[News] Time for Lula to Stop Doing Bush's Dirty Work in Haiti
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 2 19:40:25 EDT 2007
Weekend Edition - March 31 / April 1, 2007
"The UN Came Here to Terrorize the Population"
Time For Lula to Stop Doing Bush's Dirty Work in Haiti
By Ben Terrall
When Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as
'Lula', visits Washington on March 31, he will likely spend most of
his time with President Bush discussing ethanol, a relatively safe
subject for the two leaders. Earlier this month, Brazil and the
United States, the world's two top ethanol producers, announced the
creation of an international forum to help turn biofuels into a
globally traded commodity. Brazil, unlike the U.S., has spent thirty
years developing its ethanol technology, and is producing a surplus
of a sugar-based version of that fuel.
Lula has been criticized for following the Bush Administration on
foreign trade policy, but he may be in even more hot water for
following Bush on a foreign military adventure. When President Lula
relieved U.S. Marines in Haiti by having Brazil take the lead of the
UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) in early 2004, he got Bush, whose
troops were spread thin, out of a tight spot. Lula also earned
brownie points for Brazil's bid for a permanent seat on a
potentially-expanded UN Security Council.
But all this came at a price. MINUSTAH was the only UN peacekeeping
mission in history deployed without a peace agreement. Its true
purpose was to consolidate a February 29, 2004 coup against the
democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This
genesis put MINUSTAH in a quandary from the beginning. In order to
fulfill its mission of supporting the illegitimate, unpopular and
brutal Interim Government of Haiti (led by a Bush supporter flown in
from Florida), MINUSTAH was forced to join the dictatorship's attacks
on poor neighborhoods that would never accept the overthrow of their democracy.
In August 2006, the British Medical Journal The Lancet published a
mortality study that concluded 8,000 people were killed in the first
22 months of the coup. In almost half of the reported deaths, the
perpetrators were identified as security agents of the coup
government, former soldiers or armed anti-Lavalas groups. No murders
were attributed to Lavalas members. Although the government and its
paramilitary allies did the lion's share of the killings, MINUSTAH
participated as well. In a July 6, 2005 raid, MINUSTAH soldiers shot
22,000 bullets (by its own count) into the thin walls of the poor
Cite Soleil neighborhood. Up to 60 civilians were killed, dozens
more wounded, but none received help from the "peacekeepers."
Although a democratic government was inaugurated last May, MINUSTAH
continues to kill civilians. In the early morning of December 22,
2006, 400 Brazilian-led MINUSTAH troops in armored vehicles carried
out a massive assault on the Bois Neuf and Drouillard districts of
Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. The military operation, which claimed
the lives of dozens of area residents, took place near the site of
the July 2005 raid.
"They came here to terrorize the population," resident Rose Martel
told Reuters, referring to UN troops and police. "I don't think they
really killed any bandits, unless they consider all of us as bandits."
The president of the Human Rights Commission of the Haitian Senate
described the December 22 operation as "a crime against humanity."
The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a Haitian human rights group,
documented more than 20 killed, including children and elderly.
Once again, the UN showed little interest in its "collateral damage."
UN spokesperson Sophie De la Combe could not offer information on
Haitians killed or wounded, just that "no one was killed on our side."
When journalists and human rights groups asked MINUSTAH head Edmond
Mulet about the killings, he attacked the messengers, writing, "I am
appalled to see how some people support criminal, violent,
human-rights violation activities in Haiti and oppose the rule of
law. Gangsters, killers, kidnappers, rapist [sic] of young girls
should and will be brought to justice."
But if the UN operation was intended to uphold the rule of law or
bringing alleged criminals to justice, there should have been valid
warrants authorizing MINUSTAH and Haitian Police to make arrests, as
required by Haiti's constitution and international law. Mulet
presented no indication of such warrants, or any evidence that the
victims, including an elderly man killed while en route to work and a
pregnant woman who lost her fetus, were gangsters, killers,
kidnappers or rapists.
Human rights activist Seth Donnelly, who investigated the July 6,
2005 Cite Soleil assault, told me, "Mulet's [statement] echoes the
response I received when I interviewed Lt. Gen. Augusto Heleno and
Colonel Morneau just days after the July 6 massacre. They told me
that a handful of 'bandits' had been killed and that the UN fired
only after they had been fired upon. These statements were
contradicted by evidence provided by Doctors Without Borders staff at
the hospital that treated the July 6 victims. The MINUSTAH claims
were also contradicted by eyewitness testimony we gathered in
affidavits. Among the survivors we spoke to was a young woman who
also lost her baby and a father who witnessed the killing of his wife
and two young children."
In early January, Brazilian Major General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos
became the fourth commander of the UN force in Haiti (consisting of
8,360 total uniformed personnel, as of 30 November 2006). Dos Santos
said, "We are going to work in the same way as we have worked before.
Nothing has changed about our mission or our obligations." Since Dos
Santos made that commitment, UN military operations have killed
seven-year-old Stephanie Lubin, four-year-old Alexandra Lubin, and
nine-year-old Boadley Bewence Germain, all guilty of living in the
crossroads of George W. Bush's foreign policy.
More and more Brazilians are appalled at their country's role in
MINUSTAH. On February 7 of this year, 6,000 protesters, mostly youth,
marched through Rio de Janeiro's city center to demand the immediate
withdrawal of Brazil's troops from Haiti. By continuing to do Bush's
dirty work in Haiti, Lula has tied his country's destiny to a sinking
ship. Before it is too late he needs to join the rest of the world
in realizing that the Bush Administration's imperial policies are
both morally wrong and unlikely to bring positive results.
Ben Terrall is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the San
Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Counterpunch, Lip Magazine, and
other publications. He has visited Haiti four times since the
February 29, 2004 coup which forced out the democratically-elected
Aristide government. He can be reached at
<mailto:bterrall at igc.org>bterrall at igc.org
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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