Amid tremendous controversy over Haiti's security situation and the on-again, off-again elections, the military commander of UN forces in this beleaguered nation apparently took his own life early Saturday morning.
After having assumed command of the UN military mission less then four months ago, the body of Brazilian officer Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar was found sprawled out on the balcony of the Hotel Montana, the apparent victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
According to several sources in the Haitian press, Bacellar had participated in a tense meeting with the president of Haiti's Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Reginald Boulos, and Group 184 leader Andy Apaid the night before.
Bacellar's death comes on the heels of Boulos's announcement of a nationwide general strike on Monday aimed at forcing the UN mission to get tough with bandits in Cite Soleil. The term "Bandits" is often seen as a code word for Lavalas supporters, and Cite Soleil has served as a launching site for massive demonstrations demanding the return of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Mario Andresol, the current Chief of Police, representing the US-installed government of Gerard Latortue, recently alleged that the community was also being used by Columbian drug traffickers and "certain political forces" to hide victims of a recent spate of kidnappings in the capital.
This is not the first time Dr. Boulos and Haiti's business elite had pressured the UN to act against supposed bandits in the capital. Last May, Boulos and the ultra-right Haitian Chamber of Commerce had sought to cover-up accusations of human rights violations committed by the Haitian police using similar tactics. An HIP article dated June 12, 2005 entitled, "There is no political persecution in Haiti" reported:
In the absence of holding the police accountable, the only thing lacking was an official justification for the U.N.'s continuing collaboration with the police and turning a blind-eye to their human rights record. On May 27, this justification was provided by the Haitian elite and delivered by the President of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Reginald Boulos. During this meeting between the business community and Haiti's Chief of Police Leon Charles, Boulos demanded the U.S.-installed government of Gerard Latortue allow the business community to form their own private security firms and arm them with automatic weapons. This was clearly a demand to legalize the business community's own private militias to kill what Boulos, and others in his circle, have referred to as "Lavalas bandits." Boulos also suggested the Latortue regime allow businesses to withhold taxes for one month and use the money to buy more powerful weapons for the police on the international market. These statements served the dual purpose of pressuring the U.N. with the image of government sanctioned private militias killing off Lavalas supporters while providing another pretext for the Bush administration to lift the 14 year-old arms embargo against Haiti. "If they don't allow us to do this then we'll take on own initiative and do it anyway" Boulos threatened.
Following Boulos statements, Chief of Police Leon Charles addressed the business leaders and further politicized the issue of violence and insecurity casting it as a "war against urban guerillas" bent on destabilizing the Haitian government. Without saying Lavalas, Charles used the code word that has come to describe Aristide's political party among Haiti's entrenched elites, "bandits."
In the days following May 27, other members of Haiti's business elite began to criticize the U.N. for being too soft on the "bandits" demanding they take harsher action. Industrialist and virulent Aristide opponent, Charles Henry Baker, took to the airwaves on May 30 and pushed it one step further by accusing U.N. forces of providing protection to the "bandits." Baker stated on Radio Metropole, "Yesterday morning, when I saw MINUSTAH [UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti] troops positioned on the Airport Road, I told myself we were in big trouble. Because the presence of MINUSTAH troops is, I believe, a form of protection for the armed bandits and nothing more. The bandits are indeed at work in these places. As for the police [pauses] and as for the MINUSTAH troops, once they hear shooting, they just get inside their tanks for protection and do nothing. Meanwhile, the bandits do whatever they want."
Charles Henry Baker, a wealthy sweatshop owner and prominent member of the Group 184, is currently running for Haiti's presidency and is seen as the preferred choice of the business community. The Group 184 is the so-called civil society initiative that organized to destabilize the government of Aristide with funding from United States, France and Canada. The last pressure campaign mounted by the business community against the UN resulted in several high-profile raids into poor neighborhoods including a massacre of civilians on July 6 in Cite Soleil.
Following the death of Lt. Gen. Bacellar, the U.N. named controversial Chilean Gen. Eduardo Aldunate Herman as the interim commander. A brief history of Aldunate is available from the following article from the School of the Americas Watch:
SOA Grad and Former Pinochet Operative Leading Forces in Haiti
On October 17th, the Chilean Government admitted that Gen. Eduardo Aldunate, second in command of its military forces in Haiti, was linked to the disbanded National Intelligence Central (CNI), oppressive military forces that operated under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The charge was initially denied by the Minister of Defense and the Army Chief.
SOA Watch records show that "Aldunate Herman Eduardo" took the Basic Officer Orientation at the School of the Americas in 1974. To date, there are at least 10 other former high-ranking officials under Pinochet who attended or taught at the SOA. Among them are the former heads of the CNI and DINA secret police, the officers who tortured and murdered a U.N. official, those who participated in the assault on the residence of president Salvador Allende, and who operated the Villa Grimaldi, Tres Alamos and Cuatro Alamos concentration camps for political prisoners.
The associations are made more grave in light comments by rebel leader turned Haitian Police force top, Guy Philippe, stating his admiration of the former dictator, adding, "Pinochet made Chile what it is." A 1994 report by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture (known as the Valech Commission) catalogued more than 27,000 confirmed cases of imprisonment and the most grotesque forms of torture under Pinochet.
There is no word yet regarding whether the general will continue in Chile's military intervention in Haiti, in the wake of the ouster of Constitutional President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Carmen Soria, daughter of a Spanish diplomat who was tortured and killed in 1976, who first made the Aldunate accusation, plans to appeal to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to have Aldunate replaced, and demanded the resignation of Chilean Minister of Defense Jaime Rabinet.
Guy Philippe, who led para-military forces from the Dominican Republic to force the ouster of Aristide on February 29, 2004, is currently a candidate for president in Haiti's upcoming elections. Elections have been postponed four times over the past four months and a new date has yet to be announced.