By: John A. Carroll, Peoria Journal Star
Eric Jean Baptiste, former P-a-P mayoral candidate, is offering to pay lawyer’s fees for abused Haitian man. (Photo by John Carroll)
At 6 AM on Monday morning, three days ago, I went to the little airport in Les Cayes, Haiti.
I was getting ready to get on my commuter flight on Tortug Air to fly 40 minutes to Port-au-Prince.
As I was waiting in the airport a UN (MINUSTAH) helicopter loudly landed on the little runway.
I didn’t think much about it because it is not uncommon to see MINUSTAH soldiers in Les Cayes.
UN (MINUSTAH) Helicopter, Les Cayes Airport–September 5, 2011 (Photo by John Carroll)
As Tortug Air passengers started to board the 20 seats on the plane, I got up and started walking to the back door of the airport.
Out of the side room in the airport came about five MINUSTAH soldiers along with about five men dressed in civilian clothes. There was a tall soldier with “gendarme” written in large letters on his back. This guy seemed to be watching carefully over this entire group inside the airport.
As I walked by the group of MINUSTAH soldiers I looked at the patch on the soldiers arms. The patch said URUGUAY.
The UN has over 12,000 soldiers in Haiti now, and the Uruguay contingent has about 900.
I was allowed to go to the door before the Uruguay MINUSTAH soldiers.
After my boarding pass had been checked at the door I stepped outside to head for the Tortug Air plane.
Standing to my right was an armed Uruguay MINUSTAH soldier holding a rifle just a few feet from the back door of the airport.
This all seemed strange to me.
Why so much security in this tiny Cayes airport for MINUSTAH?
Late last week another terrible story from Haiti made international news.
In a coastal town in southern Haiti named Port Salut, which is very close to Cayes, a video had surfaced showing Uruguayan MINUSTAH soldiers abusing an 18 year old Haitian man. This horrific report was made by Ansel Herz and ABC News.
The local Haitian reaction was swift and angry against the presence of MINUSTAH. However, there was no violence.
And a protest in Port Salut was planned for Monday afternoon against the Uruguayan MINUSTAH compound. An article in today’s Miami Herald says that former mayoral candidate Mr. Jean Baptiste (pictured at the top of this post) led the demonstration in Port Salut on Monday and has cut a check to help pay for the lawyers fees for the abused 18 year old man from Les Cayes.
As I took my seat on Tortug Air, I watched out the window as a line of soldiers and the five civilian-dressed men headed in a line a hundred yards down the runway to get on the MINUSTAH helicopter.
I wondered that morning if the men I was watching were the perpetrators of the abuse?
I had no idea.
But since Monday morning I have heard from two sources that the Uruguayan soldiers who performed the abuse have been repatriated.
More importantly, how brazen and arrogant of the Uruguyan soldiers to not only abuse a young Haitian man, but to video and save the abuse on a MINUSTAH cell phone.
Doesn’t this say something revealing about how much MINUSTAH soldiers think they can get away with in Haiti?
In a previous post I documented how MINUSTAH denied shooting innocents in Soleil and how they denied killing a Haitian man immediately after Father Jean-Juste’s funeral mass in 2009.
But the abuse in Port-Salut became more difficult for MINUSTAH to deny once the video went viral.
When I arrived in Port-au-Prince on Monday morning, I met with three young Haitian women patients of mine who have all had heart surgery under the Haitian Hearts program. I told all of them to stay away from MINUSTAH.
One of the women told me she had a spontaneous abortion of a MINUSTAH soldier’s baby.
And another woman responded that she knew a 16 year old girl who had a baby of a MINUSTAH soldier.
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