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28204: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti-Cops Needed (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By JUAN PABLO TORO
PORT-AU-PRINCE, March 30 (AP) -- Gang members, pistols tucked underneath
their sport shirts, watch idly from a street corner as children walk to
school and housewives carry food home from a market.
Not a policeman is in sight.
If any particular place in Haiti needs police, it's the teeming streets
of the Cite Soleil slum in the capital, Port-au-Prince. But all it has is
the crumbling ruins of an abandoned police station.
The battered, impoverished Caribbean nation has teetered on the brink of
anarchy since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a
bloody rebellion in February 2004.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission that arrived within months of the
rebellion has been training a force, but the pace is slow. Every three
months, 200 more recruits complete their training and are ready to hit the
streets. But Haiti needs 20,000 policemen and has only about 6,000, says
Juan Gabriel Valdes, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti.
"To reach 20,000 will take several years," he said in an interview.
Meanwhile, kidnappings are alarmingly frequent in the capital. Its few
foreign business executives speed through the streets in bulletproof
vehicles with armed bodyguards.
Haiti is also a key transshipment point for fast boats bearing cocaine
from Colombia toward the United States, according to a State Department
report issued earlier this month.
While Haiti's police force is built up, security is provided mostly by
about 1,750 U.N. police and 7,250 U.N. peacekeeping troops, who are
generally unaccustomed to taking a police role.
In Cite Soleil, Jordanian U.N. troops hunker down in armored personnel
carriers, barely interacting with the Creole-speaking public. Shanty walls
are pocked with hundreds of bullet holes from U.N. troops' clashes with
gang members over the past two years.
President-elect Rene Preval, whose strong backing among Haiti's poor
propelled him to victory in the Feb. 7 elections, faces the challenge of
bringing security and jobs to Haiti. He wants the U.N. peacekeepers to
stay, but prefers a stronger police contingent.
For much of Haiti's history, the police were a repressive arm of the
military that supported dictatorships or ruled outright after seizing power
in coups. Aristide dismantled the military after U.S. troops restored him
to power in 1994. The military had toppled the elected leader in a coup
three years earlier.
The scarcity of police is also due to newly elected leaders firing
police officers and hiring new ones loyal to the leaders, and the objective
now is to create a professional, unpoliticized force free of corruption and
criminal behavior, Valdes said.
Valdes said increasing officers' salaries -- now averaging about $100
per month -- would help.
Haitian police have committed arbitrary arrests, torture and even
summary executions, U.N. human rights official Thierry Fagart said last
Haitian National Police chief Mario Andresol has tried weed out
violators, among them 15 officers arrested for their suspected role in
killings last August at a soccer stadium in the capital.
The U.N. Security Council last month extended the Brazilian-led U.N.
peacekeeping mission through Aug. 15, and it could be renewed again.
"There is no public agency in Haiti capable of ensuring security," said
Daniel P. Erikson, an analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue think tank
in Washington. "In the short term, the withdrawal of U.N. troops would be a
disaster for Haiti."