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Cablegate: Unrest Continues in Gonaives

VZCZCXRO0349
PP RUEHQU
DE RUEHPU #0966 1501742
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301742Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6190
INFO RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 1544
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA PRIORITY 1363
RUEHQU/AMCONSUL QUEBEC PRIORITY 0810
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1221

C O N F I D E N T I A L PORT AU PRINCE 000966

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/EX AND WHA/CAR
S/CRS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CAR
INR/IAA (BEN-YEHUDA)
WHA/EX PLEASE PASS USOAS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2012
TAGS: PGOV ASEC KCRM PHUM PINR HA
SUBJECT: UNREST CONTINUES IN GONAIVES

Classified By: Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson for reasons 1.4 (b) and (c ).

1. (C) Summary. Violent demonstrations against the
government and MINUSTAH on May 22 and 24 are the most recent
result of increased gang activity and tensions in the
northern port city of Gonaives. The murder of a local
journalist and civic activist Alix Joseph sparked the most
recent disturbances. Local gang members infiltrated
demonstrations organized by journalists' organizations and
threw stones at MINUSTAH and the Haitian police on May 22 and
repeated their actions on May 24 during Joseph's funeral,
according to MINUSTAH sources. Political observers believe
that Senator Youri Latortue is either instigating or
encouraging the disturbances. Ongoing violence in Gonaives
discredits both the government and MINUSTAH, raising
Latortue's profile as a powerful alternative to the current
order. End Summary.

2. (C) Armed men on May 16 assassinated Alix Joseph, the
director of programming of the private Radio-Tele Provinciale
in Gonaives, shooting him nine times while he sat in his car.
The Haitian National Police (HNP) have yet to determine a
motive for the homicide, though many of his friends and
colleagues claim he had run afoul of the local gangs because
of work as a journalist and as an anti-gang community
activist. Joseph's death followed the April 13 murder of
former journalist and regional spokesman for Lavalas Johnson
Edouard, which also remains unsolved.

3. (C) Several local journalists' organizations organized
demonstrations in Gonaives on May 22 to protest Joseph's
murder, the rising level of criminal activity in Gonaives,
and lack of law-enforcement response. MINUSTAH officials who
witnessed the demonstration reported that roughly two hundred
men, most of them young and apparently poor and many of them
presumed gang members, joined the protest, throwing rocks at
UNPol and Haitian Police (HNP) officers, and marched to the
town prison in an attempt to release the inmates before UNPol
units disbursed the crowd with tear gas. Rock-throwing
demonstrators on May 24 also disrupted Joseph's funeral in
Gonaives, again requiring UNPol and HNP intervention with
tear gas.

4. (C) Comment. The disturbances in Gonaives appear to be
the latest episode in a clash between government authority in
Port-au-Prince, and by extension MINUSTAH, and criminal
forces in Gonaives who control the port, the local commerce,
and the local law enforcement. While Youri Latortue may have
become something of a combination boogeyman and pat answer
for government officials seeking to explain their failure to
improve conditions in Gonaives, a broad spectrum of contacts
with knowledge of the situation almost unanimously believe
that Latortue orchestrates an anti-government/anti-MINUSTAH
campaign and manipulates the local gangs to his own political
ends. Specifically, they charge that Latortue encourages
lawlessness in Gonaives to discredit the government and to
bolster his case for the re-establishment of Haiti's army,
while strengthening his own power base in the region.

5. (c) Comment continued. MINUSTAH officials relate that the
Argentinian contingent stationed in Gonaives once kept a
tight lid on street disturbances and blatant criminal
activity, particularly in the aftermath of Tropical Storm
Jean in 2004. After a series of troop rotations, however,
they have become lax and disengaged from the situation in the
city. Several MINUSTAH officials have expressed that
MINUSTAH and the HNP now need to do for Gonaives what they
did in Cite Soleil -- target gang leaders and impose order in
the slums. The MINUSTAH and the HNP struck the first blow on
May 27, arresting Gonaives gang-leader (and presumed Latortue
associate) Willifort Ferdinand, alias "Ti Will," as he gave
an interview on a local radio station.
SANDERSON

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