Archive for Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Notorious Haitian slum spirals into lawlessness

January 19, 2010

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2010 Haiti Earthquake

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, causing widespread devastation in Haiti's capital and throughout the country.

More developments

The estimated death toll from the Haitian earthquake has jumped to 200,000.

— “If you don’t kill the criminals, they will all come back,” a Haitian police officer shouts over a loudspeaker in the country’s most notorious slum, imploring citizens to take justice into their own hands.

The call for vigilantes comes as influential gang leaders who escaped from a heavily damaged prison during the country’s killer earthquake are taking advantage of a void left by police and peacekeepers focused on disaster relief.

In the sprawling Cite Soleil slum, gangsters are settling into the haunts they dominated before being locked up, and resuming struggles for control that never really ended once they were inside the walls of the city’s notorious main penitentiary.

“The trouble is starting,” said Jean-Semaine Delice, a 51-year-old father from Cite Soleil. “People are starting to leave their homes to go to others.”

As police urged residents to fight criminals themselves, Delice said, “I think it’s a message we should listen to.”

There is the potential for violence in any disaster zone where food and medical aid are unable to keep up with fast-growing hunger and mass casualties. But the danger is multiplied in Haiti, where self-designated rebels and freedom fighters — or simply neighborhood toughs — have consistently threatened the country’s fragile stability with a few weapons, some spare money for handouts and the ire of disaffected throngs.

“Even as we are digging bodies out of buildings, they are trying to attack our officers,” Cite Soleil police inspector Aristide Rosemond said, surrounded by officers wielding automatic weapons.

Neighborhood residents say three people died and several women were raped in a small-scale turf war that gangsters nicknamed “Belony” and “Bled” launched in the seaside slum in the days following last Tuesday’s quake.

No law enforcement

People who live here have been told not to count on security forces for help.

The Brazilian peacekeeping unit assigned to Cite Soleil lost 18 of its 145 soldiers in the earthquake. Ten perished when the “Blue House” — a landmark concrete tower converted into a U.N. post near the slum’s entrance — collapsed, leaving weapons and equipment readily available to fast-acting looters.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission also lost its chief, deputy chief and acting police commander.

The police lost an uncounted number of personnel and equipment, leaving a group of officers who in large part are just recently recruited and trained.

“The problem is they have weapons ... so we cannot send the population or (just) any policemen” to capture them, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press on Monday.

Bob Perito, coordinator of Haiti programs for the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace think tank, said concerns about the gangs are legitimate — in the long run.

In the more immediate future, “the gangs may be more of a nuisance,” Perito said in an interview from his Washington office.

“They are not going to challenge the U.S. military,” he said. “But when the U.S. decides the emergency is over and goes home, will the reconstituted U.N. peacekeeping force have the coherence necessary to suppress the problem?”

There are 1,700 U.S. troops on the ground in Haiti and 2,000 Marines off shore.

History of violence

Security has always been precarious in Cite Soleil, although it is far calmer then the days when it became a war zone, during the 2004 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

On Monday, Brazilian peacekeepers drove from one food-distribution point to another as women, children and older men jockeyed to fill their buckets from a spouting broken water main. The gang members stayed out of sight.

The scene was drastically different Sunday, when a man robbed a motorcyclist’s bag of rice with a .38-caliber pistol in broad daylight and residents swapped stories of gangs equipped with heavy automatic weapons coming out of hiding even as U.S. military cargo planes rumbled overhead.

Bellerive said he has met with U.N. peacekeepers, police and the newly arrived U.S. Army to discuss ways of combating the escaped convicts. Tactics thus far have included distributing photos and tracking the gangsters, which has led to some arrests.

But it is not a top priority, even though officials estimate as many as 4,000 prisoners escaped from the main prison.

“We are not worried about one or two guys,” Brazilian battalion spokesman Col. Alan Sampaio Santos said. “Later on we can go after them.”

Until then, much of the neighborhood’s security will be in the hands of local populations, who are forming night brigades and machete-armed mobs to fight bandits across the capital.

Comments

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

Send in the Marines. Sounds like the Superdome.

grammaddy 5 years, 6 months ago

I heard Wyclef calling for the evacuation of Port-au-Prince as the city is now a morgue. He wants to set them up in tent cities so the entire town may be demolished and rebuilt. It would also make it easier to get them the aid the need. There should be 12,000 troops there soon.

leedavid 5 years, 6 months ago

Looking more and more like Katrina everyday. We need Texas to step up and get control of this situation the way they did for Louisiana.

This is a mess. Supplies not getting through, water, food still in short supply. No place for people to live, looting.....it all sounds familiar.

acg 5 years, 6 months ago

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

This disaster was created over the last five centuries, most of it from the overt actions of primarily the colonialist and neocolonialists of France and the US.

Should Obama be doing more and better? Probably. But the really sick thing is all of you complaining about what Obama is or isn't doing really couldn't care less about the people of Haiti.

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

"This disaster was created over the last five centuries, most of it from the overt actions of primarily the colonialist and neocolonialists of France and the US."

Yup. Those darn colonialists had to go and create a fault line right through the island. Idiots.

It'd be nice if they had earthquake resistant housing, but since food is more scarce than money in Haiti it's not surprising. In any case, experts have said that if same quake hit San Francisco the casualties would have been in the hundreds of thousands as well.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

http://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-29/

"On October 17, 1989, at 5:04:15 p.m. (P.d.t.), a magnitude 6.9 (moment magnitude; surface-wave magnitude, 7.1) earthquake severely shook the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Loma_Prieta_earthquake

"The quake killed 63 people throughout northern California, injured 3,757 and left some 3,000-12,000 people homeless."

Compare ("contrast" is probably a better term) the casualties in that 7 magnitude quake with the one that just happened in Haiti, where probably over 200,000 people are already dead, an equal or greater number seriously injured, and millions homeless with no access to food, water, shelter or medicine.

leedavid 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure Mayor Nagin will say Haiti is like an Oreo, and that the Feds are doing a horrible job helping the poor people because they are black.

Ah the good old days are back.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

So much for your concern about the Haitian people, leedavid. But at least you got a gratuitous political jab in.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

It won't last long, acg, but that was a truly masterful summing up of the Tomster.

leedavid 5 years, 6 months ago

Awe Bozo.....you don't know what I feel for the Haitian people. I'm just reflecting on the exact same things the left was spouting on and on about after Katrina. Looks like this disaster relief stuff is harder than the left thought.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

New Orleans was a disaster long in the making, too, although perhaps only three rather than five centuries. BushCo deserves to be cut some level of slack because of that.

But the record is also very clear that they essentially trashed FEMA when they came into office, and when Katrina hit, thoroughly botched and politicized the recovery effort.

Haiti isn't in the US, and is an even bigger disaster than Katrina. Does that mean that Obama shouldn't be held accountable for his/our contribution to international recovery efforts? Of course not, but a direct comparison between Katrina/New Orleans and the Haitian earthquake will never be possible.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 6 months ago

I think the lucky Haitians were probably the ones who died from the earthquake. what remains and the future are bleak.

leedavid 5 years, 6 months ago

The comparison is valid regarding our response and ability to get supplies/services to the people. In both cases it was amazingly difficult. Instead of acknowledging the difficulty of such an undertaking, one group of people chose to make it a political battle to be used to regain power and it worked.

LoveThsLife 5 years, 6 months ago

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

"Tom is just doing what the democrats did to Bush during Katrina."

What exactly did the Democrats "do to" Bush during Katrina?

LoveThsLife 5 years, 6 months ago

"The comparison is valid regarding our response and ability to get supplies/services to the people. In both cases it was amazingly difficult. Instead of acknowledging the difficulty of such an undertaking, one group of people chose to make it a political battle to be used to regain power and it worked."

Thanks leedavid great job in summing things up.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 6 months ago

What Marion lives for, an excuse to shoot human beings.

acg 5 years, 6 months ago

Actually lovethslife, I believe you're making a hasty generalization about all democrats. I am a staunch supporter of the dem party but during Katrina I never bashed Bush for the heinousness of the situation. I never once blamed that man for the people's lack of response to a real emergency situation, nor did any of my democrat friends. We watched in awe as thousands of people who were being warned to evacuate did not heed those warnings. Now I will say I thought it ridiculous that it took 7 days to get any sort of aid to the victims of Katrina but I never blamed Bush for the situation so much as typical American bureacracy BS and red tape. Now maybe democrats that you know spent that whole time blaming Bush but if they did then they refuse to see how crazy it is to blame everything on one man or one administration. I don't get people who don't see that the mess this world is in is all of our fault. But folks like Tom are die hard fanatics. They see things one way and one way only. They're as bad as fanatical muslims, the puritans that burned the witches or the catholics on their crusades. Unyielding thought is dangerous. Those types of people plague both sides of our political spectrum and I tell you, they are corroding our way of life. This country was founded on the free exchange of thought and ideas. Our whole nation is one big opened minded experiement. Or at least, it used to be.

cowboy 5 years, 6 months ago

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igby 5 years, 6 months ago

This entire little country Dom/Hati, could get hammered again by an even larger quake. There's just too much moving beneath the crust there. I'd get the heck away from there and quick!

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/quakes_all.php

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

It's not an either/or situation. The Katrina disaster in NO was made worse through many factors, many of which BushCo had no control over. But it's also a fact that BushCo made it worse by 1) it's very overt politicization of its response to the disaster and 2) its gross incompetence.

And as I've said before, although the US certainly needs to take a lead role in addressing the immediate recovery efforts, Haiti is an independent country, not part of the US the way NO and the rest of the Gulf Coast are, so the relief efforts must be international.

I certainly understand the desire for BushCo supporters in hoping for some Obama-caused disaster just to ease the sting stemming from their support for a cabal of such arrogant incompetents.

LoveThsLife 5 years, 6 months ago

"What exactly did the Democrats “do to” Bush during Katrina?"

I was referring to how the dialog that Tom was using is very similar to the dialog used by many democrats during the aftermath of Katrina. But people on either side of the isle usually have a difficult time seeing how their behaviors are very similar. Which is sad because I feel that both sides share a burden of fault in the breakdown of real dialog in this country.

Just calling it how I see it.

I agree with many of the comments here. The US government, the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans were ill prepared to deal with a hurricane of that magnitude hitting where it did. I don't think it had anything to do with party orientation, and I think there would have been a similar outcome regardless of who was in office. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge that is how the chips fell and learn from it.

With Haiti I am no more critical of Obama. I realize that the looting is inevitable unfortunately. The country is one of the poorest in the world and has a history of corruption and instability. Of course their are those who will take advantage of the situation. What is happening in Haiti is really common in countries with a weak government in crisis. I do agree that it should be an international effort. It is going to be very difficult to get all the aid needed into that country effectively...but it always has been. Mismanagement and corruption have alway plagued Haiti and a lot of other poverty stricken areas of the world.

cowboy 5 years, 6 months ago

LJW , thank you for leaving up the copy of the post by ACG above the one of mine which you deleted , All time best post.

puddleglum 5 years, 6 months ago

cite soleil isn't all that bad, you just have to make sure you have an ak-47. kinda like the good ol' west. a libertarian's dream

jaywalker 5 years, 6 months ago

"Compare (“contrast” is probably a better term) the casualties in that 7 magnitude quake with the one that just happened in Haiti"

Your fallacy lies in believing the magnitude is the sole determination of the scope of destruction. The epicenter of the quake is the biggest influence. But thanks for trying, bozo.

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