Shit Step: Helping MINUSTAH with their Enquiries. HSG reporting from Port-au-Prince, 03-05-2012
To Jean-Marie Vincent Park to search for the Sylvie family, the desperately poor IDPs sleeping ten to a nine-metre square space who featured in the first post-earthquake Haiti Briefing (please make link). They and their cardboard, rice-sack shack have disappeared — along with so many others here who have been run out, forced out, starved out of the official camps in the get-the-IDP-numbers-down game.
But a foreigner climbing to the top of the open-air amphitheatre seating here to survey the camp is too much for a patrol of Brazilian MINUSTAH forces who have driven onto the stone stage below to hide from the view of camp residents. Walking towards me, a Lieutenant sporting the usual full body armour, helmet and rifle calls me over as his whole patrol start climbing the steps toward me. We settle on Spanish. “What are you doing here, sir?” he inquires. “Walking around a public park, looking for some friends,” I reply. Anyone with “friends” here obviously warrants further scrutiny. “I need to see some ID,” he asserts. I nearly ask for his but produce a HSG card instead. After much deliberation, they ask if I have “anything else.” Another ID or a bomb in my backpack perhaps? I produce a European driving licence whose latexed surface reflects the remorseless sun so effectively his sargeant complains he can’t photograph it with his cellphone. “Have you witnessed any trouble while you’ve been here?” the Lt. asks mysteriously. “None at all,” I reply. “As I’m sure you know, Haiti is one of the safest countries in the Americas.” I didn’t mention the actual figures — it only makes Brazil look terrible. “That’s because MINUSTAH’s here!” he shoots back, grinning, his sargeant nodding sagely. “Well that’s hypothetical,” I reply. “We won’t know until you leave, will we?” “But we’re not leaving!” he insists. “Don’t be so sure,” I say. “I’m seeing the Deputy British Ambassador to the UN in two weeks time and he and thus me as a British taxpayer pay a large chunk of your wages. Nine months ago he publicly questioned whether troops like yourselves should be here at all.” Such inconvenient truth but helpful name-dropping gets me dismissed — with a helpful warning from the sargeant not to step in some dried shit a few feet away. As if MINUSTAH wasn’t already in it.