[News] UN Spins it's Mission in Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 30 08:47:25 EDT 2007


(Courtesy of Brian CONCANNON)


Darren Ell

Darren Ell is an independent photographer, 
journalist and artist living in Montreal.  He is 
currently producing a body of work on the ongoing 
crisis in Haiti.  His recent project on the 
struggle of immigrants in Canada, presented in 
the previous issue of Serai, showed at Dazibao, 
centre de photographies actuelles in 
Montreal.  Darren can be contacted via his 
website at <http://www.darrenell.com>http://www.darrenell.com.


Port-au-Prince, March 2nd, 2007:  seeing the 
arrival of journalists, MINUSTAH troops take 
leave of a group of angry Cité Soleil residents.
Residents stated that UN troops had just arrested 
their 23 year-old neighbor without a warrant as 
he was leaving for his class at the
Saint Gerard Technical Centre.  The arrest added 
to the 70 arrests of “presumed gang members”
MINUSTAH carried had out in the previous 2 weeks.  (Photo: 2007 Darren Ell)

On February 15th 2007, the UN News Service, the 
global mouthpiece for UN operations around the 
world, published an article stating that UN 
forces in Haiti – MINUSTAH – had transformed a 
former gang leader’s headquarters in Cité Soleil 
into a “free medical clinic” following its raid 
on his residence.  I had just arrived in Haiti to 
work on a project about the impact of the 2004 
Canada-backed coup d’état.  I knew MINUSTAH had 
brought in a few doctors and clowns for a photo 
op after their massive military operations in the 
seaside shantytown, but I didn’t realize they 
were setting up fully functioning clinics.  Two 
days later, I attended a demonstration on the 
site where the medical clinic was supposed to 
exist, but it was nowhere to be found.  In the 
following two weeks, the UN News Service 
published this fabrication with each new mass 
arrest in Cité Soleil.  By March 2nd, it claimed 
that more gang headquarters had been converted 
into “medical and social centers.”  I visited and 
photographed the “headquarters” of [so-called] 
gang leaders Evans, Amaral and Ti Bazil, three of 
the sites of supposed UN social services, and there was nothing to be found.


Left to right, the headquarters of what the UN 
calls “gang leaders”:  Evans, Amaral and Ti 
Bazil.  These photos were taken in the days following the UN’s announcement
that they had created “medical, social and 
community centers” on these sites.  No such 
services were ever created.  (Photos: 2007Darren Ell)

It is hard not to notice that the UN’s remarkable 
feats of humanitarian kindness were being 
performed exactly at the same time that harsh 
mass arrests were being conducted among a 
vulnerable population.  When I notified the head 
of media relations at MINUSTAH about the lies 
being published by the UN News Service, she 
agreed they were misleading.  She acknowledged 
that MINUSTAH had only ever handed out water 
bottles and offered free checkups the day after 
72-hour mass arrest operations.  Nonetheless, the 
exaggerations have not abated to this day.  Here 
is a selection from the UN News Service’s most 
recent article about Haiti (March 23, 2007):

    * "From helping to set up local municipal 
administrations to providing electricity, 
education and health services to restoring a 
library to laying out a football field, no task 
is too small or parochial for the UN peacekeepers 
as they try to make a difference for the people 
on the ground in one of the poorest countries on earth."

Disturbed by these cynical fabrications, I 
decided to look into MINUSTAH’s huge arrest 
operations that were occurring during my stay in 
the country.  On March 2nd, MINUSTAH spokesperson 
David Wimhurst proclaimed to the UN News Service, 
“We’ve got a good catch.”  He was referring to 
the results of three operations in which UN 
troops claim to have arrested one gang leader and 
sent three more into hiding, one of which was 
subsequently arrested.  In addition to the gang 
leaders, 70 “suspected gang members” were also 
arrested.  In other UN News Service articles, 
these people are called “presumed bandits,” 
“suspected gangsters,” or “suspected 
criminals.”  Sometimes the term “suspected” is 
dropped altogether.  In the days following these 
arrests, my Haitian colleague Wadner Pierre and I 
interviewed four people in Cité Soleil who 
claimed five of their relatives or neighbors had 
been arbitrarily arrested, without warrants, on 
their way to work or school.  We didn’t 
corroborate their claims, but two of Haiti’s most 
prominent human rights lawyers, Mario Joseph and 
Brian Concannon, confirmed that MINUSTAH 
routinely arrests people without warrants.  They 
also get information from informants who in 
desperate economic environments are notoriously 
unreliable.  I wondered how many more of the 70 
“gang members” might be innocent civilians 
languishing in deplorable conditions of Haiti’s prisons.

I decided to look closer at what the UN News 
Service was telling the world about Haitian 
reality.  Most startling was a phrase that was 
repeated in every article related to the origins 
of MINUSTAH: “The UN Stabilization Mission in 
Haiti (MINUSTAH) [was] set up in 2004 to help 
re-establish peace in the impoverished Caribbean 
country after an insurgency forced then President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile.”  This 
is a revisionist statement.  An insurgency 
suggests a popular rebellion against a corrupt 
leader.  Mr. Aristide, democratically elected in 
a landslide victory in 2000, was overthrown in a 
coup d’état fomented and supported by the United 
States, Canada and France.  The coup followed the 
deliberate destabilization of the Aristide 
government by these same countries.  The 
‘insurgency’ consisted of criminal US-trained and 
armed former Haitian Army personnel.  They swept 
through the country, killing police officers and 
civilians, and raiding jails to free their 
comrades. Their notorious ringleader, Guy 
Philippe, subsequently ran for President under 
MINUSTAH’s watch.  The US ambassador then 
threatened Mr. Aristide with the specter of 
increased violence in the country if he didn’t 
step down.  US forces then took Mr. Aristide out 
of the country as Canadian troops secured the 
airport.  Note that the foreign troops were not 
used to stop the attempted overthrow of the 
overwhelmingly popular democratically elected 
president, which could have been done at the flip 
of a switch.  He has not been allowed to return 
to Haiti since, despite the presence of 
MINUSTAH.  In other words, he was overthrown by a 
criminal coup d’état, not “forced into exile.”

These issues constitute only the tip of the 
iceberg as concerns the UN presence in Haiti.  To 
learn more, consult the site of 
and read my recent interview with human rights 
lawyer BRIAN CONCANNON published online with The 
Dominion.  For a detailed examination of the 2004 
coup d’état and Canada’s role in it, consult the Canada HaitiAction website.

Be sure to also to see: 

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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