AS United States troops fan out across the country, Haiti is
greeting them with a mix of open smiles and clenched fists.
After days of open embrace by the population of Les Cayes, a
seaport near the tip of Haiti's southern peninsula, a US soldier
was shot around midnight Sunday, by one of two men who approached
him. It was the first action against US soldiers in Haiti since the
incident in Cap-Haitien on Sept. 24, where gunmen threatened to
fire and US troops responded, killing 10 Haitians.
Sunday's shooting here illustrates the roller-coaster ride that
Haiti represents for US troops. Unlike more peaceful deployments in
other southern cities such as Jacmel and Petit-Goave, Les Cayes has
been an on-again-off-again tinderbox since US troops arrived on
Tensions began a few hours before their arrival. Haitian Lt.
Col. Evens Gedeon told his subordinates he wanted to defend his
barracks against US troops. (The United States, not wanting to
surprise Haitian officials, has been alerting them when and where
its teams are going.) "He was very afraid that they would disarm
his soldiers," says Haitian Lt. Eddy Desrosiers.
By 10 a.m., Lieutenant Desrosiers and Maj. Joseph Miracle Ira
had persuaded the colonel not to take hostile action. Two hours
later, 37 men of the US Army 3rd Special Forces Group landed in Les
Cayes and drove immediately to the barracks.
"It was very tense," recalls US Capt. Robert Bevelacqua of his
first meeting with Colonel Gedeon. "He didn't want to look me in
The US troops set up in the Haitian military compound. Ge-deon,
who was commander of Haiti's southern military district, drove to
Port-au-Prince to confer with senior officials of the Haitian Armed
About two hours later, tensions increased further. A US soldier
alerted Captain Bevelacqua that behind the military barracks was a
prison full of malnourished Haitians.
The captain, finding gross human-rights violations at the
prison, met with the Haitian colonel's subordinates that night to
talk about the situation. "They never monitored it," the captain
says. "I told them they had 24 hours to fix it."
Bevelacqua went to sleep. Gedeon returned from Port-au-Prince.
The next morning, US Brig. Gen. Richard Potter arrived with the
FADH inspector general and three FADH colonels to view the prison.
When General Potter saw the conditions, Bevelacqua recalls, he
turned angrily to the Haitian officials and told them: "We cannot
allow human beings to be treated like that." Gedeon, who did not
attend the meeting, paced back and forth outside. …