry about officials shutting down the station. Yet, he said, there are still grave problems.
The journalists in hiding are from Gonaves, a northern port city four hours by car from the capital.
It is the headquarters for the Cannibal Army, a pro-Aristide gang led by Amiot Metayer, who escaped from jail in August.
The government refuses to rearrest him.
Reporters at Radio Etincelle said they’ve been getting threats since their live coverage of a protest in Cap-Hatien Nov. 17, which turned out to be the largest anti-Aristide march the country has seen.
So on Nov. 21, the crew was in the streets of Gonaves again, covering a student march. Word spread that the Cannibal Army was after them, Mondelus said.
The reporters went back to the station and opened up the telephone lines to get callers’ reaction to the day’s political events.
Soon after, members of the Cannibal Army ran toward the station, and seven reporters — including three that work for other stations but use the office — jumped the station’s wall. They hopped on the back of motorcycle taxis, common in Haiti’s countryside, and went to the bishop’s house.
”We thought we were already dead,” said Mondelus, 31, Radio Etincelle owner and executive director.
The reporters say they cowered in the courtyard for two hours until the bishop finally let them in.
The bishop feared reprisals for hiding them. At one point, church leadership wanted the reporters to leave, but the head of Haiti’s Organization of American States mission intervened.
The reporters stayed for seven days, eating meals of spaghetti brought by a church member, praying they wouldn’t be found. They called their wives, their mothers, every day.
The mother of reporter Jean-Robert François was in tears. Michelin François told her son and local radio that she’d received threats. We know where your son is; we’re going to kill him, the callers said.
”Try not to cry too much,” Jean-Robert François said, trying to console his mother. But she too had to leave her home and go into hiding.
The Haitian Journalists Association called the police, which sent three high-level officers on a rescue mission to pick up the group by helicopter. The aircraft was supposed to whisk them to safety Friday, Nov. 29, but couldn’t take off. It needed to be serviced.
The reporters had to move, though: Their hide-out at the bishop’s house had been discovered.
They went to a hotel, but thugs came and started firing outside. Delva, of the journalists association, was on the phone with Haiti’s head of police at the time.
”We could see people from our room, running, falling down, trying to flee,” Delva said. “The journalists panicked. They had nowhere to run.”
REFUGE IN CAPITAL
The police immediately sent two jeeps, which took the reporters to Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Hatien. There they boarded a small plane for the capital, where they continue to be in hiding.
The reporters want to go back to work but say they won’t until the government meets some conditions.
They want Haiti’s police to arrest the gang leader Metayer and take away the Cannibal Army’s weapons. They haven’t heard an answer.
”We’re still waiting,” Mondelus said.