ARSON ATTACK DEVASTATES HAITIAN SLUM
* Hours after a mob killed two men in a rare outburst against Haiti's military on Dec. 27, a group of men strode into Cite Soleil carrying grenades, guns, and gasoline.
When the men were finished, much of the slum was in flames. At least 200 shanties burned to the ground, as many as eight people were killed, and an estimated 1,500 residents were homeless.
The pro-military Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) denied setting the fire, which residents say was in retaliation for the killing of two pro-military officials Dec. 26.
Nearly every grass-roots group that has supported exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been dismantled, their leaders driven underground, or like Fr. Aristide, into exile. Cite Soleil, an Aristide stronghold of cardboard shanties and open sewers, has borne the brunt of the crackdown.
``This is where the political warfare of the last two years has led to - real civil war,'' said Reginald Boulos, who directs a United States funded health center in Cite Soleil, French for Sunshine City.
``The poor people of Haiti do not deserve this,'' Dr. Boulos said.
Early Dec. 27, FRAPH's treasurer in the neighborhood, Paul Issa, was on his way home when attacked by a mob for defending Army Chief Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, who has reneged on the United Nations agreement to step down and allow Aristide's return. The mob set Issa on fire and stoned another official to death, Emmanuel Constant, one of FRAPH's leaders said.
Cite Soleil's residents knew there would be a reprisal. They told of how armed men doused the shacks with gasoline and lit them, then fired their weapons in the air as the flames spread. The fire department never showed up, they said. All that remained were sheet-metal roof sections, wire bed frames, and what few belongings residents could salvage.