Haitians Fear Return of Attaches, Bold Criminals With AM-Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ It’s a claim that stretches the imagination.
The Haitian cops at the notorious Cafeteria police station say they wouldn’t know if one of the attache thugs that used to work for them had been hauled in.
Why? They don’t carry pro-military membership cards anymore.
But at Cite Soleil, the fetid slum home to about one million people, residents frightened for their safety and property believe the thugs that terrorized them under military rule are being put back on the streets - by their old friends, the police.
Suspected attaches detained by U.S. soldiers are handed over to Haitian police if it is determined they haven’t committed a serious crime or don’t pose a threat to the U.S. or multinational forces.
Most of the time, though, turning attaches over to Haitian police is to give them to the people most likely to set them free.
The old police force worked hand-in-glove with attaches and members of the pro-military Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), which together brutalized pro-democracy supporters during military rule.
And while the new Haitian police force is being overseen by international monitors, and efforts have been made to weed out corrupt elements from the old force, it has not been completely dismantled.
″The people that hold them are their friends, so they free them,″ said Jean-Baptiste Elifaithe, 69, a merchant in Cite Soleil. ″Or maybe they bribe their way out.″
It’s impossible to say how many attaches have been freed. Police claim they don’t even know an attache when they snag one.
Police Sgt. Nicolas Garard said no master list exists for attaches or FRAPH members.
″When they arrest people and bring them here, if they don’t have the card saying they’re a FRAPH, how am I supposed to know?″ said Garard.
At the Cafeteria police station downtown, 1st Lt. Herve Filsaine says no verifiable attaches are currently in custody.
Duty office Pierre Herod said two men being held Wednesday were accused of being attaches by a man they beat in a money-stakes game of dominoes. ’The guy they beat wanted his money back and shouted they were attaches,″ Herod said.
A crowd beat them and turned them over to the Americans.
There was no proof that two men were attaches - just as there was no proof they were not - and its easy to sic a mob on an enemy by saying he is. The two were to be held for 24 hours and released discreetly.
From his small shop selling wine and oil on the Cite Soleil waterfront, Elifaithe fears that too many of those released are attaches.
And he thinks they may have a new job now - common thieves - following the exile of the military rulers and the return of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Elifaithe expressed fear for the family who guards his shop at night because some suspicious people have see around lately.
″They put dark glasses on, but I recognize them,″ Elifaithe said. ″They’re attaches; they carry knives now instead of guns because the guns could get taken away too easy.″
Across the garbage-strewn street from Elifaithe’s shop, Elita Eliscara, 45, a sugar-cane seller and single mother with four children, was robbed of her meager earnings Monday night by thieves who threatened to cut her throat.
The poor are not the only victims of rising crime. In the affluent hills of the capital’s Pacot neighborhood, a maid was slain during a robbery Wednesday at a leafy, two-story house.
Alongside the desire for revenge against such crimes - past and present - exists a pervasive fear of the old power structure.
Tuesday night, a mob in the wealthy hillside suburb of Petionville beat to death a notorious attache known as Lenes.
One of his friends, a police sergeant, turned up later and threatened to blow up the houses of everyone involved in the death. Hundreds of people fled and sought shelter with friends.
Witnesses said U.S. soldiers came an hour later and took the sergeant away, and no one was killed and no property damaged. U.S. military officials would not confirm or deny whether the sergeant was taken into custody.