Many people in Latin America and around the world have spent the past several days celebrating. On Sunday, the poor people of Venezuela crushed an attempted electoral coup d'état by that country's ruling elite. The policies of President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian movement received yet another mandate, this one so strong that even Jimmy Carter and the Organization of American States were forced to accept it. However, only two days in to the celebration we received a grim reminder of the fact that the struggle for justice and democracy in Latin America is far from over. In Haiti, not far off the coast of Venezuela, the democratic order has not been so fortunate in recent months. In what may be the government's most despicable act yet, a sham trial in Port-au-Prince acquitted Jodel Chamblain of the murder of a prominent Haitian activist in 1993. Chamblain, the second in command of the death squad known as FRAPH, has been described by former CIA employees as a “ruthless, cold-blooded killer.”
Chamblain and his co-defendant, Jackson Joanis, had been convicted in absentia of the murder of Antoine Izmery, a strong supporter of Haiti's exiled President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Amnesty International was quick to denounce the “trial” as an “insult to justice.” The trial only lasted fourteen hours and only one witness appeared, who said he knew nothing about the case. Both Chamblain and Joanis are facing other charges that have yet to be dealt with, but if this trial is any indication of what is to come, they will likely escape justice in those cases as well. While it is said that Chamblain is incarcerated, he is actually allowed to roam freely inside his prison, where his menacing presence undoubtedly terrifies the many political prisoners who now populate Haiti's jails. Some reports even claim that Chamblain has been spotted roaming the streets of Port-au-Prince and getting drunk at bars during his alleged incarceration.
Every event leading up to Chamblain's trial indicated that it would be a sham. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue referred to him and his thugs as “freedom fighters” several months ago. When Chamblain surrendered in April, the puppet government's Justice Minister, Bernard Gousse, described him as "noble" and said he could be pardoned “for his great services to the nation.” The “great service” Gousse referred to was the rampage Chamblain and his rebels led across Haiti in the months leading up to the coup on February 29. During this so-called “rebellion,” Chamblain and his men committed acts of unspeakable cruelty, including rapes, murders, and torture.
In the Plaine du Cul-de-sac, for example, a group of rebels burglarized several homes and raped the women who lived in them, including an elderly woman. On March 1, the body of Nancy Borgella, a 21-year-old mother of two, was found in Pont Rouge. Her left hand had been cut off, her neck was swollen, and her tongue was hanging out. She had apparently been locked inside a container and was left to suffocate. Many other gruesome stories (some with photographs) have been documented by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. All in all, the rebellion has killed a thousand people at the very least.
The other charges Chamblain will be facing deal with his involvement in the infamous Raboteau Massacre, in which FRAPH and the former army killed over twenty people. Some were tortured and forced to lie in open sewers. Others were shot as they fled. In March, the judge who convicted Chamblain of the massacre was beaten by some of Chamblain's allies in retaliation. Brian Concannon, one of the lawyers who helped prosecute the case, recently lamented the fact that many of the people who had risked their lives by speaking out are now in danger: “we were able to convince people to take a gamble on democracy, we convinced people to testify in open court ... the victims very courageously took the gamble, and now they’re looking like suckers because the people they put in jail are now out, and in power, and are threatening them.”
Chamblain's acquittal is the strongest evidence thus far (as if we needed any more) that Haiti's puppet government is crooked, illegitimate, and cares nothing for human rights. Killers such as Chamblain and the rebel leader Guy Philippe are getting off without a hitch. Guy Philippe even plans on being President one day. The government apparently doesn't find these men as threatening as the elderly community activist, Annette Auguste, who was arrested on Mother's Day, apparently for her dissident political views. The same is true for Aryns Laguerre, a teenage cameraman for a children's television station, who was also arrested for no apparent reason. This is the nature of the regime that has been installed by the United States. Its enemies are journalists, doctors, literacy teachers, community activists, farmers, and human rights workers. Its allies are men like Jodel Chamblain, who will likely continue to reap rewards for doing the government's dirty work.
Justin Felux is a writer and activist based in San Antonio, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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