Over 20 dead after violence and repression in Cité Soleil on eve of election

10 15 2015 BOID troops arresting young men in Cite Soleil by Daniel Tercier.jpg

10 15 2015 BOID SWAT police arrest young men in Cite Soleil on Oct 15, 2015 (photo by Daniel Tercier)

By Yves Pierre-Louis & Daniel Tercier, Haiti Liberté, Oct.21, 2015

A new specialized police unit and affiliated local gangs unleashed a wave of violence during the past week which has claimed over 20 lives and terrorized the population of Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s largest shanty town.

The Brigade for Departmental Intervention Operations (BOID), a 254-officer SWAT unit formed by the regime of President Michel Martelly in June, killed at least 12 people with gunfire and decapitated four men with machetes: James Charles, Johnny Sylvestre,  Ronald Labonte, and Johnny Formélus. Their bodies were discovered on Oct. 16.

The violence spiked over the weekend, after Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the presidential candidate of the Lavalas Family Political Organization, made a campaign visit on Thu., Oct. 15 to Cité Soleil, a Lavalas stronghold with a population of over 400,000.

According to local news reports, the BOID corps includes many former inmates from Haiti’s prisons who were released and trained by the Martelly government.

The government also hired the services of various Cité Soleil gangs to ransack, terrorize, and kill. Their violence sometimes degenerated into turf wars between an alliance of gangs from Soleil 17, Ti Ayiti, and the Cité Soleil Wharf against an alliance from the neighborhoods of Katye Pwojè, Boston, and Belecourt.

Most people say the violence in Cité Soleil has been fomented by the regime to discourage voters there from going to the polls on Sun., Oct. 25, when the first round of presidential elections and second round of parliament elections will be held.

Among the Cité Soleil residents killed were two pregnant women and a 10-year-old child. The BOID troops torched vehicles, motorcycles, and more than a dozen houses. They looted the stalls and boutiques of small merchants. They were armed not just with automatic weapons, but with knives, machetes, pikes, and axes.

The BOID also rounded up and arrested many young men, taking them away into pick-up trucks.

On Oct. 2, the BOID arrested a dozen young people in Belecourt, among them a security guard, Nathaniel Tham. His father, Nathan Tham, who has lived in Cité Soleil since 1983, demanded the release of his son.

"What is happening in Cité Soleil is unheard of,” Nathan Tham said. “Gunmen storm homes, killing, robbing, and plundering all who are there. I’ve lived in Cité Soleil for last 30 years, raised all my children here, and they have always had exemplary behavior. And now here one of them has been unjustly arrested and placed behind bars.”

Hundreds of families have been forced to abandon their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. Residents also charge that the government is supplying bandits with weapons through Vladimir Jean-Louis, Martelly’s Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) candidate for deputy for Cité Soleil and the appointed interim mayor, Esaïe Bochard. This practice is aimed at terrorizing and intimidating the population for political purposes.

Furthermore, Vladimir Jean-Louis is an illegal candidate because he is not even from Cité Soleil. He is from Peguy-ville, a neighborhood miles away, near Pétion-ville.

A former Cité Soleil deputy, Almétis Junior Saint-Fleur, spoke out on Mon., Oct. 19, about the carnage he had witnessed, especially in the areas of the Wharf Jérémie and Fort Dimanche.

He said that the deadly BOID crackdown was carried out to discourage a planned demonstration against President Martelly, who was to visit the area to commemorate the anniversary of the assassination of Haiti’s founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines on Sat., Oct. 17.

"Personally, I saw 15 dead bodies after the abuses of these so-called police against the community,” Almétis said. “We retrieved the bodies of seven of these victims, including one of my little brothers. The other bodies were left for the pigs to eat."

The former deputy said his brother was assassinated for political reasons. Some observers say that several bodies were also taken away by the police.

Following the February 2004 coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Cité Soleil offered the longest and fiercest resistance to the putschist de facto government, its police, and paramilitaries, and to the foreign military occupation of Haiti.


Posted on Oct.22, 2015