Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A Look Back at the MINUSTAH Killing of 22 Year Old Haitian Kenel Pascal
By: Wadner Pierre - HaitiAnalysis.com
It was 7:00 am on the 18th of June. Mourners filled the cathedral of Port-Au-Prince to honor the late priest, Gerard Jean-Juste. Most likely, none foresaw that the UN would bring its violent campaign against the Lavalas movement to the cathedral just after the service ended.
A UN troops arrived outside the church to arrest one of the mourners. As they sped away with their suspect, one of troops shot into the crowd. A man known as Kenel Pascal, of Delmas, was killed. The incident was captured on film.
Jean-Juste was an outspoken critic of the UN presence in Haiti and a prominent supporter of Jean Bertrand Aristide, whose democratic government was ousted in a coup of February 2004. Under the UN backed dictatorship of Gerard Latortue, Jean-Juste became Haiti’s most famous political prisoner.
More than 20 priests along with Bishop Andre Pierre and the Archbishop of Port-Au-Prince, Monseigneur Joseph Serge Miot were in attendance. Bishop Andre Pierre spoke glowing of Gerard Jean-Juste at the funeral. However, many of the mourners recalled Jean-Juste’s stormy relationship with the church hierarchy in Haiti. While an international campaign, assisted by Amnesty International, was underway to release Jean-Juste from prison, the Catholic Church opted to deal Jean-Juste another blow by suspending him from church as punishment for his political activism.
People were at the service from all over the world - France, Canada, United States, and various Caribbean countries. Key leaders of the Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party were there - Marise Narcisse, Rene Civil, Annette Auguste (Son An). Mario Joseph, a human rights lawyer who has worked tirelessly on behalf of Haiti’s political prisoners was also there. Also present were members of Veye Yo, a Miami-based group founded by Jean-Juste during the 1970s to defend the rights of Haitian immigrants.
After the shooting, some of the mourners held President Rene Preval directly responsible. He was carried to the presidency in 2006 by Aristide supporters. With Jean-Juste in prison at the time (therefore legally barred from running) Rene Preval, a former Aristide protégé, was by far the most attractive candidate to the Lavalas movement, especially after Gerard Jean-Juste endorsed him. Preval was untainted by any role in the 2004 coup and had always been publicly loyal to Aristide. However, Preval’s elite friendly economic policies and failure to secure Aristide’s return to Haiti have alienated him from the Lavalas movement.
In Cavaillon, Jean-Juste’s hometown, banners paying tribute to “Father Gerry” were everywhere. “You’re struggle will continue” read many of them. One the streets, and at the church where Jean-Juste went as a little boy and celebrated his first mass after ordained as priest in New York, people spoke of the “great man” who devoted his life to the poor.
The troops who stormed the funeral have given Haitians yet another reason to remember Father Gerard Jean-Juste, and another way to contrast his kindness with the UN’s brutality.