By Randall White, haitiaction.net, Sept. 21, 2023
On September 21, Msr. Richard Chevalier, claiming to represent the U.S. Embassy, arrived at the SOPUDEP School in Petion-Ville accompanied by the second and third mayors of Petion-Ville. The school had just finished working with a photographer to take pictures of the first day of class.
Faculty immediately grew tense as they clearly recognized Madame Marie-Josee Rene and Msr. Figaro Gaston because of their having led armed men onto the premises last September 7th. Mr. Chevalier presented a badge identifying him as an "investigator" the U.S, Embassy stating that they had received a request from a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, Senator Norm Coleman (MN), to look further into the incident of September 7th. Calls to SOPUDEP's friends in the Minnesota community confirmed that letters had been mailed to Senator Coleman's office protesting the armed incursion and the attempt to close the school but it could not be confirmed Coleman had actually made the request. Also riding in the same car as Msr. Chevalier and the second and third mayors was photographer Phillipe Elie and a member of first Mayor Prosper's staff Raoul Denis Junior. Msr Elie immediately began to take pictures throughout the premises without permission and when he was asked why he and Msr. Chevalier rudely responded that the administration at the school "had no choice in the matter." Despite the fact that the original perpetrators, Madame Rene and Msr. Figaro showed up in the same vehicle, SOPUDEP staff were not intimidated when asked by Msr. Chevalier if men with guns had entered the premises on September 7, 2004. Members of the staff clearly answered yes and identified Mayors Rene and Figaro as the ringleaders.
What this means for the SOPUDEP School in the long run is not exactly clear. The school has opened for classes and retained the services of an attorney to address the legal questions of the lease on their building. What is clear is that the letters written by the many friends of the school really make a difference. The staff of SOPUDEP School urges you to continue to send letters of support and keep up the pressure to save this precious community resource. We are not sure what the U.S. Embassy will do with their pictures but here are SOPUDEP's photographs they wanted to share with you from the same day.
Posted July 24, 2023