I was driving back to Chicago from the capitol in Springfield, Illinois when I got a phone call from my mom. I remember it like yesterday.
My brother was being evacuated from Haiti. He had been in Haiti since 2002, working as a Peace Corp volunteer. I think there is much to critique about the Peace Corp., but Zach had taken his job and role seriously. His village loved him, everybody looked out for him and and he even became a bit of a local celebrity.
Zach built a basketball court for the town. Well mainly for himself but he’s from Indiana, so what did you expect? He got the high schools soccer team in Brownsburg, Indiana (our alma matta) to donate their uniforms and equipment to the local team and helped implement farming and building projects.
Mostly he was a friendly presence and a powerful link between his Haitian community and his Indiana community. He learned Creole and even to this day Zach’s cell phone will ring and the conversation immediately goes into Creole. He gets phone calls from Haiti everday. He has gotten friends and family to provide living expenses and scholarship money to numerous kids, now young adults, so that they could go to school and be active particpants in Haiti’s future.
Anyway, Zach had to leave Haiti early. This is why.
Late in 2003, A well organized and powerfully armed (by Haitian standards) paramilitary force emerged from the Haitian-Dominican frontier and quickly marched onto Port-Au-Prince. Led by former Haitian death squad leaders and shadowy underworld figures, this militia quickly overran the country. President Aristede had disbanded the national army because the Haitian army was often only used against its own people. When this militia entered Port-Au-Prince, this is how one Haitian lawyer described the scene:
The first order of business for these U.S. supported death squad leaders (Guy Philippe, Jean Tatoune and Louis Jodel Chamblain) and harden criminals was to go to the National Penitentiary and forcibly break out all the 2000 prisoners there.
Now these murderers have more murderers to help them terrorize Haiti.
Practically every building Aristide and the Haitian people built these last 10 years are being burned down and destroyed. Meanwhile the U.S. troops, French troops, Canadian troops are protecting their own edifices in Haiti. No one is protecting the more than 850 million investment per year hard working Haitians of the Diaspora have invested in the security, development, shelter and nurturing of their relatives, children and family in Haiti.
Last night these opposition thugs ran through the slums of Belaire, La Saline and Cite Soleil, well known for its support of the elected President, who is now a hostage of the U.S., and indiscriminately fired, killing countless numbers, according to an independent reporter in Port-au-Prince.
The Lavalas Party has been threatened and warned to remain quiet and not denounce the Coup d’Etat and abduction of Aristide, his wife, a brother in law and two security people from Haiti. Not to tell the people President Aristide did not resign freely but at U.S. gunpoint and forced on an airplane against his will.
We want to help Haiti, but let us remember our complicity in the economic poverty and misery of Haiti. Let us seek solidarity and a costly justice with those that are suffering in Haiti.