|Funeral of Samuel Georges, an 18-year-old who died eight hours |
after contracting cholera. Cholera is on the rise in Haiti. Credit:Ben Depp, www.bendepp.com
BERKELEY, California, May 5 (IPS) - We may soon look back on this period in Haiti with greater appreciation.
Amidst the world-historic levels of death and suffering from last January's earthquake, citizens have at least been spared the scale of government violence that has marked much of their nation's past (notwithstanding attacks against internally displaced persons during forced evictions, and occasionally against street protesters.)
This may change under Michel Martelly, the incoming president. For starters, he wants to bring back the army that former president Jean- Bertrand Aristide dismantled in 1995. Since Haiti already has a police force to maintain public order and the country is not expected to go to war, Martelly can have only one aim for reintroducing armed forces: to reclaim the tool that past presidents have used to shore up their power by means of violent repression of dissent and competition.
Forces are already readying for violence, which will likely be exerted both through the army and through gangs.
Journalist Isabeau Doucet filed this eyewitness report last month: "For over a year, on a hillside south of Port-au-Prince, around 100 former soldiers and young recruits train three times a week. They claim to have a network of camps all over the country where Haitian men meet and exercise, learn military protocol and martial arts and receive basic training... The black-and-red flag of Jean-Claude Duvalier's party hangs in their tarpaulin dressing room… Somebody is paying for this, even though they claim that it's all-volunteer, and the current government is turning a blind eye, if not giving tacit support."