The Minustah’s term (United Nations’ Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti) is close to an end. Troops from Brazil and other countries are leaving Haiti and will be replaced by the Minusjuth, with a smaller quota.
By Eduardo Almeida.
The bourgeois press made a positive balance of the Minustah, keeping the version of it would having a “humanitarian” role and avoiding “violence” in the country. They show pictures of soldiers smiling with Haitian children.
It is all a farce. Another great lie to cover up one of the most shameful episodes in Latin-American history. The Lula government (supported by other “center-left” governments like Evo Moralez and Bachelet) was the armed wing of the North American imperialism in this military invasion of the poorest country in the continent.
It is necessary that activists, workers organizations, and alternative media spread the truth about the military occupation of Haiti.
A “humanitarian” farce
One of the times I was in Haiti, halfway through a lecture to university students, I said the excuse given in Brazil for the military occupation was that it was a “humanitarian” mission.
The reaction was laughter, followed by general indignation. They showed me a big banner made by them with irregular letters. The letters were formed by the capsules of tear-gas bombs, thrown against them by Brazilian soldiers. “Out with the Minustah” was written on the banner, the same phrase read in many walls of Port-Au-Prince.
There was no social improvement with the Minustah. No work made or led by the troops in the health area, sewage system, education, transportation. The Haitians’ situation today is worse than it was 13 years ago. For that reason, students laughed at the “humanitarian” action.
The troops’ action along the major disasters that affected the country was disastrous. They did virtually nothing in the 2010 earthquake, and they brought cholera to Haiti.
In January of 2010, a 7.0 earthquake on the Richter scale destroyed 70% of Haiti’s capital, killing around 300 thousand people and leaving 1.5 million unsheltered. A little over a year later, an 8,9 earthquake on the Richter scale reached Japan, killing 6 thousand people. Comparing the numbers is enough to see that the dimension of the disaster is not just about nature but about the social situation of the people, in Haiti.
The Haitians claim that, right after the earthquake, the troops dedicated essentially to protect the military quarters against the starving population. They all tell about how the people tried to rescue the victims using their own hands, with improvised shovels, without any help. That is why only 200 were rescued alive. The earthquake highly increased the Haitians hate against the troops.
Afterwards, hundreds of millions of dollars were sent from all around the world for “humanitarian actions” that never reached the Haitian people. Many governments and NGOs got richer with this money. Until today, seven years later, Port-Au-Prince still looks like a devastated city, with many destroyed buildings and unsheltered camps.
The cholera epidemic that came right after killed 30 thousand people and left 700 thousand ill. United Nations had to admit that it was the Mjinustah troops – Nepal soldiers – that brought cholera to Haiti.
Another ideology used to excuse the military occupation is that it was essential to fight the “violence” in the country. According to this version, Haitians are very violent, and the presence of the troops was necessary to “pacify” the country.
This is another lie. The homicide rates -a data traditionally used to compare violence in different regions- in 2007 was 5 out of 100 thousand Haitians, below the global average of 7 out of 100 thousand. In Brazil, in the same year, the rate was 25.2 out of 100 thousand inhabitants, and today it is 30.5 (six times higher than Haiti’s rate).
My personal experience indicates the same. I walked through the favelas of Port-Au-Prince the first time I went to the country with my photography and filming equipment in my hand, something I would not do in many cities of Brazil.
The true mission of the troops
The troops went to Haiti to repress the people. This is why they repressed the hunger uprising in 2008 and the textile workers’ strike in 2009. The university where I gave the lecture was also invaded in 2009. The repression was a daily routine of the troops in the raids to the gigantic favelas of the country, such as Cité Soleil. In this community, in 2005, the troops carried out a massacre that left 27 deaths.
Some scholars, like Claudio Silveira, affirm that the experience that Brazil acquired in Haiti contributed creating, in 2008, the so-called Pacifying Police Units (PPUs), that are now also failing in Rio de Janeiro.
There are over 2000 denounces of sexual abuse by Minustah soldiers against Haitian women, boys and girls.
Ever since the overthrowing of Baby Doc’s dictatorship, in 1986, the Haitian bourgeoisie has not been able to reestablish the state, like it happened in the rest of Latin America.
In all other countries in the continent, after the fall of the dictatorships, the bourgeoisie was able to recompose the state, generally through a democratic bourgeois regime. It was this way in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and all the other countries where there were dictatorships.
However, that did not happen in Haiti. The social volatility of the country – with its history of revolutions- and the fragility of the parasitic Haitian bourgeoisie did not allow it. The armed forces of the country were dissolved in 1995 by the Aristides government, after being the base of the extreme-right coup.
Since then, the bourgeoisie was never able to recompose the armed forces and a politic regime that could stabilize the country. The bourgeois domination in Haiti has been relying upon foreign troops for the last 13 years, by the Minustah.
A history that has to be known
Workers and Black people of the entire world have to know Haiti’s history. These rebel people carried out one of the most spectacular revolutions of all times.
They carried out the first and only victorious slaves’ revolution in history, in 1804. It was also the first victorious anti-colonial revolution of America.
The Haitian revolution was a great military victory. The slaves defeated all of the dominant armies of the time, including the Spanish, English, and French, of Napoleon.
Imperialism could not allow the seed of the Haitian revolution to spread. This is why it imposed an extremely severe economic blockage to the country that ended up destroying its economy.
The brutal devastation of the country has nothing to do with nature, it is a consequence of imperialist pillaging, that continues until today.
The names Toussaint L’Ouverture and Dessalines (leaders of the revolution) scattered through all of the squares and monuments of the country. The Black Haitian people, so explored and oppressed, have a history of which they are proud of until the present day. The successive foreign military occupations indicate that imperialism fears that, one day, history can retake its course.
The shameful role of Lula’s government
In February of 2004, the US carried out its third military invasion of Haiti. The CIA agents and North American naval fusiliers invaded the government palace, arrested the elected president Aristides and deported him to the Central African Republic.
On that same day, the UN Security Council backed the invasion by voting an emergency resolution that included the US military as part of a multinational force to “stabilize” the country.
But those were the times of occupation of Iraq, and the US was already worn out. To disguise the imperialist intervention, President Bush asked for Lula’s help, and he promptly granted: in July, the Minustah arrived in Haiti, led by Brazilian troops and composed by soldiers from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, and other countries.
It was a moment in which a good part of the Latin American governments was part of the so-called “center-left,” of popular fronts (such as Lula, Evo Moralez, Bachelet, Tabaré Vasquez) and bourgeois nationalists front (such as Chavez). If those governments decided to confront imperialism by no longer paying their foreign debts and expropriating the multinationals, the continent would have opened a revolutionary process. On the contrary, they paid their debts and maintained the multinationals.
Besides that, Lula wrote a shameful page of submission to imperialism, embracing the military occupation in the poorest country in Latin America. Evo Moralez (Bolivia), Bachelet (Chile) and Tabaré Vazquez (Uruguay) were also part of this shameful block. The Chavez government, from Venezuela, did not take part in the invasion; however, it did maintain a strict relation helping the puppet Haitian government with oil.
Everyone who understands the fall of Dilma Rousseff as a “coup by the imperialism” against the PT should try to explain how a government as submissive to imperialism as the PT one, that was willing to occupy Haiti with Brazilian troops, confronted imperialism in any way.
In reality, multinationals and banks had extremely high profits with the PT governments. And Lula fulfilled a frontline role in helping imperialism with the Latin American crisis. This is why he was greatly complimented by Bush and Obama. After Dilma no longer had the support of the workers due to the neoliberal plans she applied, imperialism decided to replace her with Temer. In the history of PT, the shameful military occupation can never be forgotten. It is the blood stain of an entire people, an alliance between Lula and Bush, the severe repression of a people by Brazilian troops in service of imperialism.
The Minustah helped apply the neoliberal plans in Haiti
The military occupation of these thirteen years repressed the Haitian people to ensure the implementation of neoliberal plans in that country. The farce of “humanitarian mission” helps disguise the foreign investments as a way of “helping” the Haitians.
Neoliberal plans are savage in Haiti, with barbaric elements. In this country, free zones were imposed, with multinationals producing for the US market, free of customs duties and, in general, also free of any legal labor limit.
Wages in Haiti today are less than 100 dollars per month. Half of what is paid in China to produce jeans for the US market… and less than a thousand kilometers (621 miles) from the US shores.
The existence of 70% of the population unemployed allows the multinationals to pressure the employed workers to accept the humiliating conditions of wage and work. Unions are violently repressed, its leaders and affiliated members are fired as soon as they appear publically.
The “help” to Haitians has the same content of the “charity” of European imperialism when it invaded Black Africa. The Haitian poverty is perpetuated for the multinationals to produce at very low prices.
There is no water or sewage in the poor people’s houses. People take water from the wells and carry it home in buckets. They use coal to cook. They go to work by foot to not have to pay for transportation.
It is a horrific experimentation by imperialism. An industry of low technological level with a degree of exploitation close to barbarity. They pay lower wages than in the rest of Latin America, practically without having to pay taxes. Workers do not have, either, indirect wages coming from public services such as health and education, because of the generalized chaos.
The troops from Brazil – and other Latin American governments – are in Haiti to help the multinationals to brutally exploit this cheap workforce.
The bourgeoisie still could not stabilize the regime
Military occupation was necessary because imperialism and the Haitian bourgeoisie were not able to stabilize the Haitian State. Now, with the end of the Minustah’s term, they try to apply the same maneuver already used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The troops are being withdrawn -in a different political context than those other countries- but leaving the outline of armed forces recomposed under its supervision. In these thirteen years, the Haitian army was not yet reorganized but the National Haitian Police was rebuilt, counting 15 thousand men, now.
However, it is a high-risk gamble. Even with the reconstruction of the police, the State remains fragile. The Haitian political regime is still not solid.
The “elections” are an example of this. In reality, elections are a farce. With the military occupation, the real power is not in the republic’s presidency but in the US and Brazilian embassies. The Haitian presidents do what they are told to.
The elections play the role of trying to channel the enormous discontentment of the population with the worn out governments to elect “new governments.” After elected, in little time, the new government is again rejected by the population, surviving only by relying on the troops.
The Presidency allows access to the State’s and “humanitarian support’s” budget, in a major chain of corruption. This is why different fractions of the bourgeois ferociously dispute the election.
In 2006, the first election after the occupation took place. Reneé Préval won the election. However, he was Aristides’s candidate, the president deposed by the military invasion. The occupation troops organized a giant fraud to impose two candidates accepted by the US embassy in the second round. A popular rebellion prevented the fraud and assured Préval’s tenure.
But Préval did what the multinationals and the US and Brazilian embassies commanded: he privatized the state companies that were left, and he signed the Hope law, completing the transformation of the island into a colony of the US once again. He finished his government completely worn out with the Haitian people.
In 2011, Préval tried to impose a successor – Jude Celestin – repeating the fraud used against him. The beginning of a popular rebellion prevented the fraud once again.
The OAS (Organization of American States) took advantage of the crisis to impose a second term with the participation of Michel Martelly, who won the election.
Martelly was a singer who made his campaign rejecting “politicians” and corruption. But he was, in fact, an extreme-right figure, who once was a tonton-macoute (paramilitary) of Duvalier, before becoming an artist.
It meant the return of Duvalierism to the government. Baby Doc – whose dictatorship was overthrown in 1986 – returned to Haiti in 2011. He pointed several ministers for Martelly’s government, until his death in 2014.
Martelly also finished his term worn out. After all, he tried to implement the same old maneuver, with a gigantic electoral fraud to impose Jovenel Moise as his successor.
Once again, there was a popular uprising, in January of 2016, that temporarily prevented the fraud. The Minustah troops, along with the local police, brutally repressed the mobilization. For over a year, there was no elected government in the country. In the end, they got the OAS support to set up a new fraudulent election, won by Moise himself. The rates of abstention were from 80 to 85%.
Moise took power over a year later, in February of 2017. This is another weak government that was born questioned.
In May this year, a workers uprising emerged, with mobilizations in defense of an increase of minimum wage. One of the leaders of this struggle, Yanick Etienne of Batay Ouvriyé (Workers’ Struggle) rejected Moise’s “raise” of the minimum wage (350 gourdes per day, roughly 100 dollars a month) and presented the movement’s demand of 800 gourdes per day. The mobilization was severely repressed by the police.
Now, there are demonstrations against the generalized raise of taxes defined by Moise’s government. Workers are taking the streets saying “there are no public services, we are not going to pay.” This could be the beginning of a new popular explosion.
The imperialism’s bet by withdrawing the Minustah will now be tested in reality. In the current international economic and political situation, the country could head to a new explosion.
Haitian history, with a heroic revolution in the past and frequent rebellions recently, could present a new chapter.
Translation: Deby Leite.