Deadly attack on the Croix-des-Bouquets Prison and other insecurity

Prison Croix des Bouquets.jpg

The Canadian government funded prison at Crois des Bouquets, in the Port au Prince region

By Thomas Péralte, Haiti Liberté, edition of Feb 20, 2014

Heavily armed bandits in a gray Daihatsu Terios without license plates fired on the civilian prison in Croix des Bouquets on Mon., Feb. 17, 2014 at around 8:00 p.m., killing a policeman, Sadrac Nicolas, an Agent 2 officer in the National Prison Administration (APENA).

The attack occurred when Off. Nicolas approached the vehicle because it was parked in a dark area near the prison. The assailants opened fire on the policeman, who died at the scene, and also aimed bursts of fire at the prison.

According to preliminary reports, the policeman’s gun was found at his side. An investigation was conducted by the forensic police, who quickly arrived at the scene. Already, several witnesses have been identified. No prisoner escaped, said the Secretary of State for Public Security, Reginald Delva, who also said that more than 750 prisoners are incarcerated in the prison.

Businessman Clifford Brandt, the alleged leader of a powerful gang of kidnappers which was dismantled in October 2012, is among the inmates at this high security prison. Among the other prominent prisoners is Emane “Jacques” Jean-Louis, the owner of Sourire Rent a Car, who has been jailed at the prison since September 2013 on charges of money laundering. (Mr. Jean-Louis claims he was a victim of a police kidnapping in April 2012 and had filed a suit against the police.)

It remains unclear what is behind this incident, which comes at a time when Haitians are denouncing the distribution of weapons to people close to the government of President Michel Martelly and a marked uptick in violent crime around the country. Is this a strategy to distract attention from the failure of the so-called “institutional and political dialogue” led by the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarch? Is this an attempt to force the release or transfer of prominent prisoners like Mr. Brandt and Mr. Jean-Louis? Time will tell if the investigation of this crime will join the many others that are classified as “the investigation continues.”

In Carrefour Feuilles, a neighborhood in the east flank of the capital, in the area of Fort Mercredi, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, policemen killed three people, including a woman, according to area residents. The victims were Jean Renaud, his girlfriend, and a man known only as Ti Pikan.

On Tue., Feb. 18, two students, Johnny Charmant, 20, and Marc-André Louis, 22, were killed in the area of the capital’s Upper Turgeau neighborhood, near Cité Georges, as they were on their way to the Oswald Durand school, located in downtown Port-au-Prince. They were apparently the accidental victims of crossfire between two armed groups in the area. The grieving relatives of the two young men are demanding justice.

Following such events, many people are complaining about the growing insecurity in Haiti. Bank customers are often victims of thugs who don’t hesitate to rob them as they are leaving the bank or follow them on their way home. Robbers often kill their victims after robbing them. This is apparently what happened to the general coordinator of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Daniel Dorsinvil, 48, and his wife, Girldy Larèche, 46, who were both shot to death in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 8. He had just come from a bank branch.

In Hinche, on the Central Plateau, the father of four children and a currency trader, Tevnor Gauthier, 41,was killed by gunmen on Wed., Feb. 12, 2014, at the entrance to his currency exchange office. Six bandits on two motorcycles armed with 9mm pistols attacked him. According to his relatives, the gunmen fired at close range and fled with the suitcase he was carrying.

"They made off with several thousand U.S. dollars, gourdes and also packets of European currency," said one relative. Shot several times, Mr. Gauthier was rushed to St. Thérèse Hospital in Hinche but succumbed to his injuries shortly afterwards.

According to a report from the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), released on Feb. 4, the climate of violence is closely linked to the impunity that reigns supreme in Haiti since President Michel Martelly and his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe came to power. Between January and December 2013, at least 870 people died violently, an average of 73 people per month. Some 711 were killed by guns, 96 by knives,  and 63 by stoning, the report said.

Impunity is now protected by the government. The Martelly government gives unconditional support to former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, even while there is an on-going criminal investigation against him for embezzlement and crimes against humanity. Others close to the Martelly government, including drug traffickers and those sought because of their involvement in wrongdoing, also benefit from the official tolerance of impunity and the climate of violence it begets.