Haiti Carnival Tragedy: What Was Planned, What Was An Accident?
by Ezili Danto
This article previously appeared in in Ezili Danto’s web site.
“Deception and dictatorship are not democracy.”
At 2:48 a.m. on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, during the second day of Haiti’s annual Mardi Gras carnival, while on his float, Daniel Darinus, known as “Fantom,” who is a member of the Barikad Crew band, hit an overhead, high-voltage wire and set off a mass electrocution and stampede tragedy.
Fantom was hospitalized and is recovering. No one on the Barakad Crew float died. Champ de Mars is the main public park of Port au Prince where carnival stands lined both sides of the street for the three-day event. Overloaded carnival floats move through the tightly packed, narrow route on the Champ de Mars in front of the grounds of the razed presidential palace. The accident happened right in front of the all-pink, palace-like presidential carnival stand and across from a Mayor of Port au Prince-sponsored cemetery stand.
There is much controversy about the number of people who were electrocuted, and how many were crushed in the stampede. Some say they heard shooting. The government authorities announced that 17 people died and 76 were injured, all, from electrocution and the stampede.
Available video evidence suggests the electrical current arced from the power line to the micro-phone of the lead singer Fantom, then traveled through the conductive framework of the float, earthing and electrocuting carnival revelers at ground level, who were in direct contact with live sections of the float and others in physical contact with them at the time. Carnival goers were crowded, like tightly packed-sardines, on all four sides of the vehicle. It’s a visual nightmare to watch. We believe if the entire charge had passed only through Fantom, he would not be alive today. Most of the charge must have traveled through his micro-phone lead.
Eyewitnesses insist that upwards to 100 people died on February 17, 2015. If true, where are all the bodies? Only 17 of the dead were acknowledged at the empty casket state funeral on February 21. But there seems to be more than 17 dead just in the first photo of clustered deaths.
Organ Trafficking Fears
The carnival deaths and the missing bodies bring up the spectacle of organ trafficking that plagues Haiti and African countries, more so with the advent of each new killing catastrophe. During the Haiti earthquake, then Prime Minister of Haiti, Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN about the organ trafficking and sale of Haiti children in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. UNICEF said 15 Haiti children were snatched from hospitals in Haiti and there was a group of US charity workers who were jailed for kidnapping 33 Haiti children. At that time, the head of the MINUSTAH/UN forces was Edmond Mulet. Mulet was once arrested for child trafficking in Guatemala and recently his children trafficking past is catching up with him. The Haiti government and security forces are still under the rule of the Charitable Industrial Complex and the UN-MINUSHAH forces.
Families Demand Return of Missing Bodies
The names of the 17 Champ de Mars dead victims, released by the government are: Jeudy Perterson, Joseph Jeff Darel, Lundy Borgella, Cénat Pegyve, Cedieu Joseph, Johny Hilaire, Alain Paul, Alice Bureau, Jean Rony Civil, Felix Origène, Fedelyn Joseph, Rosier Axianax, Yanick Ferdinand, Jasmine Capitaine, Kenson Thermidor, Louis René, and Gabriel Jacques Leconte.
The authorities released these names, but not the autopsies they claim were conducted before the public funeral.
The visually well organized, quick government funeral hasn’t closed the need for those who can’t find their family members to understand and find closure about their loved ones. There are reports of people being shot that night. We do not see any evidence of this in the videos. These matters require an independent judicial investigation.
The negligence that allows carnival floats to be set so high as to touch live wires should be accounted for and not allowed to happen, ever again. Government entities in charge of public security are accused of putting carnival revelers in danger. If the narrow area had not been so congested with people and the people were not touching the float, the deaths would probably not have occurred. The regime is also heatedly criticized for not putting the concerns of the victims’ families at the center of the grief vigil and funeral. It’s fine for the State to pay for the funerals, but insensitive to go on with the carnival the day of the tragedy and unacceptable for it to refuse the families access to the remains of their loved ones – remèt kadav yo (return the corpses).
“Government entities in charge of public security are accused of putting carnival revelers in danger.”
The tragedy began with a terrible accident. But there are so many tragedies for the people of Haiti. First of all, just last week Henry Jean Claude, a Haitian in the Dominican Republic, was beaten, strangled, publicly lynched and left to hang in a Santiago public park. Haitians in the Dominican Republic are facing state terror, daily slaughters, the theft of their belongings and arbitrary deportation even if they’ve legally resided in the DR for 80 years. Instead of showing national concern, the Martelly-Paul regime holds a massive national carnival to dance, revel and waste monies.
After the Henry Jean Claude’s hanging, the Haiti government reportedly gifted 1,000 pesos or approximately $223 dollars to Henry Jean Claude’s young widow. Erzuline Celuma, the grieving widow has two small girls to raise. She was offered no protection by the Haiti government. Contrast this with the monies the Martelly regime spends on national carnival and the luxurious $450,000 palace-like stand, complete with waiting rooms, bathrooms and air-conditioning, built just to be used for an event that will last only three days.
With all the problems the country is facing, the people who lost their lives shouldn’t even have been there if Haiti had a responsible government.
Secondly, for months, the people have been daily protesting the high gas prices, high costs of living, the dissolution of Parliament, the unconstitutional reign of the Martelly regime. So, how does it make sense to waste so much monies on carnival to begin with?
Haiti needs infrastructure, clean water, sanitation, sewer systems, good roads, food sovereignty and local jobs. But the Martelly regime prioritizes carnival drinking, dancing and singing. It abandons the Haitians being terrorized in the Dominican Republic; abandons justice for the 10,000 dead UN-cholera victims, the 850,000 infected ones; ignores the homeless quake victims from the January 2010 earthquake that are still getting evicted from tarp and tent villages and living in pure squalor. Deception and dictatorship are not democracy. It’s unspeakably cruel and terrorizing.
“The people have been daily protesting the high gas prices, high costs of living, the dissolution of Parliament, the unconstitutional reign of the Martelly regime.”
Lastly, the carnival was scheduled for three days, February 15, 16, and 17th. After the accident, Martelly and his crew announced that the last day of carnival was cancelled. But just as Bill Clinton did not build Haiti back better, Martelly did not cancel the carnival. The show went on to ceremonially show Martelly, like Bill Clinton, can handle an emergency with competency. It was smoke and mirrors. A mourning narrative repeated by the irresponsible media. The hideous truth is that the Martelly regime used the carnival tragedy the way their handlers at USAID, the UN, the NGOs and the Clinton Foundation used the earthquake tragedy. Afterwards, the nation was left bleeding, filled with questions, more traumatized and in more grief.
Ezili Danto is executive director of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network. She can be contacted through her web site.