"Haitian people do not need this occupation"
Written by JEFERSON CHOMA   
Thursday, 29 October 2009 00:00

For the past five years, Brazilian army has been in the leadership of a military occupation of the poorest country in Latin America. Unlike what is being said, these troops are not there to offer an alleged humanitarian aid to Haitian population. The contrary is true: during these years a great amount of accusation of breach of human rights and repression against the struggles of the workers. On the 15th October, the Security Council of the UN (United Nations) will call decide whether the Mission of Stabilisation of Haiti (Minustah) is to stay on or not. We interviewed Franck Seguy, Haitian activist of the ASID (University Association of Dassaliniana), and organisation acting at the public university in the country and has recently been hand in hand with the workers demanding better salaries.

The ASID activists have already leaned what the heavy hand of repression feels like conducted by Minustah: many were jailed or wounded during the recent days of struggle.


The Security Council of the UN is about to vote on the permanence of the mission in Haiti. What is the ASID appraisal on the occupation? What do you think about the possible permanence of the troops?

FS: In the first place, I wish to say that Haitian people have no more illusions as to the nature of what the Minustah are here for. People now are aware that they are here to repress us and to ensure the trasnational capital that has been invested here. The discourse of "peace mission", "humanitarian help", etc can no longer deceive anybody. Five years have passed and nothing has changed for the better. Only negative changes took place in Haiti. The presence of the military has worsened things a lot. People suffer repression. Every time the UN votes renewal, they come up with this argument of "pace mission". But there is no war in Haiti. There is no military conflict here of one group against another. What we do have in Haiti is a mission to protect the business of the international capital and to repress people.  There is great poverty in Haiti. Armed forces are used to prevent social explosions. To verify what I am saying it will be enough to see what happened from May till now. The working class has spent years fighting for better salaries. The minimum wage was of less than $2 a day. In 2007, a member of the Parliament posed a bill proposing an adjustment of the salaries, but it took the Congress two years to assess the bill. In May this year, the bill was passed. But the bourgeoisie did not accept it. So the President had two possibilities: to topple it or to sanction it. As a good lackey of the bourgeoisie, he sent it back to the Congress for re-examination. All this spawned a situation of struggle among the workers. What did the Minustah do under the circumstances? They repressed all the struggles of the workers who demanded an increase in the salary. So what happened then? A mission of Brazilian entrepreneurs arrived in Haiti by late September in order to identify the sites where to implant maquilas (textile industries taking advantage of cheap labour). USA passed a law called HOPE (Haitian Opportunity Economic Enhancement) allowing Haitian industrial products to arrive in USA without paying customs duties. This law will benefit Brazilian entrepreneurs. In Brazil the minimum salary is slightly over 459 reales ($230). In Haiti it is very much less.


Recently, the former president, Bill Clinton visited Haiti. On that occasion, a member of his entourage said that Haiti could be "a cheaper option" than China for American entrepreneurs.

FS: He is right. As you can see, his concern is not with Haitian people but with entrepreneurs. The Hope Bill benefits American and Brazilian entrepreneurs while all there is in it for the Haitian people is more exploitation and oppression. The low cost of labour in Haiti makes it possible for enterprises that are being dismantled in the USA to be transferred to, for example, Haiti. With the economic crisis, which they cannot solve, Haiti has become an export platform. Under their watchful eye, Haiti is not a nation.


You said that the relation between the people and Minustah has changed; that the troops are regarded as messengers of violence and oppression. Has this relation been transformed also in relation to the Rene Preval administration? What do people think of him today?

René Preval was elected with the support of the Minustah, but he also had strong participation of the people. In the first round of the 2006 elections, he achieved 49% among 34 candidates. That is to say, he had good support. Many of those who voted for him are supporters of the former president (Jean Bertrands) Aristide who even envisaged the possibility of returning home after the election of Preval. And today, even among the middle class, who often have more reactionary positions, the awareness that the Minustah is turning into the enemy of Haitian people. This awareness has in a way taken roots among the population and the relation of the people with the president has changed a lot. However, the problem is the weakness of the popular sector, which is not strong enough to lead and orientate the popular struggle. This is of great help to the Preval administration, who - for all their weakness - can still cling on to power. The presence of the Minustah is of great help, but if the popular sector had a strong organisation, committed to the cause of popular struggles, things might then change.


In Brazil, there is a boycott of the great press regarding everything that is going on in Haiti. Nothing is said about the repression, about protests and demands of better wages, nothing.

FS: The media have no interest in referring to what is going on here. They are interested in saying that Brazilian army is on a "peace mission." They even took MV Bill (a popular Brazilian hip-hop singer. T.N.) to "help" Haiti, sent by the Globo Net. The presentation of his visit was made in the Domingao de Faustao" (One of the most popular Brazilian TV programmes. Brazilian people, having no other ways of finding out what is really happening in Haiti will believe that the Haitian government is "good", that the arm is "helping a country in trouble. a humanitarian mission. This is the vision the Brazilian people will have. Unfortunately only few organisations, such as Conlutas and the Intersindical among others will say the truth. The truth is that the Haitian people do not need the occupation and that what we now have in Haiti is an occupation that disobeys Haitian law. On the other hand, the Brazilian press and corporations that are exploring Haiti are linked together. Their interests are the same. If they told Brazilian people what is really happening in my country, they would be running the risk of getting Brazilians demonstrating their solidarity with Haitian people and demanding the withdrawal of the troops. This is precisely the greatest demand of the Haitian people.

Jeferson Choma

Opinão Socialista

Periodical of the PSTU

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