By Ansel Herz
Special to the Narco News Bulletin
May 29, 2011Security forces who are tearing down makeshift tent camps inhabited by Haitians displaced in last year’s earthquake were trained by Risks Incorporated, a US private security firm involved in torture trainings in Mexico, a Narco News investigation has found. Three camps in Delmas, a district in central Port-au-Prince, have been destroyed in the past week, sending families fleeing into the street with nowhere to go.
A man in a BRICOR uniform tears apart a tarp shelter in Delmas with a knife. DR 2011 Etant Dupain.
Videos posted in March 2009 on Risks Inc.’s YouTube page show a man training several dozen Haitian men in the then-partially-constructed city hall of Delmas Mayor Wilson Jeudy. Delmas is the largest municipal commune in Port-au-Prince, with at least 600,000 residents. “Yes, that’s me,” Wilson said by phone from Miami.
The men, wearing T-shirts bearing the Delmas Mayor’s emblem, perform exercises leaping over walls, kicking, and hitting tires on the ground with batons. In one scene, they practice controlling a boisterous demonstration. One group steps forward, jutting out their batons in striking motions, while the other chants in mock protest.
In the Mexico videos, Wilson is seen dragging a police trainee into his own vomit as punishment for an incomplete exercise, placing a man’s head into a dirty hole, and training police to squirt mineral water up the noses, another torture technique.
Mayor Jeudy and Daniel Antoine, the brigade chief, said in interviews last year that BRICOR received training from an American security contractor.
“BRICOR is a service that exists to control the streets, the merchants, and disorderly people. To put them in order,” Jeudy said, sitting in the pristine second floor hallway of the finished, palace-like city hall building. “[The American] was here to train them. . .We knew him from his work training the Haitian National Police.” Jeudy claimed the BRICOR training was done for free.
“The brigade is here to keep the streets clean and prevent merchants from selling in the streets,” Antoine said. “There’s a lot of disorder out there. . .and when foreign tourists come, they say, ‘This is so ugly.’”
A tent camp destroyed on May 25, 2011. DR 2011 Etant Dupain.
Henry and Jeudy are reported to have threatened quake victims on the grounds of St. Louis Gonzague, an elite private school in Delmas, with forced expulsion as early as last February, only one month after the quake. Haitian National Police accompanied Jeudy’s forces in this week’s camp demolitions.
Jeudy said BRICOR is a 75-member unarmed force, without batons or guns, and is not authorized to make arrests. Yet they are seen training with batons in the Risks Incorporated videos and this reporter observed BRICOR personnel with handcuffs on their belts last year. The Miami Herald reported this week that security forces descended on a camp “wielding machetes and knives…tearing through the makeshift tents as unsuspecting campers fled for cover or yelled in protest.”
Journalist and organizer Etant Dupain raised the alarm about the evictions on May 23, after posting photos online of hundreds of tents scattered and smashed into the ground that day at Carrefour Aeroport, a prominent intersection. Two days later, another camp was destroyed. Dupain’s photos show the Haitian National Police and bulldozers on the scene, as well as an image of Jeudy with a man in a BRICOR uniform at his side. Another image shows a BRICOR-clad man ripping apart a tarp shelter with a knife.
Dupain believes about 350 families have been displaced. “I saw one family today,” he said by phone. “I know their names, they have three children. They’re in the street, still at Carrefour Aeroport. And it has rained since the camps were torn down.”
Evictions of displaced earthquake victims from private property have been ongoing since the earthquake. With more than 60 percent of camps on private land, more than 47,000 people have already been evicted and 165,977 more are facing possible eviction, according to the International Organization for Migration. In March of 2010 the Inter-Press Service published a story about a camp torn down overnight at the behest of a Catholic priest.
Aid and human rights groups were taken aback by the sheer brazenness of this week’s evictions, which were both violent and directed by officials at highly visible camps. Nigel Fisher, the UN’s top humanitarian official in Haiti, wrote to Haiti’s new President Michel Martelly and his pick for Prime Minister, Daniel Rouzier, on Wednesday asking them to “immediately stop the deportation of those displaced,” unless alternatives for resettlement are found.
Amnesty International and several members of Congress also weighed in this week, urging a stop to the evictions. Jeudy was quoted in the Haitian press saying his obligation is to clear public spaces, not relocate or compensate quake victims.
Wilson said that he has worked closely with Jeudy, although he did not give specifics. The evictions were designed to root out criminals involved in a recent fatal shooting near the airport, Wilson said, and “legitimate” internally displaced camp residents had been relocated.
“A lot of the people with homes are getting food, free benefits, when in reality they have homes to go to. The thing is with the camps, they want to clear them all out, so they know what’s going on,” he said. “A good majority of the people that were in there were trying to scam the system.”
A joint study by City University of New York Professor Mark Schuller and the State University of Haiti found last year that 40 percent of camps did not have reliable access to water, and 30 percent did not have toilets of any kind. General food distributions ended last spring, and 53 members of Congress wrote to Secretary of State Clinton last month, calling on the government to “dedicate significant attention to the critical and urgent task of improving the appalling conditions in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps.”
Rep. Darrel Issa, the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told the head of USAID, “you would be fired” if the recovery efforts had achieved the same results in the United States in a hearing last week.
“It’s not going to look nice for the media but they have to do this,” Wilson said. “I’m sure the police going through knocking down tents is not very politically correct but that’s what they have to do.”
A photo from Haiti on Risks Inc.’s Facebook page shows a man wearing a “Mayor of Delmas in Action” shirt. The men who destroyed tent camps were seen wearing the same shirts, according to witnesses.
“Of course there’s violence in these areas, but if there were criminals in the camp they’d have found machetes, guns, or weapons,” Dupain said. “They didn’t find anything. They didn’t find people with machetes. That’s not a reason to destroy the camp. This is a pretext they’re using to justify what they’re doing.”
Jeudy has said that BRICOR, acting as a municipal police force, is authorized by Haiti’s constitution. Patrick Elie, who served as a security advisor to Haitian Presidents Aristide and Preval, says that is patently false.
“It’s definitely illegal. The constitution specifically says that there are only two armed public forces in Haiti, which are the Haitian army and the Haitian police,” Elie said, noting that he personally believed that someday Haiti should have municipal police forces.
Elie said the rise of private security companies in Haiti, domestic and foreign, began during the military regime following Jean Claude Duvalier’s ouster in 1987. “Those private security companies were introduced, almost without the knowledge of the Haitian people,” Elie said. “Who is to say if this mayor or the next one won’t start arming them and then have them start acting has his own Praetorian guard?”
Elie said the private security sector was experiencing “mission creep,” with companies doing everything from guarding homes to transporting funds to guarding VIPs in armed escorts. Risks Inc. advertises that it can provide services like these in Haiti and other countries, and the company’s blog says it has an office in Port-au-Prince.
Wilson said he provided security to an Al Jazeera English crew in the immediate aftermath of last year’s earthquake in Haiti. He identifies himself as veteran of the British Army who served in Northern Ireland. On his blog, he offers instructions on weapons usage and points out what he calls “fuck ups” by security forces in news articles.
In one post, he links to an article on drug violence in Jamaica and writes “They know they can kill the cops but if the cops hurt them it’s a human rights violation. I think the Western world has gone too soft. The powers that be do [not] seem to comprehend that violence is all that some understand!”
“It amazes me that the U.S. and Western Europe have got to stage where they no longer have the balls to confront and deal with those that want to kill and eliminate their cultures,” Wilson wrote in an entry last year.
Asked if he expects the camp evictions in Haiti to continue, Wilson said, “I can’t say anything for sure, but I take it on how things are going over there, they’ll have to go clear these camps out.”