Friday, January 22, 2010

US accused of occupying Haiti as troops flood in

Engineered Earthquake? US is Occupying Haiti as Troops Flood In
by Aislinn Laing, and Tom Leonard in Port-au-Prince,

The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to
"clarify" the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering
aid efforts.

"This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti," Mr Joyandet said.

Geneva-based charity Medecins Sans Frontieres backed his calls saying hundreds
of lives were being put at risk as planes carrying vital medical supplies were
being turned away by American air traffic controllers.

But US commanders insisted their forces focus was on humanitarian work and
last night agreed to prioritize aid arrivals to the airport over military
flights, after the intervention of the UN.

The diplomatic row came amid heightened frustrations that hundreds of tons of
aid was still not getting through. Charities reported violence was also
worsening as desperate Haitians took matters into their own hands.

The death toll is now estimated at up to 200,000 lives. Around three million
Haitians a third of the country's population have been affected by
Tuesday's earthquake and two million require food assistance.

While food and water was gradually arriving at the makeshift camps which have
sprung up around the city, riots have broken out in other areas where supplies
have still not materialized.

Haiti was occupied by the US between 1915 and 1935, and historical
sensitivities together with friction with other countries over the relief
effort has made the Americans cautious about their role in the operation.

American military commanders have repeatedly stressed that they are not
entering the country as an occupying force.

US soldiers in Port-au-Prince said they had been told to be discreet about how
they carry their M4 assault rifles.

A paratrooper sergeant said they were authorized to use "deadly force" if
they see anyone's life in danger but only as a "last resort".

Capt John Kirby, a spokesman for the joint task force at the airport,
said the US recognised it was only one of a number of countries
contributing to a UN-led mission.

He also emphasised the US troops, which he said would rise to 10,000
by Wednesday would principally be assisting in humanitarian relief and
the evacuation of people needing medical attention.

The main responsibility for security rests with the UN, which is to
add a further 3,000 troops to its force of 9,000.

However, it was agreed on Sunday night that the Americans would take
over security at the four main food and water distribution points
being set up in the city, Capt Kirby said.

"Security here is in a fluid situation," he said. "If the Haitian
government asked us to provide security downtown, we would do that."
He played down the threat of violence, saying: "What we're seeing is
that there are isolated incidents of violence and some pockets where
it's been more restive, but overall it's calm."


Chavez says U.S. occupying Haiti in name of aid
Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel

CARACAS - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Sunday accused the United States
of using the earthquake in Haiti as a pretext to occupy the devastated
Caribbean country and offered to send fuel from his OPEC nation.

"I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going
to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel,
field hospitals, that's what the United States should send," Chavez said on his
weekly television show. "They are occupying Haiti undercover."

"On top of that, you don't see them in the streets. Are they picking up bodies?
... Are they looking for the injured? You don't see them. I haven't seen them.
Where are they?"

Chavez promised to send as much gasoline as Haiti needs for electricity
generation and transport.

A perennial foe of U.S. "imperialism," Chavez said he did not wish to diminish
the humanitarian effort made by the United States and was only questioning the
need for so many troops.

The United States is sending more than 5,000 Marines and soldiers to Haiti, and
a hospital ship is due to arrive later this week.

The country's president said U.S. troops would help keep order on Haiti's
increasingly lawless streets.

Venezuela has sent several planes to Haiti with doctors, aid and some soldiers.
A Russia-Venezuela mission was set to leave Venezuela on Monday carrying aid on
Russian planes.

Chavez said Venezuela's planes were the first to land in Haiti after Tuesday's
7.0 magnitude earthquake, which wrecked the capital Port-Au-Prince and killed
as many as 200,000 people.

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