A prominent Haitian businessman and a top
U.S. Embassy official urged UN occupation troops to attack a
crowded Haitian slum, fully expecting that “unintended
civilian casualties” would occur, according to secret
diplomatic cables provided by WikiLeaks to Haiti Liberté.
Haitian Chamber of Commerce
President Reginald Boulos, now a voting member of the Interim
Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), met with U.S. Embassy Chargé
d’Affaires Timothy Carney on Jan. 4, 2006. Both the Embassy and
Haiti’s private sector leaders were upset with the UN mission’s
reluctance to launch a violent crackdown on armed groups in Cité
Soleil, a vast waterside slum in Port-au-Prince.
At the meeting, “Boulos argued
that MINUSTAH [or UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti, as the UN force
is known] could take back the slum if it were to work
systematically, section by section, in securing the area.”
Carney “cautioned that such an
operation would inevitably cause unintended civilian casualties
given the crowded conditions and flimsy construction of tightly
packed housing in Cité Soleil,” according to the Jan. 6,
2006 cable, which Carney wrote.
Rather than suggest an alternative
that would avoid “inevitable” civilian deaths, Carney
continued, “Therefore, the private sector associations must
be willing to quickly assist in the aftermath of such an
operation, including providing financial support to families of
“Boulos agreed,” saying “that
he and other groups were prepared to go in immediately with
social programs and social spending,” the cable said.
The battle for Cité Soleil
continued for the next year and a half, producing scores of “unintended
civilian casualties.” Today, Carney, now retired, says that
he has no regrets “whatsoever” about the advice he gave
Boulos and the UN, although he admits to learning that “there's
no such thing as a surgical operation.”
Also at the meeting between Boulos
and Carney were Rene-Max Auguste, president of the American
Chamber of Commerce, Gladys Coupet, president of the Haitian
bankers association, and Carl Auguste Boisson, president of the
petroleum distributors association.
The private sector leaders also “pleaded
with the Charge for the USG [U.S. Government] to provide
ammunition to the police,” and “Boulos began reading off
a specific list of ammunition.” But Carney said the police
needed more training, not ammunition.
Six days later, Boulos complained
to an NPR reporter, “Please
understand that we appreciate the work that MINUSTAH is doing so
far, but it's not enough.”
He alleged that there had been a “massive distribution of
weapons over the last two weeks in Cité Soleil,” adding that
gangs are able to “pick up people, kill people and go back
inside, and nobody can go after them.”
As Haiti Liberté has previously reported, Boulos took it
upon himself to arm the de facto government’s police
force, which violently repressed protests demanding exiled
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return, killing scores of
demonstrators and bystanders.
Haitian business magnate Fritz Mevs told the U.S. Embassy that
Boulos had “distributed arms to the police and had called on
others [in the private sector] to do so in order to provide
cover to his own actions,” according to another WikiLeaked
cable (see Haïti Liberté, Vol. 4, No. 49, Jun. 22, 2011).
Andy Apaid, Haiti’s foremost sweatshop owner, was a leader,
along with Boulos, of the Group of 184. The so-called “civil
society” coalition, spawned and supported by the U.S.
government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED), helped lead
a destabilization campaign against Aristide until his ouster in
a 2004 U.S.-backed coup d’état.
Jul. 24, 2006 cable confirms press reports that Apaid financed
an anti-Aristide gang in Cité Soleil led by Thomas
Robenson, alias Labanyè, a
gang-leader who defected from the Lavalas movement to the
pro-coup camp before he was killed by his own lieutenants.
Carney was U.S. Ambassador to Haiti from 1997 to 1999. He
later became Chairman of the Board for the Haiti Democracy
Project (HDP), a right-wing pro-coup think-tank co-founded in
2002 by Reginald Boulos’ brother, Rudolph. Carney left HDP to
become U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Haiti from August 2005 to
February 2006. He is now Vice-President of the Clinton Bush
Haiti Fund, established after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.
The military campaign to crush the armed resistance groups in Cité Soleil, which Boulos and Carney discussed, eventually did
succeed, but resulted in many “unintended civilian
casualties” as Carney predicted.
It had begun on July 6, 2005, when UN troops mounted a massive
assault on the slum, firing over 22,000 bullets in about seven
hours and killing coup resistance leader Emmanuel “Drèd” Wilmer
(see Haïti Liberté, Vol. 4, No. 49, Jun. 22, 2011).
Of the 27
people who came to a Doctors Without Borders hospital with
gunshot wounds that day, three-quarters were women and children. Cité Soleil residents told a labor delegation
from San Francisco and journalist Jean Baptiste Jean Ristil that
MINUSTAH had indiscriminately fired on their homes, killing
women, children and infants. The death toll was at least 23, and
possibly as many as 50, according to the delegation.
Haitian journalist Guy Delva “saw seven bodies in one house
alone, including two babies and one older woman in her 60s.”
Ambassador to Haiti James Foley admitted in a Jul. 26, 2005
cable obtained by Professor Keith Yearman through a FOIA
remains unclear how aggressive MINUSTAH was, though 22,000
rounds is a large amount of ammunition to have killed only six
people [the UN’s official death toll].”
“The foreigners came in shooting for hours
without interruption and killed 10 people,” Johnny
Claircidor, a Cité Soleil resident, told Reuters after another
bloody MINUSTAH operation in Dec. 22, 2006.
“They came here to terrorize the population,”
said resident Rose Martel, referring to the police and U.N.
troops, reported Reuters. “I don't think they really killed
the bandits, unless they consider all of us as bandits,” she
Some 300,000 people live in Cité Soleil’s tiny
shacks and houses lining narrow alleys and streets. Many
MINUSTAH military forays into Haiti’s slums caused scores of
deaths in “collateral damage” from 2005 through 2007.
Cité Soleil’s citizens remain stigmatized to this
day by outsiders. The area is routinely labeled as a “red zone”
(meaning “not to be visited”) for foreign aid workers.
The seaside slum was one of the most-affected areas in the
capital when a cholera outbreak reached Port-au-Prince last
fall. The water-borne illness can kill a person within hours.
Some bodies lay in the street for days before being picked up,
while the Doctors Without Borders hospital was overwhelmed.
The epidemic continues throughout the country, surging whenever
rainfall increases. A new six-month cholera Rapid Response
Project is being launched, funded by UNICEF and led by the
International Rescue Committee in consultation with other water-
and sanitation-oriented humanitarian organizations.
The project specifically excludes Cité Soleil from
its “list of areas for intervention” due to “security
issues,” according to UN Cluster meeting notes obtained by
The purse strings to billions of dollars in
humanitarian aid pledged for Haiti’s “recovery” are
currently controlled by the IHRC. Boulos is one of 14 voting
Haitian members; the other 14 voting members are representatives
of foreign governments and international banks.
In a “fact versus fiction” press sheet, the
IHRC claims it is “an unprecedented agency in that it has
given Haitians a seat at the decision-making table and a strong
voice in dictating the course that their nation takes towards
short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.”
Boulos was never elected to his “seat at the
decision-making table” but was named to it by Haiti’s “business
community,” which has one vote on the IHRC board, as does
Haiti’s Prime Minister. The appointment was fortuitous for
Boulos because he “continues to harbor short-term and
long-term ambitions to become prime minister and otherwise
exercise key influence in Haitian politics,” explains a Dec.
20, 2005 cable by Carney entitled
“Reginald Boulos Aims to Engineer Préval’s Defeat.”
The cable describes another meeting with Carney
where Boulos explained his efforts, which proved unsuccessful,
to “engineer” the defeat of former Haitian President René
Préval in a Feb. 7, 2006 presidential election.
“Boulos believes that a second Préval presidency
would be a ‘disaster’ for the country,” Carney wrote, and
that “Préval was responsible for gross abuses of law and
order during his presidency and could not be trusted.”
Furthermore, “Boulos confirmed that Préval
had made a special effort to reach out to him,” the cable
continues, “but that Boulos had resisted those overtures.
Boulos remained deeply skeptical that Préval had altered his
approach to governance [from his 1996-2001 term] or would
improve his performance as president.”
Boulos also accused Préval of “support
of gang leaders and widespread corruption within his government”
and warned Carney that “Préval may be too weak not to allow
Aristide and his circle back into Haitian politics.”
Despite his efforts, “Boulos
acknowledged his disappointment that after three months of
negotiation he had been unable to form a more solid [political]
alliance to oppose Préval,” Carney wrote.
Carney appreciated Boulos, whom he described as “refreshingly
straightforward and candid.” He knew both Reginald and his
brother Rudolph, who was for three years a Senator for Haiti’s
Northeast province until he was ejected from the Senate in 2009
when his colleagues learned that he had lied in denying that he
was a U.S. citizen, which made him ineligible for the post.
Asked in a telephone interview last month if he had
any regrets about approving of an assault on Cité Soleil instead
of finding an alternative, Carney replied “none whatsoever.”
Asked if he expected innocent people to be hurt or killed in
the UN troops’ take-over of Cité Soleil, he said that was in “the
back of my mind, sure” and that he knew “yes, there would
be consequences including deaths and injuries but the situation
required the reestablishment of security.”
He added that “one of the things that you learn,
perhaps not as quickly as you should in this business, is that
there's no such thing as a surgical operation.”
Nonetheless, when asked if he felt it was necessary to violently
crackdown on the gangs, knowing there would be collateral
damage, he replied, “absolutely, no question.”
Carney criticized the first MINUSTAH leader, Chilean
diplomat Juan Gabriel Valdés, for his “belief that none of
the Latin American troops would ever fire on bad elements in
Cite Soleil,” asserting that “he was proved wrong, as [Valdés’
successor] Edmund Mulet demonstrated several months later, when
MINUSTAH did clean out Cité Soleil after Préval's re-election”
in 2006, overcoming Valdés’ “reluctance... to engage.”
The former U.S. diplomat also believed that the
government of de facto Prime Minister Gérard Latortue “was
clearly an unusual structure” but that it was “constitutional”
and “had the necessary authority... to take measures with
MINUSTAH to ensure law and order everywhere in the country
including in Cité Soleil.”
One of Haiti’s foremost Constitutional and human
rights lawyers, Mario Joseph, who heads the Office of
International Lawyers (BAI), scoffs at this claim. “The
Latortue government was clearly and completely
unconstitutional,” he said. “The Bush administration and
other powers behind the 2004 coup concocted a Tripartite
Commission and a Council of Sages, which have nothing to do with
the Constitution. They took power through a violent coup and
then they cooked up a legal ruse to cover their crime.”
Carney said he “did know much of [Haiti’s]
and admits that “there's definitely a huge predatory element
still there.” He maintained close contact with Haiti’s
pro-coup business leaders even when he was not in the U.S.
Embassy, saying he “did talk at length with Andy Apaid
of [the] Group of 184 just before Aristide was forced out”
on Feb. 29, 2004.
“We always knew it, but finally the WikiLeaks
cables confirm it,” said Tony Jean-Thénor of the Miami
community group Veye Yo, founded by the late Father Gérard
Jean-Juste, when shown the cables cited in this report. “The
U.S. Embassy meets with members of Haiti’s bourgeoisie to plot
against the people, even armed attacks, and then they try to
pose as the saviors.”
Ironically, “these same bourgeois end up deciding the
country’s future although they never get in that position by a
transparent vote from the people. It is always by a coup, a
trick election, or being appointed by a foreign power.”