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Haiti Gangs -

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Haiti Gangs

Broadcast: 14/03/2006

Reporter: Sam Farmar

Transcript

FARMAR: This is "Cite Soleil" - Haiti's most violent and rejected neighbourhood. It's a place of
rebellion, confusion and grinding poverty. Once the richest nation in the Caribbean, it's now the
poorest. Eight per cent of Haitians are out of work. Hopeful and desperate for change, the
country's celebrating the election of their new President, Rene Preval, an ally of former dictator
Aristide.

Preval has now inherited what amounts to a failed state, where kidnapping is now the only growth
industry. It's the kidnap capital of the world where abductions have now escalated to more than a
hundred and sixty a month.

The aggression is fuelled by racial tension. The black majority feel abandoned by the French
speaking elite, with one per cent of them controlling more than half the country's wealth. Rioting
is an inevitable consequence.

Cite Soleil Primary School lies at the heart of this festering slum, where more than a thousand
women have reported being raped in the last year and all around us are the houses where dozens of
kidnap victims are brought daily while the local residents are paid off to turn a blind eye.

Despite their dire poverty, eleven year old Lubeer and his seven siblings are making the best of
life. Lubeer's never met his father, is unlikely to go to school and lives in constant fear of his
life. He's grown up here where three hundred thousand people are crammed into just five square
kilometres. Nothing works. It ground to a halt years ago. The water supply overflows with waste and
sewerage stagnates in the streets.

Each day Lubeer scratches a living selling fish but for many, crime is the only way to make a
living.

LUBEER: A man was murdered here. He was riddled with bullets, and he fell. Then they got a machete
and chopped his head off. I saw them pouring petrol on his head and then they threw a match.
Voossh!

FARMAR: Everyone's a target. Danny, a wealthy trader is no exception.

DANNY: Two guys came up with guns, they kidnapped me and my friend and then another group of guys
came, they kidnapped me from my first kidnappers. They brought me somewhere in a bunch of little
rooms where there were a lot more people that were kidnapped and they were a bunch of kids with
guns.

FARMAR: After four days Danny's family were forced to pay a hefty ransom.

DANNY: They paid thirty seven thousand dollars US which is a lot of money and I got released on my
birthday. I prayed a lot but I never want to go through that again.

FARMAR: It's easy to spot the men responsible for the kidnappings, less easy to film them. This is
Amoral, the godfather of the gangsters, filmed with a hidden camera.

Amoral can we go eat together?

Unsurprisingly Amoral turned down my general offer of a free lunch but after some delicate
negotiations, I was introduced to a member of his gang who offered to be my guide. He'd lost his
leg in a turf war. Through him I met another kidnapper, Ti Blanc, who claims to be a freedom
fighter battling for his people.

Can we go somewhere else and have the conversation? Can we get off the street?

TI BLANC: It's a critical time for people in Cite Soleil. We're responsible militants and the
population supports us. We're struggling to get the town our of this miserable situation. Things
that you would see in a movie are a reality here in Cite Soleil.

FARMAR: In a country so poor the economics of kidnapping have become irresistible with many gangs
carrying out the dirty work of Haiti's political factions. In fact it was President Preval's local
campaign manager who first introduced me to the gang leader Amoral. It would seem Preval has the
ability to turn the kidnappings on or off.

Victims agree that politicians are behind many of the kidnappings. One, a former public servant,
was too scared to show his face but blames the previous government.

FORMER PUBLIC SERVANT: It's very well known that there are members of this interim government who
have been very, very steeply involved in kidnapping as well as other types of crime and who had
gangs on their payroll. Documents do exist to substantiate this. It's very well known that they
have been involved in arming death squads.

FARMAR: Whoever's paying them the gang members are clearly busy. The following day amid the chaos
of the city's only hospital, I bumped into Ti Blanc again. He's keen to show me his gang's battle
wounds. Médecins Sans FrontiΘres doctor, Alessandra Oglino explains the grim reality of the
situation.

DR ALESSANDRA OGLINO: In November we received the 34 wounded by gun shot - in December 80 - and in
January, 103.

FARMAR: Even around the hospital there were a lot of shootings were there?

DR ALESSANDRA OGLINO: Yeah, actually the 19th of January the paediatric ward was targeted by three
bullets and we had to evacuate all the children.

FARMAR: But the Hospital Director has his own ideas about who's to blame for the violence.

DR SAINT FLEUR: I think the situation has got worse sine the U.N. arrived. Around 50 percent of our
gunshot patients have been shot by the U.N. When the U.N. soldiers shoot they don't aim at specific
targets, they shoot indiscriminately so children, women and elderly people become victims.

FARMAR: Surprisingly, he points the finger at the nine thousand U.N. peacekeepers who are supposed
to be protecting the ordinary Haitians.

DR SAINT FLEUR: It is the impact of one of the bullets.

FARMAR: This was a U.N. bullet?

DR SAINT FLEUR: Yeah.

FARMAR: Some U.N. troops are accused of indiscriminate killings in the slums and even involvement
in kidnappings but it's hard to know whom to trust or what to believe in this place. When I turned
to film a mother giving birth, the hospital director sneaked off to meet with the gang leaders. It
seems no one escapes the grip of the gangs from the cradle to the grave. Even this birth wasn't a
happy occasion as the mother was a victim of rape.

The people direct their anger at the U.N.'s Jordanian battalion, stationed at the centre of Cite
Soleil. This woman lives close by and has often been caught in the cross fire.

HAITIAN WOMAN: This... this... this... this Minister.

FARMAR: "Minister" means "United Nations". They are regarded as trigger happy.

YOUNG HAITIAN CHILD PLAYING: Minister... boom... boom... boom!

FARMAR: Ti Blanc voices the people's frustrations.

TI BLANC: For two years we've been under attack. They kill us every day, and we're unable to cope.

FARMAR: But the U.N. claims some Jordanian outposts have been hit by as many as a thousand rounds a
day fired by the gang members. What's clear is that despite using considerable force, the U.N. has
not been able to clamp down on the kidnappers and thugs.

Adding to the chaos, the police openly admit that twenty five per cent of their force is involved
in serious crime, including kidnappings, rape and killing. Police death squads have executed
hundreds of civilians over the past two years. Anyone with any money is a target.

Quesnel Durosier was snatched a week before his wedding.

QUESNEL DUROSIER: I was going to the bank to withdraw $3,000 U.S. for our wedding. They grabbed me
and forced a bag over my head and a gun to my side and face. At first I thought they must be the
police as they were wearing security uniforms but when I realised what was really happening I began
to think of my fiance. I thought I would be executed.

FARMAR: Quesnel was forced to hand over the money but he escaped with his life after he told them
it was for his mother's funeral.

The justice system is little better, with many Haitians languishing in gaols without charges or
trials.

MALE PRISONER: I was taking a pee in front of Uni Bank and the Commissioner gets me in here since
January 1st with a charge of trespassing. Since I've been here, I've never seen my judge, I never
went to the courtroom they never got me questioned upstairs. I've just been doing time for nothing.

FARMAR: Not surprisingly the police have little respect in Cite Soleil and for two years have been
driven out by the gangs who now command the trees.

Haiti now has a new democratically elected government but few believe it will make much difference.
Many here fear that President Preval's grip on power is tenuous, that a return to anarchy is
inevitable. The UN continues to issue assurances that peacekeepers are doing their best to impose
order but for the people of Cite Soleil like Lubeer and his friends, the gangs remain, alternating
between predator and protector. The gangsters remain the only real authority these children will
ever see.

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