"Only a Question of Rock-Throwing" — Paul Farmer

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2003, Paul Farmer defended the violence of Aristide gangs against a peaceful meeting in Cité Soleil. A distinguished physician, Dr. Farmer is now a deputy special envoy of the secretary-general of the United Nations.

Full text of July 15, 2003 hearing

Paul Farmer:

"Just for those who are not familiar with the arcane vocabulary of Haitian politics, the Group of 184 is seen quite correctly and sociologically as the elite: the middle class and beyond.

"I have very little experience as a physician, of course, with that population since I live in rural Haiti.

"'Civil society' is very often a code word in Haiti for the elite.

"There is, of course, with this extreme poverty — I'm sure Senator Nelson knows, and I know you have witnessed, Senator Dodd — with such grotesque indices of social inequality there are quite necessarily conflicts.

"There is conflict all the time.

"I am just amazed at how pacific and thoughtful and kind the Haitian people are, and how rarely they do resort to violence, given these violent conditions in which they live.

"That there was only a question of rock throwing still astounds me.

"To walk through a neighbor-hood of the poorest part of town in a way to taunt the local people living in the slum — who are, as is well known, largely supporters of the elected government — to me it is asking for trouble.

"Now, maybe everyone should have the have the right to walk through neighborhoods like that. I don't do it in Boston, frankly. I don't do it in Los Angeles. I think that there are serious problems in all of our cities. The fact that Port-au-Prince is a city of 2 million people with a tiny police force, and still has less violence than one would imagine, is astounding to me, and again, another marker of the dignity and peaceful nature of the Haitian people."

—Testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 15, 2003.

Arrivée dernier bus

Montero bleu

Injured journalist—broken leg

Avant autobus

The bus I was riding in

Toyota exterieur

Other views:

Nancy Roc: "The citizenry's indignation against the Cité Soleil violence is a light in the darkness. Il ne tient donc qu’à nous, citoyens et citoyennes, de tenir bon, de démontrer tous les jours qu’Haïti appartient aux Haïtiens et non à un part et ses sbires, que l’avenir de la démocratie dans notre pays, nous pouvons en décider nous-mêmes. It is falls to us, the citizens of Haiti, to hold fast, to show everyday that Haiti belongs to the Haitians and not to one sector and its followers, that the future of democracy in our country is something that we can decide ourselves."

Nancy Roc is a prizewinning journalist for Radio Métropole, Haiti

July 17, 2003: A U.S.-educated university student

Good morning to all,

Saturday's meeting was a great success, but at a great cost.  

We all went to Cité Soleil in order to present the plan for the new social contract. We were supposed to meet with organizations of Cité Soleil and the Port-au-Prince area to have everybody speak and plan for a better Haiti. This was a simple meeting to officially present a document and get the blessing of the church... 

Our "elected" president paid a group of thugs to come and disrupt this meeting. For three days prior to the meeting, shots could be heard constantly in Cité Soleil in order to discourage people from attending. We had set up chairs and a stage in a schoolyard so that we could have the meeting.  

Friday night, a group of people broke into the school, broke down a wall and beat up the night watchman in order to steal the chairs and the wood for the stage. When we got there Saturday morning, a crowd amassed outside the school, threatening us and still preventing people from coming in. We decided to wait. That's when the rocks started coming over the wall, so we took refuge in a room inside the school. In the mean time the police do NOTHING!!!  

Police clearly doing nothing to stop a chimère from attacking

Police let them into the courtyard


After a couple of hours of waiting, we decided to hold a press conference and have only the 8 people from the Cité speak after we made our presentation. We then had the priest say a few words, and we officially handed him the document. That's when a group of the thugs went around the building and started climbing the walls...again the police did nothing. So we all rushed to the buses and started off, and then the police opened the gates and let the mob in the yard. After that it was a race of survival as we were bombarded by rocks and even gunfire. We were about 300 people to go...40 of us had to be hospitalized.  

The assistants to the French and American Ambassadors were also there and were subject to the same torment. The mob was in a position to kill all of us, obviously they were under orders to scare and not kill. As I watched out the broken window of the bus I was in, I could see police collaborating with the thugs in order to control the crowd. Not one gas grenade was thrown and not one club swing was given, the police only fired in the air when two of their own where shot upon. We are very lucky to have made it out alive.  

We have definitely created quite a stir because the government is now proclaiming that we did this to disrupt the order of things...even calling us terrorist. My deduction from all this is that the OAS can take their electoral dream for Haiti and shove it .... . Clearly the civil society is the victim of a terrorist government, and anyone expecting us to collaborate with these criminals in order to make elections also believes in the tooth fairy. 

Not to worry though, we are going to push forward and keep fighting them. I'm actually happy that this happened because now the world officially knows that no progress is possible with Aristide in power. I included some links to articles explaining what happened...even pictures. 

I hope you all are doing well and wish you a good week.


Gérard Pierre-Charles: "Le message de la Communauté Internationale doit être sans équivoque en condamnant ces violences. Tout langage ambigu peut contribuer à encourager le Pouvoir Lavalas à poursuivre dans la voie de la violence.

"L’attaque des OP lavalas à Cité Soleil, le samedi 12 juillet 2003 , démontre que le Président Jean Bertrand Aristide ne souhaite en aucun cas favoriser la tenue d’élections crédibles dans le pays."

Author of X-Ray of a Dictatorship, founder of Haitian Communist Party, founder of Organization of the People in Struggle, leader of Democratic Convergence.


David Lee, special representative of the Organization of American States in Haiti, July 14, 2003

"Every Haitian has the right to visit all the public places of the country, according to the terms of the constitution and the law. The police have the obligation to protect and serve all the citizens of the country. We deplore the acts of initimidation and violence, the rock-throwing and blockage done by persons and groups organized against a group that wanted to visit Cité Soleil, and which had taken all appropriate measures to do so."

À cet égard, je ne peux pas passer sous silence les évènements du samedi 12 juillet. Tout Haïtien, toute Haïtienne a le droit de visiter tous les coins publics du pays, selon les termes de la Constitution et de la Loi. La Police a l’obligation de protéger et de servir tous les citoyens du pays. Nous déplorons tout acte de violence, que ce soit dans le Plateau Central, à Péligre, par des individus armés, que ce soit à Petit Goâve, au Cap Haïtien, aux Gonaïves, ou que ce soit ailleurs. En l’occurrence, nous déplorons les actes d’intimidation et de violence, des jets de pierres et de blocage, faits par des personnes et groupes organisés face à un groupe qui voulait visiter le Cité Soleil, et qui avait fait toutes les dispositions appropriées pour ce faire. La Mission Spéciale, qui n’a aucun intérêt politique dans les affaires internes du pays et qui n’appuie aucun groupe politique haïtien, était présent comme observateur selon les termes de son mandat dans la Résolution CP/822, c'est-à-dire pour surveiller et faire rapport. Nous transmettons nos sympathies à tous ceux qui ont été blessés, y compris les journalistes. Il est à regretter que la Police, bien qu’informée à l’avance, n’était pas présente en assez grand nombre pour empêcher les dérapages. Nous faisons appel à tous les Haïtiens et Haïtiennes à démontrer du respect humain pour les opinions, la liberté de mouvement et d’expression, ainsi que les options politiques des autres citoyens et citoyennes de ce pays.