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After "Looter" Killed in Chile, Others Tear Gassed, UN Official Barcena Claims There's "No Violence"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- In the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile, authorities fired tear gas and water cannons at people seeking to enter stores and supermarkets. According to the BBC, one "looter" was shot dead and 160 arrested; the items being taken were not only food but "plasma TVs and other electrical appliances."

Of course, this does not imply mass criminality, or systematic government repression. But when long time UN official Alicia Barcena briefed the Press at UN headquarters by phone at noon on March 1, and Inner City Press asked her about the government's use of tear gas and water cannons, she answered, "What is looting?" Video here, from Minute 15:20.

Inner City Press explained, when people go inside broken open stores, and in this case get shot at with tear gas and water cannons. Oh no, Ms. Barcena said, "there has not been any violence... no violence between the army and the people, none at all."

Tell that to the man shot and killed, or those fired on with tear gas. It would be one thing for the UN to say that the level of violence, other than the death, has been minimal in their view, or proportional. But hours after a person was shot and killed to providing a briefing that "there has not been any violence" is something else.

The UN has taken on the role of criticizing the media for reporting on looting, in Haiti and now Chile. The UN wants the images to be more positive, and so, in this case, its officials misspeak. This undermine the UN's duty of reporting on human rights, which include the rights of alleged looters, killed or gassed by the government.

 While this case involves ignoring the shooting -- summary execution? -- of a single "looter," the principle of denying what takes place extends to the UN in the Congo, in the person of scandal plagued envoy Alan Doss, denying that civilians are killed by UN-supported troops of the Congolese Army.

Armed Chilean soldier patroling, shot "looter" not shown

The UN wants and in some sense needs to get along with governments where it works. But this can contradict with its role and goal of being a credible human rights reporter, or being credible more generally.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Barcena about rumors the President Bachelet might stay on past March 11. Barcena said no, only her emergency coordinator Carmen Fernandez would stay on.

  Strangely, while still the sitting Chilean president, Ms. Bachelet has been listed as a UN (or UNIFEM) representative in Haiti. No matter how much one may like or respect Ms. Bachelet, it would seem that the UN should not be giving positions to sitting heads of state. But what do we know?

In fact, now Ms. Bachelet is being tipped for the newly created Under Secretary General for women's affairs post. Could this explain the counter-factual claim that there's been "no violence" by the Army against civilians, even "looters," under her watch?

* * *

Killings by Haitian National Police Ascribed to Imposters by UN, No Anti-Corruption Role, UN's Pro-Government Focus

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- The UN says it is investigating reports of summary executions by the Haitian National Police. Video here, from Minute 57:52.

Inner City Press for the second time in ten days asked acting UN chief in Haiti Edmund Mulet about the killing of alleged thieves, this time citing Haitian religious leader Max Beauvoir's account of a January 16 meeting of President Rene Preval, the Prime Minister and police chief at which "we decided we had to deal with them in an emergency way... capital punishment, automatically, for all bandits."

Mulet stammered that "we are aware of some incidents of shooting [by] private security guards... perhaps Haitian National Police members involved." But even this, he tried to convert into imposters, who stole the HNP uniforms.

  On February 1, when Inner City Press asked, Mulet said that the UN Mission MINUSTAH was "investigating" such claims. Ten days later, there are no "conclusions," he said.

  Top UN peacekeeper Alain Le Roy began the February 11 presentation by praising Mulet for maintaining such good relations with the Haitian government.

   How can Mulet credibly investigate and speak out against Haitian National Police killings, which Max Beauvoir said were decided on at a meeting including Rene Preval and the Prime Minister, if he is also tasked with "getting along well" with these officials?

The UN has at least two conflicting goals: to get along with the government, and to ensure that at least basic human rights are being respected. Right now the UN in Haiti appears to be paying only lip service to the second, human rights goal.

The UN need to be (made to be) much more clear about its role in Haiti. The UN has some hard working international and national civil servants in Haiti, but only if the UN admits what it cannot or will not meaningfully do will the need for others to do it become clear. Lack of clarify ill-serves the Haitian people.

UN's Ban and Mulet with Rene Preval, HNP not shown

  Inner City Press also asked about another ostensible UN role: to try to minimize corruption, so that needed donations will be made. Inner City Press asked about documented meetings with President Preval by a Florida-based business, AshBritt, which is under fire for how it got Hurricane Katrina contracts -- with Haley Barbour as a lobbyist -- and how it performed under other contracts.

  Of the meeting in which AshBritt pitched for major contracts in Haiti, Mulet said "we have nothing to do with that." Video here, from Minute 58:49. So much for an anti-corruption monitoring role for the UN. But if the UN is not going to do it, who is? Watch this site.

Footnote: Mulet also said he had no information about Haitian land owners seeking payment, now or in the future, for land used for housing, temporary and later permanent. Since aid funds are involved in this re-housing process, and the question was squarely raised to Mulet's deputy Kim Bolduc on February 8, it seemed strange that Mulet had no information three days later.  We will continue to pursue this.

* * *

As Haitians Protest Aid Blockage, Corruption, UN Calls It Political, Murky Land Deals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- A protest of "hundred of Haitian" women in Petionville on Sunday was characterized on Monday as merely political by the UN's humanitarian coordinator Kim Bolduc.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Bolduc about the protesters, who accused Petionville's Deputy Mayor of hoarding aid so it didn't reach those most in need. Inner City Press asked, does the UN have any response?

Ms. Bolduc said, contrary to Reuters, that there was "no disturbance reported there." Video here, from Minute 23:08. She went on to say that the UN "cannot avoid conflicts" between "groups in power."

  She appeared then to in fact be aware of the protest, recounting that a "group of political parties... told people they could ask for more."

  Given how much the UN speak of the needs of the poor, while asking for money, it would seem that the UN should listen, and not dismiss, protests by the poor saying, we are not getting enough food.

  But the UN, as a club of governments, is most committed to always working through governments. So when a government, even a local one like in Petionville, is protested, some in the UN automatically side with the government. So much for the Millennium Development goals....

UN's Bolduc appearing by video to UN in NYC, protests not shown

Inner City Press also asked Ms. Bolduc about reports that private land owners are getting side commitments for money in exchange for land to shelter and house the displaced, that the UN is involved in. Ms. Bolduc had said no money was changing hands, then told Inner City Press that of course rent would be asked for. Finally, she said that landlords were being "negotiated" with to give or lend for free their land. What's to negotiate, then? We'll have more on this.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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