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Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 23:59:37 -0600 (CST)
From: kives <kives@gateway.net>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 16:33 11/4/98
Article: 47169
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.26496.19981110001531@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Jacmel: Government neglect pits neighbors against each other

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 16, no 3, 4-10 November 1998

For over six months, residents of the industrial zone in this southeastern city have been asking the National Service for Potable Water (SNEP) to do something about the rank mosquito-breeding waste-water festering in front of their homes. The SNEP authorities gave them no answers and did nothing.

The putrid water has been making life in the neighborhood unbearable. It flows from the more elevated Henri Christophe neighborhood nearby, where residents have nowhere to dispose of their sewage. The errant flow has caused confrontations between the two neighborhoods. Due to IMF-imposed austerity measures, the SNEP has not kept up with its responsibility to build and clean sewage canals to prevent such problems.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, residents of the industrial zone mobilized a demonstration to block the road running through their area to attract the attention of authorities.

Attention they got when the police soon arrived. Then the cops fired a shot in the air to get the crowd's attention. Long discussions followed, where the police assured the demonstrators that the sewage problem would be remedied immediately. Unfortunately, they had neither the qualifications nor the authority to make such a promise.

The next day, the police arrested Phales Francois and Salnave Raphael, two residents of the industrial zone most affected by and outspoken about the sewage problem, because they had argued with Clermont Belizaire, a resident of the Henri Christophe neighborhood. Rumor has it that the judge who issued the warrant was in cahoots with Belizaire.

Whatever the case, the people of the industrial zone are now enraged about the arrests as well as the sewage that continues to flow down in front of their homes. Consequently, Belizaire has left town for awhile, and even the judge is keeping a low profile.

The whole situation is just one more small illustration of the trouble created by IMF austerity and Haitian government irresponsibility.

Limbe: Townspeople mobilize against waves of crime and water

Over the past two months, the northern town of Limbe experienced by a crime wave. Heavily armed bandits robbed stores and people in their homes, while the police in the area did nothing to stop the rampage of the zenglendo, as violent criminals are called. Finally, various popular organizations in town sat down together to see what they could do to resolve the problem.

They formed a coalition including KOREGA, the Local Popular Assembly of Limbe (APLL), and the Municipal Assembly of Limbe and on, Sunday, Oct. 11, held a large conference/debate with the townspeople.

Speakers from the organizations explained that the insecurity, as the climate of crime and terror in Haiti is called, results directly from the policy of the foreign occupation forces to never disarm or judge the paramilitary criminals and Macoutes who enforced the three year coup d'etat. Impunity is also fomented by the political reconciliation between the Lavalas-turncoats of the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) and the 26 Duvalierist and putschist parties assembled under the banner of the Haitian Conference of Political Parties (CHPP), engineered by the International Republican Institute (IRI). Speakers also reproached Justice Minister Max Antoine for his lack of action. Some of the strongest criticism was leveled at the local police department, which rather than forming patrols, closes its doors at 8 p.m. every evening. The cops go home to sleep, right during the peak night-time hours of zenglendo activity. In the meeting, it was resolved that the community would form vigilance brigades throughout the town.

Early on Tuesday, Oct. 13, the townspeople got their hands on a few well-known thieves in the area, who led them to the more heavily armed zenglendo thugs. Several men were captured by the population and taken to the police station where they were arrested. Since then, the crime wave has ebbed in Limbe.

Meanwhile, the popular organizations of Limbe had also been warning authorities about the likelihood of a flood in town as the Limbe River rose dramatically in the wake of Hurricane Georges. The groups had made a declaration for the press in Cap Haitien asking, among other things, that the government act to divert the river or fortify its banks.

Needless to say, nothing was done and on Saturday, Oct. 17 the river crested and flooded the town, covering National Highway #1 and forcing residents of the Foureau neighborhood to evacuate their homes. Dozens of houses and small plots were wiped out by the flood, and it is estimated that hundreds of farm animals were drowned. Young men made heroic rescue operations of people from flooded homes, which likely saved many lives. Many evacuees ended up sleeping, piled one on another, in a little room in police headquarters.

By Monday, Oct. 19, neither local nor departmental authorities had given any assistance or even encouragement to the people whose homes were washed away. So several hundred flood victims took to the streets of Limbe, throwing up barricades at various points along Route #1. The first reaction of the authorities was to dispatch the special anti-riot unit of the police located in Cap Haitien. They arrested three demonstration leaders, Adrien Michel of the APLL, Zefiren Gallant of the Municipal Assembly, and Ebert Laurent. The police released them shortly thereafter, being faced with an angry crowd.

Feeling they had made their point, at about 5 p.m. the demonstrators removed their barricades to allow traffic through the town to resume. Until now, there has been no assistance to the flood victims from any government ministry or office, not even a declaration about how authorities might try to prevent future disasters.