Two Americans were among 46 people arrested during a demonstration in the capital. They are being held under suspicion of aiding Haiti’s rogue army.
Members of Haiti’s dissolved army stand behind bars at a national police station after being arrested during a march in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, May 18, 2012. Former and would-be soldiers refused government orders to disband and marched through the capital on Friday. The ex-soldiers and their young recruits have been pressing President Michel Martelly to honor his campaign goal of restoring the armed forces, which was abolished in 1995. Ramon Espinosa / AP
By Jacqueline Charles
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Two American men have been arrested by Haitian authorities for allegedly helping members of Haiti’s rogue army, the country’s chief prosecutor told The Miami Herald.
“We have suspicions these foreigners are helping them,” Jean-Renel Senatus said.
Senatus said one of the Americans doesn’t speak Creole, while the other does. One of the American men had a shirt inscribed with the letters FADH, the French acronym for the Armed Forces of Haiti. The men were identified as William Petrie and Steven Shaw.
In a separate incident, three other foreigners were detained by police after coming to the aid of one of the arrested Americans.
The men were driving members of the rogue army in separate vehicles near Haiti’s National Palace Friday when they were taken into custody by Haiti’s National Police. Senatus said the individuals were among 46 people arrested during a march that became violent in front of the National Palace.
The march and arrests came after hundreds of former and wannabe soldiers took to the streets, many of them dressed in green army fatigues. Haitian authorities have called on the rogue force to disband and abandon the former military bases they have taken over throughout Haiti.
Soon after the Americans were arrested, one of them used a cell phone to send out a text message asking that insulin be brought to him at the jail, said sources familiar with the message. Foreign officials spent Saturday morning trying to figure out to what extent, if any, all of the foreigners are involved with the rogue force.
On Friday, there was a tense exchange of gunfire with police outside an old military base in Carrefour, a Port-au-Prince suburb. There were no immediate confirmed reports of casualties.
The ex-soldiers and their young recruits have been pressing President Michel Martelly to honor his campaign goal of restoring the army, which was abolished in 1995.
Friday’s march began peacefully but some people near the National Palace threw rocks amid a heavy U.N. presence, whose troops responded by firing tear gas.
While Martelly has campaigned for the reinstatement of the army, he has said that it must be done legally.
In recent days, both Haiti’s new Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Minister of Defense Rodolphe Joazile joined Martelly in demanding that the ex-soldiers and wannabe soldiers abandon 10 former military bases they’ve taken over since February.
Friday’s arrests come days after Haiti installed a new government led by Lamothe, who pledged increased security measures in the coming days. This includes not just making the streets safer, but cracking down on contraband, he has said.
After Lamothe’s installation, Haitian authorities reported that they had arrested Shirley Mourra, a businesswoman whose warehouse was packed with cosmetics from the Dominican Republic that had not been declared.
On Saturday, Lamothe met with elected Haitian-American community leaders from South Florida at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.
Among the things highlighted: the success of Haiti’s police in shutting down the largest of the 10 occupied bases.
“The victory is for the police… We are very happy,” he said.
Soon, he said, “there will be no more rogue army.”
Lamothe also highlighted his efforts to fight other illegal activities, noting that last month alone, Haiti lost $40 million to contraband.
Haitian-American officials welcomed Lamothe, who was accompanied by Tourism Minister Balmir Stephanie Villedrouin.
“We have capacity to offer a lot of technical assistance,” said Jean-Monestime, the only Haitian American on the Miami-Dade Commission.