Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Haiti's Grim Mercenaries Tighten Their Steely Grip the Attaches, Paid by the Military, Kill to Maintain the Status Quo

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Haiti's Grim Mercenaries Tighten Their Steely Grip the Attaches, Paid by the Military, Kill to Maintain the Status Quo

Article excerpt

THE United Nations, the Haitian military, and the Haitian government have had a swirl of advances and retreats in trying to return Haiti to democratic rule. On Wednesday, the UN announced that exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide would not return here on Oct. 30, as scheduled.

While this merry-go-round spins in front of the international press, Haitians are dealing with a much more terrifying reality. There are the rank-and-file soldiers that taunt them with threats. And there are the police auxiliaries, known as attaches, who are bank-rolled by the military.

Attaches are paid as little as $5 for attending demonstrations and up to several hundred dollars for committing murder. Their only loyalty is to their benefactor.

"Attaches have been hired by every military post in the country," says Anne Fuller, director of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees (NCHR) in Port-au-Prince. "They get compensated for everything," she adds. "The structure has to be changed in order to end this system of abuse."

The NCHR and other human rights organizations have documented hundreds of cases linking soldiers, police, and attaches to human rights violations that often include extortion.

Military personnel, who often work with attaches, have a loyalty to their institution as long as they receive a paycheck. The rank-and-file military and police receive a mere $80 per month.

A retired military man explained that the majority of soldiers live in very poor, marginalized areas. They are looking for some economic advancement, so they enter the Army. But when they come out, they are still in the same economic environment. Only now they have the prestige of the institution. "This creates a trap for them," he says. "So they enter into the world of corruption."

"Aristide poses a threat to them because he worked against corruption," says a former member of the military high command.

"The whole institution has a problem with Aristide's return, not just those at the top. I think they would prefer to live in miserable conditions than have him return," he adds.

The military and attaches have made their views about Aristide quite clear. …

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