PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s government issued a warning Friday telling a band of former soldiers who have been in hiding for six months that it will not tolerate any actions that disrupt public order.
The statement suggested the ex-soldiers who once embarrassed the government and the United Nations peacekeeping mission with their paramilitary-like presence could be planning a new public campaign.
The Ministry of Defense’s statement said it had received word that former soldiers were preparing to mount new public demonstrations trying to pressure government agencies so they could “obtain undue privileges.”
The veterans and their young recruits had paraded in public for several months with mismatched camouflage uniforms and a few of them carried rifles and pistols.
But the band of hopeful soldiers went into hiding in May following arrests over a march that drew hundreds of ex-soldiers and their recruits who want President Michel Martelly to honor his campaign goal of reviving Haiti’s military disbanded in 1995.
Martelly said as a candidate, and early after assuming the presidency, that he wanted to revive the armed forces.
Some foreign diplomats said the money would be better spent on Haiti’s understaffed police department. Martelly said the creation of the army needed to be studied carefully but he still hoped to revive a force that would protect the border, coast and the country’s few remaining forests.
The May street march in the capital led police to arrest 50 people on conspiracy charges and close down the old military bases that the former soldiers had illegally occupied. Most of the group’s leaders got away. Once easily reachable, they shut off their cellphones, and their whereabouts have remained unknown.
On Sunday, a military-themed holiday, there were rumors that the leaders planned to organize a demonstration in a densely packed city southwest of the capital named Carrefour, near an old army base they had seized and used as their headquarters. They never showed up.
The newspaper Le Matin reported Friday that police seized homemade weapons, uniforms and radio communication in a raid the previous day at a former army camp north of the capital.
Frantz Lerebours, a police spokesman, said he had heard about the operation but couldn’t immediately confirm the paper’s report.