Originally: Peasant movement leader blames Lavalas for violence in Plateau Central

The leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement, Chavanne Jean‑ Baptiste, has said that the violence in Plateau Central can be blamed on infighting within the ruling Lavalas movement and “that the situation is being used as a pretext by the government to spread fear” and to blame the opposition. Jean‑Baptiste was speaking in a radio interview broadcast on 29 July four days after four members of an Interior Ministry delegation had been shot dead in Plateau Central and their bodies set on fire, and another member of the delegation had been seriously wounded and transferred to the Dominican Republic for treatment. Jean‑Baptiste confirmed that there are some people in the Pernal area who call themselves former members of the (former) armed forces and frequently attack policemen, who go in fear for their lives because, he said, they do not have the means to defend themselves. He added that he did not believe that the government could not control the situation in such a small area if it wanted to but “it is as if the government is satisfied with the current situation so that they can use it to attack the opposition”. The following is the text of the interview with Jean‑Baptiste, by Rotchild Francois, Jr, broadcast by Haitian Metropole radio on 29 July:


Our guest this morning is Chavanne Jean‑Baptiste of the Papaye Peasant Movement [MPP]. The conversation is as follows:


[Rotchild Francois, Jr ‑ recording, in Creole] Mr Jean‑Baptiste, you live in the Plateau Central area where violent attacks have been taking place and where a delegation from the Interior Ministry that was going to install a new mayoral cartel in that area fell into an ambush. Four of them were shot dead and another, wounded, one was transported to the Dominican Republic for medical care. It is a serious incident. At the level of the Papaye National Congress of Peasants Movement [MPNKP], are you very concerned about the situation that is developing in Plateau Central?


[Jean‑Baptiste] Of course. We want to seize this occasion to present our condolences to the families of the victims and not just those who are the victims in the latest incident. We must say that what has been going on in that area for several months now is a real concern for us in the MPP and MPNKP. It is a situation that bothers us a great deal, because they are using it to spread fear among the population and to falsely accuse people too. So, we can say that the victims’ woe has benefited the Lavalas government.


[Francois] Can you give us an idea of what actually happened on 25 July? Because [Interior] Minister [Jocelerme] Privert said that, after shooting those people, the assailants set the bodies on fire. That is really a barbaric act.


[Jean‑Baptiste] Yes, it is complete barbaric. The information that we have is the same as what Privert, the city delegate and the press reported. It was a delegation from the Interior Ministry that went to Belladere to install new de facto Lavalas mayoral cartels in two different areas. A trap was set for the delegation and they fell into the ambush, in which they were attacked. The assailants killed four of them and seriously wounded another. They indeed set the bodies on fire after they had killed them. It is indeed a barbaric act.


[Francois] How do you personally understand those acts of violence in that area?


[Jean‑Baptiste] We must say that it is a complex and complicated situation which really requires a lot of study in order for people to understand it. First of all, the first factor for the violence is the generalized conflict which always exists within the Lavalas community. It has been going on since 2000. The Lavalas people are fighting each other. One of the reasons is the money that the Port‑ au‑Prince authorities send to that area. There is also a conflict that has to do with the contraband that is going on at the border such as car dealings, drug trafficking, etc.


So, the fight is among the Lavalas people. As you may recall, there is a family that was killed in Belladere, where the coordinator of the Lavalas Family [FL] and his wife were murdered. According to reporting, it was an internal conflict that had to do with drug money which was not shared out properly. So, the situation has its roots in the FL.


There may be other groups that are involved in contraband and drug issues, too. It is true that there are some people in the Pernal area who call themselves former members of the [former] armed forces. But nobody knows how many of them are in that group. It is certain that those people can attack anybody. They mainly attack policemen.


The police in that area have problems in functioning. The policemen are afraid for their lives. Besides, they cannot stay in that area because they are not given the means even to defend themselves. That causes them to be afraid.


That same group attacks people from time to time. Some of the attacks that took place in the region caused people to have doubts. Such as the attack on the Peligre Hydroelectric Plant ‑ the authorities blamed that group for it. They called the action sabotage. But people know that when there is a problem in the government, even when a government vehicle breaks down, it can take at least a year before a solution is found. But in the case of Peligre, the power plant was repaired very quickly. People have reasons to have doubts about the authors of the Peligre attack, because we know that the current government only stands on lies. One thing is certain: there is a group that attacks people once in a while.


But the worst thing is that they always use those attacks as a pretext to block a whole town, fire in the air all night and say that they were informed that assailants were going to come to that town. They blocked the town of Mirebalais, searched people and looked for former members of the armed forces throughout the area. They looted their houses.


So, we feel that the situation is being used as a pretext by the government to spread fear. And, unfortunately, each time something happens, they hold the opposition responsible for it. But we know very well that it is not true.


[Francois] We shall talk about the accusations brought against the opposition in a while. [Advertising break]


[Francois, continuing] According to you, what would be the motivation of those former members of the armed forces? Have they said what they really want? And is the area so vast that the government is not able to control it?


[Jean‑Baptiste] As everybody knows, Haiti is a small country. Plateau Central is just a tiny part of a small territory. Of course, the border is quite long. But what we have noticed is that the government has not really made any effort to control the situation. All the attacks have occurred in only one area. They take place in the Lower Plateau Central between Lascahobas and Belladere.


Sometimes they carry out their attack in the Baptiste area but they are stationed in a small area. No arrangements were made in that area to ensure the safety of the citizens. You can see how far the government has gone in its lack of concern.


For instance, because of internal conflicts which have caused the authorities to appoint another municipal cartel, they sent a delegation from Port‑au‑Prince to that area without giving them security cover while they know very well that the Lascahobas‑ Belladere area is very dangerous. The policemen there had no means to protect those people.


So, it is as if the government is satisfied with the current situation so that they can use it to attack the opposition. I do not believe that the government is unable to control that situation. I do not think that that area is beyond their control. If that is the case then we can say that the safety of the Haitian people is in danger.


[Francois] All the statements that are made by the government tend to make one believe that it is an armed branch of the opposition that is operating in Plateau Central and they deliberately target Judy C. Roy. All the government officials say that it is the armed branch of the opposition that is at work in that area.


[Jean‑Baptiste] As you know, the Lavalas regime is a regime which has nothing to do with political ethics. It has nothing to do with morality. They say what they want when they want. Actually, I do not think the Lavalas people believe in what their leaders say anymore. Indeed, they often say that it is the [opposition Democratic] Convergence or an armed branch of Convergence. Sometimes they accuse the opposition or the group of 184 civil society organizations [G‑ 184].


Now, they have arrested Mrs Roy at her house as everybody knows. They tortured her and never sent her to court. And two weeks later, after the attack that took place in the Lower Plateau Central area, they found a pretext because the current government is always turning situations to its advantage, as they did in Cite Soleil recently. They found a pretext to accuse Mrs Roy.

If it is true that it was her organization that committed the deadly attack, why then did they not accuse her when they arrested her? Everybody who can analyse the situation can see that they have now found a pretext, a reason, to accuse her. The government has used the woes of those people so that they can justify the illegal acts committed against Mrs Roy.


[Francois] So, according to you, there is no truth in the statements made by the government when they say that it is an armed branch of the opposition that is striking in Plateau Central?


[Jean‑Baptiste] It is certain that the people who are striking there are against the government, because in some statements they make when they call at the police stations they say: Go away. You are not ashamed of yourselves. Give us back our barracks.


It is true that they are leading a psychological war to cause the policemen to be afraid. And the Plateau Central policemen are really frightened. As they say, they are not afraid of the opposition, they are only afraid of the assailants, because they cannot defend themselves. Therefore, there is no truth in what the current government says. People just cannot trust them.


If it is indeed a sector of the opposition that is committing the attacks then they should take measures to capture the group concerned and prove publicly and scientifically that the assailants belong to such and such a group of the opposition. We all know that what they say is not true. And who knows, perhaps it is just another scenario that is made up to justify the illegal act committed against Mrs Roy.


[Francois] Are there a lot of concerns among the people of Plateau Central regarding the acts of violence that prevail there? Because the government always holds the opposition or an armed branch of the opposition responsible for them. They always announce that they will take measures to control the situation and arrest those armed men. What has been done in fact?


[Jean‑Baptiste] Whenever something happens then the de facto prime minister and all the other branches of the government always say that they are going to control the situation. But, in fact, what we always notice is that they always take measures to cause people to be afraid. For instance, they have caused some peaceful former members of the armed forces who have nothing to do with violence to go into hiding. They take measures to surround the town of Hinche and fire in the air all night in order to frighten people. They search the houses of innocent people and vehicles.


They have never worked out a strategy really to control the assailants who perpetrate attacks in the Lower Plateau Central area. I believe that the violence is in the interest of the government so that they may continue to make the people be afraid. Everybody in the area is overcome by fear, civilians and policemen alike. And it is in the interest of the government.


[Francois] Would you say that the government is using the Plateau Central violence for political gain?


[Jean‑Baptiste] Absolutely. For instance, each time something happens, they always use the Plateau Central violence to clear themselves in the eyes of the international community. They do so to put the responsibility on the opposition. By accusing the opposition they are trying to get people to sympathize with the government, to show that the government is the victim.


They want to make people believe that the opposition does not want democracy and that they want to take power by force. So, they are acting that way so that they can divert the people’s attention from the reality, which is the Lavalas dictatorship.


So, I believe that, when people are suffering, especially the people of Plateau Central, and when some policemen got killed while their deaths are not even reported most of the time, all those things serve the regime. The violence helps them t o lead their battle, an immoral battle against the opposition. That is the reason why they do not take measures to ensure the security of the populace of Plateau Central.


[Francois] Do you think that that situation might go on a long time? What do you think could be done to put an end to it?


[Jean‑Baptiste] It will go on as long as the Lavalas government is able to use that situation against its political adversaries and as a political and terrible weapon to clear itself in the eyes of the international community.


We think that it is a completely immoral attitude that has nothing to do with political ethics. We believe that the government will continue to use that weapon.


It is like that situation where Jean‑Robert Faveur [former police director, now in exile] said that he was given a list of people for him to incorporate into the police. Actually, those people are already integrated into the police. They wear CIMO [Intervention and Maintenance of Order Company] uniforms in the Plateau Central area.


They are not there to control the Pernal situation. They are there to spread fear among the populace and the democratic opposition. We think that the people’s lives are in danger. If the government cannot set up a strategy to control the Pernal area then it is because they do not want to do so. In this case the current government should resign, as is the case in other, serious, countries.


When a government cannot control what is going on in a small area then they step down. The current government already has a thousand reasons for it to resign but it will not do so because the violence is in its interests.