Two Americans and a Canadian were among 46 people arrested during a demonstration in the capital. They are being held under suspicion of aiding Haiti’s rogue army.
By Jacqueline Charles
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Two American men and a Canadian woman 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. It was not clear exactly what kind of help the three — whose names were not released — are suspected of providing.
Senatus said the Americans don’t appear to speak Creole, but the female Canadian does. One of the American men had a shirt inscribed with the letters FADH, the Creole acronym for the Armed Forces of Haiti.
Senatus said the individuals were among 46 people arrested Friday evening during a march that became violent in front of the National Palace. The march and arrests came after hundreds of former and wanna-be soldiers took to the streets, many of them dressed in green army fatigues, after government officials called on them to abandon former military bases and disband.
The show of force culminated in the evening with 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 armed forces, 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. A few of the men in military uniforms carried handguns.
U.N. spokeswoman Eliana Nabaa said earlier Friday that 40 to 50 of the marchers had been arrested by Haitian police because they were carrying illegal weapons and acting as if they were part of the disbanded military.
Martelly has said he wants to revive the military but that it must be done legally. His administration has repeatedly called for the lightly armed men to drop their weapons and clear out of 10 bases they’ve taken over since February, including the one where the gunfire took place. But the government has taken little action to disband the group of men who’ve been parading about Haiti.
Friday’s arrests come days after Haiti installed a new government led by Laurent Lamothe as prime minister. Among his pledges is to crack down on contraband.
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.
Senatus said she remains jailed, and an interdiction has been put on her sister, Cythia Cassis Mourra, to stop her from traveling. A customs director has also been fired.
“We are against contraband…against those who are stealing the government’s money,” Senatus said. “We want all the criminals to know, we are coming after you, we will not leave you alone.”
Information from the Associated Press was used to supplement this report.