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Who Will Protect the Haitian People?

October 2004

After more than six months in office, the “Boniface-LaTortue government has failed to serious tackle the task of disarming all illegally armed groups,” according to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), in a report on the violence of the past week. Yesterday, the bodies of three slain police officers were buried as gunshots rang out in the area around the funeral (read the AP report here).

Whether it is simply the latest wave or a rising tide of violence, the irregular arrest of several leaders of ousted President Aristide’s Lavalas party last week (another report from the NCHR), signs of continued judicial impunity and allegations of the politicization of the national police are all extremely disturbing. The problem would be dire enough if Haiti were only suffering from it’s “normal” background level of extreme poverty and environmental degradation, but in the context of the floods of spring and summer (with their devastating impact on this year’s harvest), the instability and violence could be truly catastrophic and the failure of the interim government, the U.S.-led multinational force, and the United Nations to disarm the violent factions would be directly to blame.

Who will protect the Haitian people from the armed gangs that are roaming the nation’s poorest slums, from the risen-again remnants of Haiti’s disbanded military, from a politicized judicial system?

Whether the next flood is a flood of mud and water from another hurricane or a flood of violence one thing is clear: the people who suffer the most will be Haiti’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens.

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