Violence in Port-au-Prince

December 11, 2010

Joegodson and Paul

The streets of Port-au-Prince were still calm today, Friday. Joegodson went to Cite Soleil to stroll around. He talked with everyone he knew and others he didn’t.

People are extremely poor there. In the present situation, a few dollars can keep you or your loved ones alive.

Throughout Cite Soleil, everybody he spoke with was aware that Célestin is hiring. All you have to do is to join the protests and create chaos: sign up as an agent provocateur. In return, you get money and a gun. You don’t have to pretend to be a Célestin supporter. In fact, the intention seems to be to attribute the violence to Martelly supporters. We’ve seen this before.

Although the long-term goals are not shared with the recruits, it would seem that Célestin and Préval are recreating the 2004 post-coup situation that led to the MINUSTAH assault on the poor of Port-au-Prince. We have discussed it in more detail here and there. In short, they will create a situation whereby the authorities will claim that the heavily-armed MINUSTAH troops must restore order. Those soldiers will need little encouragement. They are bitter that the Haitian poor have not taken a liking to them. In keeping with occupations everywhere, the occupying forces and the subjugated population are headed for open conflict. Ignorance and arrogance combine to make the MINUSTAH troops foolish pawns in a deadly game.

And so the poorest people see that there are sides to choose. Some are turning their backs on their neighbours for dirty money. Others are supporting Martelly who defies the corrupt powers in their name. Today, Friday, he played his role well, refusing to cooperate with the recount. He continues to insist that the Electoral Council (CEP) resign and be replaced … but go forward. He argues that the CEP is responsible for the fraudulent farce that has brought us to this point. “You don’t report a theft to the thief,” said his spokesperson lucidly, underlining the absurdity of the CEP overseeing the audit. Many disenfranchised Haitians are looking for a champion to represent them in precisely that manner in relation to illegitimate authority.

There are many more perspectives in Haiti than those represented by Martelly supporters and recipients of Celestin’s largesse. Our guess is that the latter are only intended to legitimate the coming MINUSTAH counter-offensive. Money seems fragile in the face of the passion and pent-up anger of Martelly’s supporters. There is evidence that Martelly is looking to ride that violence to the presidency. However, there is also much support for a position that would displace the violence altogether: redo the elections from scratch within a constitutional framework that encourages open discussions and the inclusion of all political parties.

Joegodson worries that the country is on a fast track to civil war. It will be fought initially between money (Célestin) on one side and Martelly supporters on the other. There is a non-violent alternative that would teach the ‘international community’ an important lesson in democracy. But that will be difficult to realize in the present circumstances. Tragically, the violent options will play into the hands of those with the biggest guns. The money behind those guns is invisible to those outside of Haiti. For instance, Connie Watson of the CBC reported on the protests in Port-au-Prince today: “It’s really hard to know what’s happening,” she kept saying. No kidding? We imagine it would be tough if you don’t speak the languages of Haiti, are ignorant about class relations, and have no intimate contacts that might lead you through the local terrain. (In fact, the situation in Haiti is far more complex than we have allowed ourselves to report so far. We haven’t even touched upon the importance of vodou in this affair. We will.)

However, on the streets of Cite Soleil, money has a big mouth. The problem for Célestin is that he can’t recruit his violence fomenters if he doesn’t let his intent be known and pay up front. Joegodson watched such financial transactions today, on the streets of Cite Soleil. What is common knowledge on those streets is simply off the radar for a first world journalist staying at the Hotel Montana, geographically in Port-au-Prince but a world away from Cite Soleil. In any case, that kind of reporting will keep Canadians safe from Célestin’s secret. And, when the MINUSTAH troops start firing, Watson’s colleague Paul Hunter will fall back on the analysis that framed his reportage of the election fraud: “Well, this is Haiti.” That tautology must mean something to Hunter. What can it mean to the viewers? Do CBC journalists come by this honestly, or does the corporation draw strict limits around what questions can be asked and what answers given?

And so, the media will help Canadians spin a made-in-Canada explanation to account for the violence in Haiti. Curiosity is the first line of defence against misinformation. Canadians should ask themselves if the story as presented is credible. If they need to rely on racist and chauvinist presumptions to reach the same conclusions as the establishment media (Haitians are violent by nature, Haitians are incapable of self-direction), then they should inform themselves responsibly.


4 Responses to “Violence in Port-au-Prince”

  1. Stacy Furlow said

    Your posts are among my favorite to read. Having several Haitian friends on the ground, I find your analysis to be so helpful. Thank you.

    • I passed your message along to Joegodson and he was encouraged to know that you appreciated his efforts. In fact, it initiated a conversation about our relationship with the readers of our collaboration and the importance of communication. We decided that soon, we must discuss it in detail. thanks. (that’s Paul)

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ansel Herz, said: Violence in Port-au-Prince « Heart of Haiti […]

  3. […] process has started. Every day brings new realities on the ground in Haiti. If all parties communicate, listen effectively and inform their actions with the testimony of […]

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