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Cable 361: Gangs and Political Violence in Haiti: Part II

Cable 361: Gangs and Political Violence in Haiti: Part II

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Published by Andres
This is the second section of a 2007 US embassy report on the role of gangs in political violence in the Haitian city of Gonaives.
This is the second section of a 2007 US embassy report on the role of gangs in political violence in the Haitian city of Gonaives.

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Published by: Andres on Jul 31, 2011
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P 291233Z JUN 07FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCETO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6415C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT AUPRINCE 001148SUBJECT: THE POLITICAL BASIS FOR VIOLENCE INGONAIVES - PART 2 OF 3
REF: PORT-AU-PRINCE 966Classified By: AMBASSADOR JANET A. SANDERSON,REASONS 1.4(B) AND (D).¶1. (C) Summary. Like their local politicalleaders, civil society leaders in Gonaives believethat insecurity in Gonaives results from thepolitical rivalry between Prime Minister JacquesEdouard Alexis and Senator Youri Latortue.According to post's interlocutors, gang leaders,who are linked to Senator Youri Latortue, prey onthe local populace and foment unrest to discreditthe government. At the same time, residents resentthe government and the Haitian police (HNP) fortheir inability to deliver services and protect thecitizenry. While leaders express hope that recentchanges in HNP leadership will improve the securityclimate, they report that many residents believethat the re-establishment of the army would be moreeffective in combating gangs and restoring order.End summary.
 
 2. (C) Poloff on May 30-31 conducted nineinterviews in Gonaives, of which two were withpoliticians, two with law enforcement, and fivewith civil society. This second cable reports onthe interviews with Catholic XXXXXXXXXXXX, thenational XXXXXXXXXXXX leader XXXXXXXXXXXX, civilsociety XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX proprietorXXXXXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXXXXXX.¶3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX representative organization,claimed that Gonaives was dangerous because theauthorities tolerated the gangs that were alignedwith Latortue's political party, The Artibonite inAction (LAA). Because of the authorities'acquiesence, no one protected members of civilsociety who spoke out against the gangs. Forexample, XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that gang members onApril 13 at 3:00 AM murdered Zantray's formersecretary general, Edouard Johnson. The HNParrested the alleged perpetrator only underpressure from Zantray. Separately, XXXXXXXXXXXXclaimed that before the change in leadership at theHNP, Senator Latortue would go to the local policestation at midnight and secure the release ofarrested gang members. When asked how he obtainedthis information, he replied that HNP officers toldhim. He allowed that the HNP in Gonaives changedfor the better under its new leadership thatarrived in May.¶4. (C) Catholic XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that untilthe recent HNP crackdown on gangs, Gonaives was thevictim of a “culture of impunity.” Since the GoH
 
did not have effective law enforcement in the city,residents felt unprotected from the gangs if theywere to speak out against them. Everyone under-stood that the gangs in Raboteau did not make idlethreats, as the murder of journalist Alix Josephreinforced (Note. Joseph, a noted grass-rootsdemocracy activist, reportedly received deaththreats from gang members after speaking outagainst gang violence. See reftel.) XXXXXXXXXXXX,who denounced the violence, placed security guardsin his residential compound, even though he did notfeel directly threatened by the gangs. WhileXXXXXXXXXXXX assiduously avoided any mention ofpoliticians or political factions, he opined thatresidents were asking for the return of the armybecause in the past, the army “kept the situationunder control.”¶5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX believed that Gonaivessuffered from insecurity that was a form ofopposition to the GoHcaused by politicallyambitious persons, “some of whom should be behindbars, but are seeking office. You know who I amtalking about.” XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that Latortuewas not as popular as some may believe, but thatbecause of his long established ties with thegangs, Latortue is part of a strong minority ableto disrupt events that support Prime MinisterAlexis, as seen when demonstrators threw rocks atAlexis during Judge Hugues St. Pierre's funeral.XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed to know definitely thatLatortue is stockpiling arms and that the locallongshoremen were aligned with Latortue. (Comment:Longshoremen initially made up the bulk of thenotorious “Cannibal Army” gang in Gonaives. Endcomment.) Conversely, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX,

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