Violent Attack On Guacimal Plantation Workers

Report by Charles Arthur, Haiti Support Group, 29 May 2002

News flash!—Violent attack on Guacimal plantation workers, injured journalists detained by police.

Reports are coming in of a violent confrontation at the Guacimal company orange plantation in St. Raphael, northern Haiti. Two people have been killed, and many injured, some of them seriously. Two journalists, Darwin St. Julien from Haiti Progres newspaper, and Allan Deshommes from Radio Atlantic, were among those seriously injured. They are being detained by the local police without charge, even though a doctor has advised they should seek urgent specialist treatment.

On the morning of 27 May, a group of Guacimal plantation workers, together with activists from the Batay Ouvriye First of May union federation, arrived at the plantation to allocate plots of land between the orange trees which local workers and peasants use to grow basic food crops—this practice that has taken place during the non-harvest ‘off’ season for many previous decades.

Reports indicate that the workers were set upon by a group of men that included members of the local councils and plantation guards, acting under the orders of a local big landowner. The workers and union members tried to defend themselves, but were routed by the attackers some who were armed with clubs and firearms. The exact nature of the casualties sustained on both sides for the moment remains unclear

The two journalists were given emergency first aid by local people, but the local police took the journalists into custody for their own protection. The severity of their injuries obliged the police to take them to hospital on 28 May. Although a doctor recommended immediate specialist medical care, the two are still being detained by the police, apparently on the basis of the St. Raphael’s Lavalas Family mayor’s declaration that he knows the journalists to be terrorists.