“Haiti is a country that supported the fight for freedom in Latin America, a country that terrified slave owners across America and is now subjugated to foreign occupation that has nothing to do with humanitarian purposes, as proposed,” said Julio Turra, president of Unified Confederation of Workers (CUT French acronym). “It’s embarrassing,” added Turra during a Nov. 5 meeting of more than 600 multinational in Sao Paolo, Brazil. “Therefore, the Latin American people, Brazil in particular, owes a debt to Haiti, which is a historic duty,” he added.
According to Haiti Liberty, a Haitian weekly, personalities representing advocacy groups, political parties, student and labor organizations rallied, in Sao Paolo capital’s Hotel de Ville, around their preoccupations with the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Participants from the U.S., France, Uruguay, Argentine, Bolivia, Haiti, among other countries participated in the four-hour meeting to lend a shoulder to Haiti’s anti-UN movement. “We must express our solidarity, as we cannot accept a gradual troop withdrawal because we do not know when it will end,” said Turra adding, “We must ask the immediate withdrawal of troops and defend the sovereignty of Haiti, as it faces occupation.”
These multinationals were not lone anti-UN advocates; many other organizations also called for troop withdrawal, including Jubilee South (JS), a global network of anti-debt movements. In an interview with Rebecca Burns, reporting for nonprofit and independent newsmagazine In These Times, Beverly Keene of JS agreed U.N. presence in Haiti “does not respond in any way with the reality of an occupying force.” Jubilee South enacted “Haiti No MINUSTAH,” a campaign endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Perez Esquivel, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams, calling for troop withdrawal.
Keen also said the campaign would oppose U.N.’s ideals: using Haiti as a laboratory for new forms of interventions and control in Latin America. Furthermore, Burns also reported that School of the Americas as well as hundreds of organizations in troop contributing countries also backed this campaign. “Haiti is the only country in the world where peacekeeping mission operate under a U.N. Chapter VII mandate, permitting it to use force, absent an active conflict or an enforceable peace agreement,” wrote Burns in her article “Haitians to U.N.: Please Leave.”
Peacekeeping entered their eight-year of operations in Haiti, following the October 14 U.N. Security Council unanimous vote to extend MINUSTAH’s mandate another year. The Security Council also authorized a force reduction from 13,000 troops and police to about 10,500. However, the 15 percent reduction did not appease anti-U.N. sentiments that intensified amid serious allegations of sexual and human rights abuses, as well as the incidental introduction of the country’s cholera epidemic. Haitians grew particularly contentious over the issue given U.N.’s persisting denial of responsibility, though plenty of scientific evidence placed Nepalese peacekeepers stationed near the Artibonite River at the origin of the outbreak, dumping sewage in the water consumed by locals. Recently, some Haitian organizations called for a redirection of MINUSTAH’s $800 million annual budget as reparation for cholera victims, families of more than 6,000 killed by the disease since its October 2010 detection and to fund cholera prevention.
“In order for Haiti to become a fully functioning democratic state, MINUSTAH needs to continue building the country’s institutions,” explained spokesperson Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, justifying U.N.’s presence on the island to Burns. However, as her article revealed, “a recent report from the group Harvard HealthRoots charged that MINUSTAH failed in its mandate to support the democratic process when, despite being charged with monitoring the 2010 national elections, it raised no objections to the exclusion of the country’s most popular political party.” A large majority of Haitians, some 65 percent according to a recent perspectives survey on the troops in Port-au-Prince, wanted the departure of U.N. troops either immediately or within a year, reported Burns.
Echoing Haiti’s frustration in Sao Paolo, “The occupations are examples of the politics of oppression,” declared Hugo Dominguez of the Uruguayan Metallurgical Union PIT-CNT, referring to last summer’s video of Uruguayan Soldiers allegedly assaulting a young Haitian male that invaded the Internet. “As Uruguayans,” Dominguez continued, “We are ashamed because of the actions of Uruguayan troops in Haiti.” Moreover, rights activist Colia Clark characterized U.N.’s presence in Haiti as a violation of all the norms about international human rights. “In spite of seven years of an unjustified occupation, there is nothing positive that resulted from its presence,” added Nelson Guevara Aranda representing more than 5,000 workers of the Union of Bolivian Miners of Huanuni. “On the contrary, it has consistently violated the sovereignty and dignity of Haiti,” he added.
The Sao Paolo meeting produced the Continental Committee for the Immediate Withdrawal of U.N. Troops in Haiti that pledged to lead an official international campaign on four requirements:
- Focusing on medical doctors, engineers, teachers and technicians, rather than troops occupation.
- Forgiving Haiti’s debt.
- Reparations for both the immoral debt imposed on Haiti following its independence and for families victimized by cholera and human violations
- Immediate withdrawal of U.N. trips in Haiti.
Laura C. Gonzalez who covered the event for Haiti Liberte described as a moving illustration what she perceived as a growing movement of solidarity with the Haitian people throughout North and South America. Participants, as she reported, left the meeting projecting to stage worldwide Anti-U.N. demonstrations on June 12, 2012 to mark the eight anniversary of MINUSTAH’s official launch with the Day of Continental Action for the Withdrawal of Troops from Haiti.
- Haiti: Uruguayan People Demand Withdrawal of MINUSTAH (edmortimer.wordpress.com)
- UN council approves withdrawal of some Haiti troops (repeatingislands.com)
- U.N. Haiti peacekeepers face outcry over alleged rape (repeatingislands.com)
- Brazil wants Haiti peacekeeping force cut 15 pct (seattletimes.nwsource.com)