EDITOR’S NOTE: A mayor from northern Haiti currently in hiding says that the Haitian army is back in force, shooting people and burning homes. How could this happen, he asks and where are they getting all the heavy weaponry? Mayor Jean Charles Moise spoke with PNS contributors, Lyn Duff and Dennis Bernstein, via cell phone. The interview originally aired on Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints show (KPFA FM 94.1 in Berkeley, Calif.). Duff is a freelance writer who has reported widely on Haiti since 1995. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints.
By Jean Charles Moise
CAP HAITIAN, HaitiI am the mayor of Milo, a district of about 50,000 people near Cap Haitian. When I was elected nine years ago, at the age of 28, I was the youngest to serve in that office in Haiti’s modern history. I’ve traveled in the United States on speaking tours, telling Americans about how we were building democracy in Haiti under the Aristide government. In late February, my district came under attack by anti-Aristide forces and I fled for my life. From where I am now hiding in the woods I see the old Haitian army is back.
Those they don’t kill, they lock up in containers, because they burned down the jails. The kind of containers you put on ships.
The situation is different here from what I hear about in Port-au-Prince, where you have the multinational force of American, Canadian, Chilean soldiers. In Cap Haitian, you have the former Haitian military. There are no police any more, so they are the ones who are law. They come into your home. They take you, they beat you up, they kill you. They burn down homes. They do anything they want, because they are the only law in town.
The journalists are in Port-au-Prince, but here in the north no one is reporting what’s going on, that the former Haitian military is killing people. They are killing about 50 people a day in Cap Haitian. It’s happening not just in the northern department but also in the central plateau, in the Artibone region.
Can you imagine that on Monday at 2 p.m., the former military declared a curfew that would start at 4 p.m.? The peasants, many of them are poor and do not have a radio, so how could they hear of this curfew? So what happened at 4 p.m.? The former military took to the streets and anyone they saw on the streets they shot. This is the kind of stuff that is going on. Can you imagine this?
We have people like myself, mayors and other members of the municipal government who have had to fled and are now sleeping in the woods, who have gone to the mountains. We have church members and priests who have been beaten and whose cars have been destroyed. These people are also in hiding. We could never have imagined that we would be going back to this situation that existed before. It is intolerable.
Since this whole thing started, I haven’t seen my wife and my children. I have been in hiding. This cannot continue. This is a catastrophe for the north of Haiti and all the people of Haiti.
One has to ask, why is all of this happening? Is this because we used to have only 10 public high schools, but now we have over 150? Is it because we made a democracy where people could go in the streets, protest, and be free to say whatever they want? Is it because black people in the country now, people who were poor and always kept out of the political life of the country, they have come out and have been participating in democracy? Is that why they have unleashed this terror on us? Is that what we are paying for?
We ask these questions: Is it because the United States blocked international assistance to Haiti to make people rise up against the president, but they never did? Is it because people here are continuing to support their president? Is that why we are getting all this repression? We have to ask those questions.
We wonder whether it is because the army that used to exist before was disbanded by President Aristide. Instead of defending the people, that army used to carry out a war against us. Is it because that army is no longer there that someone has rearmed it and brought it back to Haiti with very powerful weapons?
Now the old army is doing what they used to do before, except with more powerful weapons and with helicopters. They are drowning people in the sea. That’s what is going on.
The press is reporting the looting that is taking place in Port au Prince, but they are not reporting about the police stations that were burned and destroyed here in the north. They are not reporting on the number of schools that have been destroyed. They are not reporting on the burning of the airport in Cap Haitian and all the other things that were built under the government of President Aristide for the Haitian people.
I cannot understand how a group of disbanded military has access to such sophisticated equipment and heavy weaponry. They have two helicopters and they have two airplanes. They use the helicopters to transport their troops, and they use them at night with spotlights to look for people in hiding. They are in the air, and they have their troops on the ground.
These are the questions we ask ourselves as we hide from those with the guns.