Danse Petro: Day of the Dead with Bullets

Day of the Dead, November 2nd in many countries in The Caribbeans, including Haiti where life can end in the blink of a bullet, is celebrated to honor those that have passed. It is a holiday that is respected often on the continent, although not in the United States where this year it will precede an Election Day that may signal the death of a nightmare and the birth of hope.
In Belair, according to some witnesses heard on Radio, early in the day more people were killed by Barbeque and his gunmen from Delmas 2. More victims in the quiet shooting war going on in that neighborhood, away from the public eye it seems since little is being said about those killed, while the ones that survive could only watch as their houses burned. Victims of an undeclared war that is happening in poor neighborhoods in Haiti to impose unwanted elections.

Quietly, people are getting killed and kidnapped in Haiti at an alarming rate. Usually, weeks before the date of elections there is always violence in the country as candidates either campaign or try to intimidate. There is usually a lot of shooting late at night, as some people want to intimidate voters. I remember a time before the elections in the end of the year 2000, while Rene Preval was president. Every night in Canapé Vert the gunfire would start from the top of the hill. Heavy shooting from automatic rifles that would last until daybreak. Back then, usually we would go to sleep early in my neighborhood around nine or so, only to wake up around three or four AM when the gunplay would start. There was a lot of shooting, but in the morning people would wake up in the “bidonville” on the hill and go about their business. Yet, whenever someone died there you heard the screaming for hours, as it reverberated from the house affected. Back then there was a lot of shots fired to intimidate people and influence the voting with few killings, but what is happening nowadays in Belair and in the ghettos is criminal. Dates for elections have not even been announced, yet a quiet war is going on with many people killed, while fire rages on houses sending families in the street hunting for shelter.

Presently, the police force is fragmented by a situation where the syndicate that most police officers would like to see become an official entity is rejected by those in authority, like the Director of the Haitian National Police and the presidency. Police officers are pitted against each other because while some want the union to become a strong partner by looking out for their rights and benefits, which the higher command has denied from the rank and file, others are receiving special treatment from the authorities. Some police officers are given extra money to repress demonstrations with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored vehicles. It is even said that some agents from police work with the gangs to make extra money, while ensuring they stay alive. Barbecue, the gangster making a name for himself in Delmas, used to be a police officer, and even though he is on a wanted list he walks around freely, often in the presence of policeman. At the same time some police unit are used to break up demonstrations by their fellow officers looking to impose the syndicate by taking their demands to the streets, and committing damage to official buildings and vehicles. It’s a situation where police is fighting police in a true example of divide and suppress.

This Day of the Dead will be remembered in Belair because it truly showcased violence and lost of life. We need to stay aware of this situation and keep it in mind when thinking and talking about Haiti. There, in the heart of Port-au-Prince, people did not have COVID-19 as the main worry. Bullets and fire burning down homes was the enemy. With no resistance officially from the police, gangs are working for the government to terrorize people living in poor neighborhoods. Militants are hunted down and quietly executed, so most of them have gone into hiding. Even well known members of the opposition, like former senators Youri Latortue and Nenel Cassy have been targets of assassins. In Belair, as in many neighborhoods, some militants are hiding out, away from their homes, sleeping at the homes of friends or relatives because they are on the list. Everyone can become a victim, and the price of funerals is rising with the body count. Fear is gaining ground, as everyone hunkers down at night, save for a few people who must party at night, despite people getting killed or kidnapped.
Some police officers who are fighting to have the syndicate accepted are also fighting against the gangs working for the politicians associated with the president. They do not want to participate in the government’s plan to impose the alliance of the G – 9, the groups of gangs who have chose Barbeque as leader, and the authorities. These police officers prefer to repudiate the high command and the presidency who have not taken care of them and their families. They want to live with a decent salary, medical benefits and the opportunity to get promoted systematically. This situation is a powder keg ready to burst into fireworks.

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