WASHINGTON/PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haitian opposition lawmaker Printemps Belizaire said gunmen apparently targeted his vehicle Saturday.
The incident happened Saturday afternoon shortly after the deputy had attended the funeral of journalist Rospide Petion, who was shot and killed by unknown gunmen last month on his way home from reporting on anti-corruption protests. His killer has not been found, and colleagues believe he was slain for being too outspoken about the PetroCaribe corruption probe, which has implicated multiple government officials, including the president.
Belizaire represents the Lavalas party in the Chamber of Deputies and is vocal in his demands for President Jovenel Moise to resign amid corruption allegations. He said he had been invited to a wedding in the Fontamara neighborhood of Port-au-Prince but decided not to attend and loaned his car and driver to Pedrica Saint Jean, who handles protocol matters for the parliament. He said the car, a dark gray Toyota SUV, was “ambushed” after leaving the wedding.
“The shooters had high-powered long range weapons and were shooting from the front and behind the car,” the deputy told VOA Creole as he showed the reporter bullet holes the car sustained inside and out.
“Luckily one of the people sitting in the back got down and avoided being harmed but Mrs. Saint Jean didn’t have time to get down — unfortunately there was a gunman who shot at the window near where she was sitting and she was injured by projectiles.”
VOA Creole saw a bullet hole in the front seat backrest and the front windows of the vehicle were shattered.
Saint Jean was in surgery and in critical condition as Belizaire spoke with reporters.
The lawmaker said he didn’t know who or what group was behind the attack. He said he leaves that to the police to determine after an investigation. But he is convinced it was not a coincidence.
“This is not an isolated case, it’s obvious this was planned and it was targeted,” he said. “Thank God I wasn’t in the car.” Belizaire said what makes him so sure the gunmen aimed to kill him is because the passengers in the car told him they heard the shooters shouting “where’s the deputy, where’s the deputy?!”
A VOA Creole reporter did not see any law enforcement officials at the scene while she was surveying the damage to the car and interviewing the deputy.
“This is very sad, and it should remain in the hearts and minds of all Haitian citizens, and make them determined not to let this type of thing happen again,” Deputy Guerda Benjamin told VOA Creole. She said she came to lend her support to her colleague Belizaire and to Saint Jean for whom she has much admiration.
“It’s time for the security officials, the police to say enough and put an end to this terrible insecurity. We are not living in a jungle, this is supposed to be a (civilized) country. We can’t continue like this,” she said.
“I think Deputy Belizaire was definitely targeted,” lawmaker Sinal Bertrand told VOA Creole. “But God saved his life,” he added.
Bertrand said he thinks the ruling PHTK (Pati Ayisyen Tet Kale) was behind the attack but those allegations are unsubstantiated.