He is young, nervous and, unlike most other members of the police force in Haiti’s capital city, armed with up-to-date equipment—an Israeli-manufactured Galil automatic rifle. The weapon and the drab olive uniform suggest that he is a member of the force’s widely feared anti-gang unit, notorious even in blood-soaked Port-au-Prince for its ruthlessness. “Allez.r he shouts with a menacing wave of the Galil at the small knot of journalists gathered near the blue Toyota Landcruiser. The vehicle lies on its side on a downtown street not far from the Sacre Coeur church. The rear window is shattered and bullet holes stitch the roof and windshield. There are blood stains on the ground where, moments earlier, the corpse of Haitian Justice Minister Guy Malary had been laid out with those of his bodyguard and driver. ‘Allez!" the policeman shouts again, “Go!" Nobody argues with the nervous young man.
Haiti, already terrorized by three months of military-sponsored violence, became a much more dangerous place last week in the wake of the murder of the 50-year-old Malary, a U.S.trained lawyer, former World Bank official and key supporter of exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The last dwindling hopes of a UN-brokered settlement to return Aristide to power and end military rule almost certainly died with the justice minister. It was Malary who would have overseen the restructuring of the Haitian police, a task that was to have been carried out by a 567-member international force led and largely manned by volunteers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “It may not be the end of the peace process but it certainly looks that way,” commented one dismayed diplomat as the news of Malary’s death circulated around Port-au-Prince.
Only hours before the justice minister was gunned down on Oct. 14, in fact, the process that began last July with a UNnegotiated accord suffered another setback when the advance contingent of Canadian police suddenly pulled out of Haiti. They were recalled when the United Nations pulled the plug on its peacekeeping operation on the grounds that the Haitian military was not living up to its commitment to co-operate. The 51 Mounties abandoned their headquarters at the Hotel Christopher in the forested hills overlooking Port-au-Prince at 7 in the morning. Led by RCMP Supt. JeanJacques Lemay, they moved quietly in a convoy of rented vehicles to the airport, where a Canadian Armed Forces Airbus landed shortly before 8 a.m.
Two hours later, the Mounties were gone, leaving behind a local population already frightened by the departure earlier in the week of the U.S. navy transport
ship Harlan County, carrying about 200 American and Canadian military engineers, construction workers and medics who were prevented from docking by hundreds of armed and angry protesters. The withdrawal also left a resentful team of international human rights observers from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
VIOLENCE DERAILS A UN PLAN FOR RESTORING DEMOCRACY TO HAITI
“For the first time in history, it seems that soldiers left before the women and children,” was the bitter comment of one female American observer on the 220-member team, known as the International Civil Mission (ICM).
Faced with the departure of both the soldiers and the police, the mission itself began the process of pulling out of Haiti. The 150 observers, scattered in 13 bases outside the capital, returned to Port-auPrince to leave for the neighboring Dominican Republic. Local radio stations said that two groups that support the Haitian military were telling all white foreigners to leave immediately.
The collapse of the international efforts to restore peace and order left Haiti’s long-suffering and impoverished population to face hardships that include the reimposition of a UN oil embargo, enforced by six American warships that U.S. President Bill Clinton dispatched to the region. The people will also inevitably suffer the depredations of the tight little band of Haitian military officers and their business backers who have been running the country since Aristide was overthrown in 1991. Ever since UN special representative Dante Caputo brokered an accord on July 3 that would have seen top military and police officials resign and Aristide returned to the island
on Oct. 30, those soldiers and industrialists have been working to undermine the agreement by means of a cold-blooded campaign of terror.
Malary was not the first to die. Scores have perished in similar fashion in the last three months. Like Malary, most have been murdered by the armed civilian thugs known as “attachés,” the modern-day descendants of the dreaded Tontons Macoutes of dictator François (Papa Doc) Duvalier’s era. Unlike the well-known Malary, however, their bodies have usually been dumped unceremoniously on the north edge of the city.
With a few exceptions, the precise identity of those behind the recent terror campaign is not clear. Last week, Caputo laid the blame on what he described as “two or three hundred thugs, false nationalists, mafiosi.” Caputo, a former Argentine foreign minister, singled out
army commander Lt.-Gen. Raoul Cédras and Port-auPrince police Chief Lt.Col. Michel Fransois as the two individuals most directly responsible. Of the two, it is Fransois who is more feared. “He’s the spider at the centre of the web,” said one Haitian businessman after being given ironclad assurances that his name would not be used.
Known on Port-auPrince’s pungent streets as “Sweet Mickey,” Fransois is a 36-year-old career army officer. Unlike the majority in the lighter-skinned officer class, he is black and comes from poor roots. His father was a sergeant in Papa Doc’s presidential guard, later elevated to the rank of major. Fransois’s skin color and family background account for his popularity among the army’s rank and file.
His support from some members of Haiti’s business community is based on another commodity: money. Diplomats based in Haiti and members of the business community in Port-au-Prince estimate that Fransois has made between $17 million and $20 million since he helped to overthrow Aristide in the 1991 coup. He controls the country’s cement industry, owns the only towing business in Port-auPrince and has helped create new businessmen with strong loyalties to him.
His removal from his post in charge of the police and their paid attachés is generally agreed to be the key to any longterm solution. But Fransois has made it clear that he has no intentions to comply. “I’m Haitian,” he declared last week in one of his rare public pronouncements. “I have chosen to remain and die in my country.” It may be a boast—but then again, it may not. □
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