return to La Saline, scene of a massacre behind closed doors


Posted today at 3:48 am, updated at 6:41 am

Makeshift shelters built on the debris of houses destroyed by fire in the La Saline district, May 30, 2019, in Haiti.
Makeshift shelters built on the debris of houses destroyed by fire in the La Saline district, May 30, 2019, in Haiti. GOD NALIO CHERY / AP

Alley. Silence and the sea. Houses made of sheet metal and clay bricks glued to each other, a few men and women sitting in the shade of the walls, a food store – "God who decides" – closed, pigs which roam freely through mountains of rubbish and a blazing sun.

An alley in a slum in Port-au-Prince at first sight. The bodies are worn out. Desolation can be seen in the eyes, a cold anger too. Here in La Saline, the difference with the other districts of the Haitian capital is that death may drag on a little longer elsewhere.

Ernst Léger tries a smile. He was born on this patch of ungrateful land, raised by the Salesian sisters in the block next door, boulevard Jean-Jacques-Dessalines, whose church disappeared with the earthquake of January 12, 2010 and its 250,000 victims. Young, he was quickly a fervent admirer of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, this priest who became spokesperson for the underprivileged before being elected president. Mr. Aristide came to preach in the church opposite, in Don Bosco, until former "tontons macoutes", these militiamen heirs of the Duvalier father and son dictatorship, set them on fire in 1988. "There have been dozens of deaths, he breathes. And then, the riots swept the regime … At that time, we still believed in a better world. "

La Saline, near Port-au-Prince, August 8, 2019.
La Saline, near Port-au-Prince, August 8, 2019. ANDRES MARTINEZ CASARES / REUTERS

Ernst Léger returned to La Saline today. Cautiously. Worried too, like the 5,000 residents in the neighborhood, he said. With hundreds of other residents, he had to flee just over a year ago. On that day, November 13, 2018, shortly after 3 p.m., Ernst was on the street when he saw dozens of armed gang members appear. An incredible outburst of violence. Ernst ran. Far, as far as possible.

Her son Ernson couldn't do anything. He was at his mother-in-law's house when a group of masked young men broke open the door. He was killed at close range. The house burned down. A few days later, when Ernst decides to return, he discovers the head of his decapitated son around the corner. He reaches out: "She was there, very close to the church. "

Ernst Léger will never find the remains of his son's body. He was 28 years old. "Childless, because he wanted to graduate first …" A long silence.

"The attack was targeted"

Seventy-one people will lose their lives this November 13 in what will be the worst massacre ever observed since the massacre in the commune of Jean-Rabel, in July 1987, in the north-west of the country, where a landowner massacred 139 peasants without Earth. Ernst continues: “Atrocities have always existed in our sad history, but never to such a degree of barbarism and chaos. "


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