Surging Violence in Haiti Kills 3, Including 6-Year-Old Girl
The wave of violence that threatens to engulf Haiti’s presidential election campaign claimed at least three more victims Thursday, one of them a 6-year-old child waiting at a bus stop.
The schoolgirl was standing on the street in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil about 7 a.m. when she was shot. The killing sparked clashes with police in which at least two others died. Some witnesses said up to five people were killed.
Haiti has seen a sharp upsurge in violence this month since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ordered a disarmament campaign following the Nov. 7 killing of a legislator, Rep. Jean-Hubert Feuille.
At least seven people were killed and dozens of houses were ransacked and burned in the days following Aristide’s call for disarmament, as mobs searched for arms and sympathizers of the former military regime.
Thursday’s violence was set off by a man who opened fire on the child from his motorcycle, one witness said. Another said a Haitian police officer, after quarreling with the bus driver, opened fire on the vehicle, hitting the girl, Radio Metropole reported.
A police officer at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police had been on the alert for trouble in Cite Soleil, a shantytown crowded with about 200,000 residents. He blamed gangs of thieves--who, he said, have been angered by the disarmament campaign--in the girl’s shooting.
Protesters, however, said the police were responsible for the girl’s death, and they set fire to barricades of tires and plundered the Cite Soleil police station, taking four or five shotguns.
One elderly woman was shot and killed in the street, and another was murdered in her home. It was unclear who did the shooting because some protesters as well as the police were armed. A fourth fatality was reported, but it could not be confirmed.
U.N. soldiers were on standby but did not intervene after Haitian police said they could cope with the situation, said U.N. military mission spokesman Eric Falt. By noon, the situation had “calmed down but remains tense,” he said.
Meanwhile, on a one-day visit to Haiti, U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake met Thursday with Aristide and shared Thanksgiving lunch with U.S. troops serving in the multinational peacekeeping force.
The visit came amid increasing tension between Haiti and the United States. The street violence this month and demands by Aristide supporters that he not step down--in contradiction of his constitutional duty--have cast doubt on Haiti’s ability to carry off the presidential election, scheduled for Dec. 17.
There are clouds on the economic horizon too.
The Clinton Administration blocked $5 million in aid this month after the Haitian government failed to deliver on its pledge to start selling off state enterprises.