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From editor@haiti-progres.com Fri Feb 18 11:13:13 2000
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 10:09:44 -0600 (CST)
From: Haiti Progrès <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 17:46 2/2/00
Article: 89261
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Jalouzi: A neighborhood of misery in the heart of Petionville

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 17 no. 46, 2-8 February 2000

Each week in the Creole section of Haïti Progrès, reporter Altiné Wilkens profiles a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince or its suburbs. With names like Bouck Chany, Ti Cheri (Little Darling), Solino, Vilaj Site Plis (City Plus Village), Twou Vital, Ofelen (Orphan), Bafon Filomen, and Ravin Delma 30, these quarters are home to the majority of Haiti's city dwellers. Nonetheless, they are generally ignored by the Haitian government, despite their horrific conditions.

We offer a translation of this week's profile by Wilkens, as well as an account of his run-in with the brutal CIMO police force while on the job.

A few steps from St. Pierre Place and the Pétionville police headquarters, right in the midst of an area where certain bourgeois and well-to-do petit-bourgeois live and have businesses, there is a run-down popular quarter which extends over several acres of land. Surely, many will already know its name: Jalouzi (Jealousy).

It is an ironic name for this quarter, with its several thousand poorly constructed shacks, right in the heart of Pétionville [Haiti's richest town]. There are various levels of walls which divide the homes of the bourgeoisie on the mountains from the shacks of the poor in Jalouzi. In fact, both above and below, the bourgeois homes surround this wretched neighborhood. A huge ravine which begins on Mount Calvaire, a bourgeois zone, cuts through the middle of Jalouzi. In it there is garbage mixed with all sorts of other debris, along with various dilapidated shacks.

Like many other popular quarters in Haiti, Jalouzi is completely deforested. In place of trees, there are only small huts. Here is how one man from the area describes the disastrous conditions: We live very badly in this area, he said. As you can see, both the rich and the poor have their houses here. But for us poor, we have a very difficult life. In fact, it is hard to understand how we are still alive.

It is truly a miserable area, with its many outhouses and poorly made alley-ways (koridò). Furthermore there is only one entrance, which makes one wonder what would happen if there was a fire or other calamity.

Nevertheless, housing is very expensive in Jalouzi. A single shack rents for up to 4000 gourdes ($228) for six months. Food costs are as expensive as those in downtown Port-au-Prince. For those who don't own their own house here, this place is almost impossible to live, said Janine, who sells charcoal at the entrance into Jalouzi. The houses are expensive, and they are in bad shape. Furthermore, the area lacks schools, solid health centers, and other infrastructure.

Many residents of Jalouzi have to resort to prostitution to survive. There are all sorts of people in Jalouzi, explains a resident prostitute named Astride. I get by anyway I can. There are many girls who earn their little bit of grocery money in the evening. Some young men also have sex with the big shots. It is economic difficulties which force us to lead this kind of life.

As if to expand on Astride's assertion that there are all sorts of people in Jalouzi, a lottery ticket seller adds: There are not yet robberies here, but this area has a lot of men who are involved in crime. According to several people, there are places where criminals hide in Jalouzi. But, they say, it is not easy to attack somebody in this area.

Although Jalouzi is in the middle of Pétionville , it doesn't enjoy all the privileges of this bourgeois town. Many of its children don't go to school, and many people are unemployed. A small street merchant said she was disgusted with the way in which the rich people treat the area. There is a chronic lack of electricity and water in Jalouzi, but not in the more affluent neighborhoods of Pétionville.

Many people have illegal electricity taps in the area, the woman said. We have to pay for the use of other people's telephones where they charge one to three gourdes for three minutes. As for water, we have to buy it on the street.

Jalouzi's biggest problem are the floods which sweep down the ravine from the mountain. The torrential water invades homes, sweeping many away, along with pigs, goats, and other animals. That water is our biggest enemy, said a voudou priest who lives in Jalouzi. It is our enemy when it rains and destroys our homes. It is our friend when we need clean water to drink, bathe, and wash.

In short, the drama of Jalouzi is that it is a miserable poorly built popular quarter in the heart of the bourgeois town of Pétionville. It is a clear example of how the Haitian bourgeoisie doesn't have anything to do with the town where they live; they stay in their mansions, surrounded by high walls.

Meanwhile, Jalouzi is becoming submerged in disease, illiteracy, the high cost of living, and delinquency. One would think this would attract the attention of government authorities and the Pétionville bourgeoisie, above all when you hear some influential people in Jalouzi saying: We are not into candidates nor elections. That has never changed our lives.


Last Saturday, Jan. 22, the police shock-force named CIMO (Company for Intervention for the Maintenance of Order ) was seizing motorcycles which act as taxis in Pétionville when Haïti Progrès reporter Altiné Wilkens was passing by. Here is his account.

I had just finished doing some interviews in a poor quarter of Pétionville called Jalouzi, when I arrived at the station for the Pétionville /Port-au-Prince bus, where the motorcycle station also is located. I saw several CIMO policemen taking motorcycles and piling them into some big trucks. I stood in the street, because some people were saying that the CIMO was committing an injustice. I didn't know for what reason they were saying that at that point. But I saw that the whole street was blocked with cars and a crowd was growing.

There were a lot of motorcyclists which the CIMO had encircled. Looking at the scene, I saw that it was of public interest. So I pulled out my camera, and I took one photo from a distance. It was a wide shot. A moment later, a CIMO policeman said to another `There is a journalist with a camera.' The other said, `Aha! You are taking photos of policemen?' One asked me what press I represented and I told him Haïti Progrès. Another said `I don't give a damn about Haïti Progrès,' and he repeated `I don't give a damn about this journalist.' Then he grabbed my camera.

There was one CIMO dressed a little differently from the others, he wore his black clothes over blue, and he acted like he had more authority than the others. I don't know if he was in charge of the operation. But he now took the camera, he told me to open it and to take the film out. But I wanted to appeal to their conscience to have them see that I had a right to take pictures, and I didn't open it. Then he brutally opened the camera, pulled the film out, and said to me: `If you don't take this camera right now I will smash it, hear?'

After I took the camera, they said to me `Get out of here.' They had all surrounded me with their heavy weapons and clubs in hand. The CIMO policemen even threatened to hit me if I didn't leave. When they finally saw that I wasn't going to leave, they continued with their operation. Shortly thereafter, the CIMO policeman who seemed to be in charge of the others, crushed the roll of film under his boot. After seizing all the motorcycles at the station, they left the scene...

Altiné Wilkens tried to meet with the head of the CIMO, Carel C. Alexandre, Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 24 and 25. He was never allowed to see him. Alexandre said he was busy.

After the acts of brutality of CIMO against the Haiti Progrès' photographer/journalist Rood Chéry last May, the two directors of Haiti Progrès, Maude Leblanc and Benjamin Dupuy, met with the head of the CIMO, who gave his assurance that these acts would no longer continue. Alexandre said that he would distribute a circular to all the departments in the CIMO instructing them to respect the rights of the press. But despite the assurances that he would take sanctions against brutal policemen, nothing has been done. Beatings and violations of the rights of journalists continue. Is the CIMO a state within a state? Has CIMO replaced the Haitian army?