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Cablegate: Still Fighting Back: Cite Soleil Three Weeks Post-Earthquake

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0367
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TAGS: AEMR ASEC CASC KFLO MARR PREL PINR AMGT HA PGOV AID
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SUBJECT: Still Fighting Back: Cite Soleil Three Weeks Post-Earthquake

1. (SBU) Summary: Cite Soleil, once Haiti's most emblematic hot
spot, was hit hard but not devastated by the January 12 earthquake.
Life there has changed, people are adjusting, and this latest
catastrophe seems to have been largely absorbed and shaken off with
an incredible resiliency. The pre-earthquake concerns and
weaknesses in the community - security, governance, delivery of
services, employment - have been exacerbated. GOH and the
international community need to move quickly to regain lost
momentum, confront the growing gang problem, show they are capable
of meeting basic needs and mend the weakened fabric of civil
society. These emergent concerns and the next steps implemented to
address them will be key to long-term stability. End Summary.

BEATEN BUT NOT BOWED

2. (U) Many schools and churches, key structures and institutions
in Cite Soleil, were destroyed or heavily damaged in the January 12
earthquake that devastated more built up areas of Port-au-Prince.
Overall damage to Cite Soleil's more modest structures was,
understandably, not as extensive. When a shanty falls over, it is
easily propped up again. Many people, as in the rest of the city,
continue to sleep in the streets out of fear of aftershocks but
activity and the pace of life has largely returned to this
sprawling shantytown.

3. (U) Contacts report that by the second and third days after the
earthquake, the "ti marchants," small street-side vendors, were
back out selling their mangos, vegetables and a myriad of other
products. This activity had slowed by about the fifth day
post-earthquake as supplies dwindled and the normal supply
pipelines dried up. The pipelines for manufactured or processed
goods have reopened as products flow overland from the Dominican
Republic.

EXODUS

4. (U) Adding to the disruption of goods, the normal flow of food
products from the countryside to the city also dwindled and was
replaced by a flow of people returning to hometowns and regions to
escape the deteriorating situation in the city. Preliminary
information suggests that maybe 20 percent of Cite Soleil's
population has left the area, most for their areas of origin. The
Port-au-Prince-based Inter-University Institute for Research and
Development (INURED) is conducting a rapid assessment of Cite
Soleil in the wake of the earthquake (the assessment's findings
were not available for inclusion in this message). Assessment
personnel relayed that virtually every one of the 1,000 households
surveyed reported two or three household members had departed Cite
Soleil and the Port-au-Prince area. Part of the exodus is children
sent to live with family members in other areas. Another segment
is made up of some of the family bread winners leaving for other
unaffected areas in search of work.

RELIEF EFFORTS

5. (U) This significant out-migration has helped relieve some of
the stress on the limited resources available. Food and water
distribution is taking place in Cite Soleil, and there are some
small and medium sized IDP camps in and around Cite Soleil but no
large settlements. Most residents have remained at their homes but
still sleep in the streets. The heavy influx of relief commodities
should help to bring down prices in the area and INURED estimates
life will be relatively "normal" within several weeks.

SECURITY

6. (SBU) Approximately 4,000 prisoners escaped from
Port-au-Prince's main prison on January 12. Many were not hardened
criminals and were being held in lengthy pre-trial detention, never
having been sentenced. There were, however, numerous gang
members/leaders who had been captured in the last three years and
many have filtered back into their former territories in Cite
Soleil, Bel Air and the Martissant area. Contacts in Cite Soleil
report increased conflict and casualties as these returning
criminals clash with those who aspired to leadership in their
absence. Similar reports are coming in from other areas as inter
and intra-gang rivalries and scores are settled. This is occurring
while Haitian police (PNH) and MINUSTAH try to recover and
reorganize from the devastating affect of the earthquake and
MINUSTAH troops have been focused on relief effort. The USG,
Canada and MINUSTAH are bringing additional resources on line to
bolster PNH and UNPOL capabilities.

7. (SBU) In many instances, these returning or resurgent criminal
elements are finding a populace more determined than ever before to
resist them. There have been several occasions in Cite Soleil
where the population has either cooperated with PNH or taken
justice into their own hands to deal with these criminals.
Unfortunately, the release of so many criminals simultaneously is
overwhelming the community, and gang intimidation may create a
reticence among the population, to go to the PNH.

WHAT NEXT?

8. (SBU) On February 9, about 45 members of Cite Soleil's
Community Forum, an umbrella civic organization comprised of
representatives from Cite Soleil's eight geographic "blocs",
community groups, religious organizations and, ostensibly, the
local elected officials, met with a representative of the GOH's
Shelter Committee and a MINUSTAH official to voice their concerns.
The two primary issues raised were the need for shelters and
security. Residents are requesting assistance with materials to
either rebuild or repair their homes, or to be given access to
shelter in the run-up to the rainy season. Of equal concern to
them is the deteriorating security situation. At this point it may
be more expectation than reality but, with the rumors and reality
of escaped gangs members circulating, the word on the street that
everyone fears is "payback." Many of these gang members were put
behind bars with the assistance of these very community leaders,
who stepped forward over the past two years to cooperate with the
PNH to get these individuals off the streets. Now they are afraid
of retaliation. PNH and MINUSTAH, with international support, need
to move soon to reestablish a robust presence in these
neighborhoods.

9. (SBU) People who know Cite Soleil - and it is probably true of
any of the numerous bidonville in and around the greater
Port-au-Prince area - say that there is a natural segregation that
matches the country's geographic regions. People from the north
tend to settle in one area, people from the south another and those
from the central plateau a third. These areas are further broken
down into neighborhoods comprised of people coming from particular
townships, or even towns. And it is to these towns that as many as
20 percent of the population has returned in the wake of the
earthquake. Keeping those people there - and maybe drawing still
more with the promise of long-term shelter and jobs - will be key
to the long-term stability and health of areas like Cite Soleil.

MINIMIZE CONSIDERED
MERTEN

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