[News] How MINUSTAH Hurts Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 25 14:12:18 EDT 2011

From: haiti action <action.haiti at gmail.com>

Tune in to FLASHPOINTS, 94.1 FM tonight at 5pm 
(Oct 25) to hear Becca Polk, School of the 
Americas Watch, and Marilyn Langlois, Haiti 
Action Committee and Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, 
speak with Kevin Pina about their recent trips to Haiti.

Reflections Following A Delegation: How MINUSTAH Hurts Haiti
by Becca Polk, from 
Liberte Oct 19-25, 2011

During the first week in October, I took part in 
a human rights delegation to Haiti led by the 
U.S. grassroots organization School of the 
Americas (SOA) Watch. The delegation of 17 
activists from around the U.S. wanted to gain 
firsthand knowledge about the UN Stabilization 
Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a military 
occupation force of 13,000 troops and police. We 
also saw numerous initiatives being organized by 
Haitians to promote their nation’s dignity and sovereignty.

SOA Watch monitors and protests the activities of 
the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA), 
based at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where the officers 
of repressive Latin American military and police 
forces, including Haiti’s, are trained. (In 
January 2001, the school was renamed the Western 
Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.) I 
work in the Washington, DC office of SOA Watch, 
which carries out its work through vigils and 
fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as 
well as media and legislative work.

The conversations and encounters that I had on 
this delegation to Haiti have inspired me and 
touched my heart, changing my perspective on the 
world. While I do not represent the whole 
delegation or even SOA Watch, I would like to 
share some reflections about the numerous 
meetings we had and things we witnessed.

We observed MINUSTAH armored vehicles, soldiers 
and police patrolling every corner of 
Port-au-Prince, where Haitians eke out basic survival amidst earthquake rubble.

The UN Security Council deployed MINUSTAH in June 
2004 to replace the U.S., French and Canadian 
troops which occupied Haiti following the coup 
d’état (supported by those same nations) against 
former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

According to its mandate, MINUSTAH should focus 
on training and strengthening the Haitian 
National Police. But, in reality, we observed 
that MINUSTAH is primarily a military mission 
which provides security, not for Haiti’s people, 
but rather for foreign companies (including most 
of the large NGOs) and Haiti’s business elite.

“It's an occupation force that doesn't help the 
people,” a representative from the “Grassroots 
Coalition against MINUSTAH” told us. “They 
terrorize the people in the poor neighborhoods, 
they say they are here to help the people of 
Haiti who are in misery, and their sole objective 
is to support the multinationals and the bourgeoisie in Haiti.”

Our delegation learned how militarization is 
often justified as providing security for 
humanitarian assistance. For example, 22,000 U.S. 
troops and an additional 4,000 UN troops were 
deployed to Haiti following the Jan. 12, 2010 
earthquake. But other than a few token efforts, 
those troops did not generally help to save 
lives, remove rubble, or rebuild homes. They 
primarily patrolled streets and guarded 
businesses, supposedly to prevent “looting.”

The UN troops, we were told, have often conducted 
deadly raids in Haitian shantytowns and against 
anti-coup demonstrations. In short, MINUSTAH 
represses the very people it pretends to protect.
Although some people feared that security might 
degenerate if MINUSTAH leaves, the vast majority 
of Haitian grassroots groups agreed that MINUSTAH 
is causing more harm than good. The UN spends $2 
million a day to deploy MINUSTAH in Haiti, while 
hundreds of thousands of Haitian earthquake 
victims remain homeless and destitute.

We heard about cases where Haitians had been 
sexually abused by MINUSTAH troops and how others 
had contracted cholera, a now epidemic disease 
which Nepalese UN soldiers brought to Haiti one 
year ago. Cholera has now killed over 6,500 Haitians and sickened over 420,000.

“The police and MINUSTAH don’t come out at 
night,” said one woman out of several who had 
been victim of sexual violence in the tent camps. 
Her statement was quickly affirmed by many 
nodding heads in the meeting we held with several 
women’s organizations. It became clear to me 
through many conversations like these that 
MINUSTAH troops do not protect women from rape or 
stop other crimes. On the contrary, we heard 
testimony of how UN soldiers had committed rape and other sexual violence.

We also heard testimony that MINUSTAH troops have 
aided in the illegal evictions of tent city 
residents, violently repressed demonstrations, 
and attacked some of Haiti’s poorest communities. 
Far from a neutral party, the UN took the side of 
the coup-produced government from 2004 to 2006, 
aiding in the repression of the Lavalas Family, 
Haiti’s largest political party, and in 
maintaining that party’s leader, Aristide, in 
exile. This constitutes repression of Haitian 
sovereignty, not democracy promotion.

Even the legality of MINUSTAH’s mandate is 
questionable, we learned from Haitian lawyers. 
Haiti has no civil war and is no threat to 
international peace and security. Furthermore, 
under an agreement signed by Haiti’s illegal coup 
government and the UN, MINUSTAH troops cannot be 
tried in Haitian courts for violations of human rights.

However, UN troops have routinely violated 
Haitian’s human rights. We visited Cité Soleil 
and were shown the thousands of bullet holes that 
still pockmark buildings following massacres 
carried out by MINUSTAH troops from 2005 until 2007.

We were told the story of a young man in Cap 
Haïtien who was found hanging from a tree after 
the alleged mistress of a MINUSTAH commander 
falsely accused him of stealing money; the day 
after his death, she found her misplaced purse. 
When a Haitian judge tried to look into the case, 
the UN brass blocked the investigation.
MINUSTAH’s “presence helps perpetuate their 
staying,” one woman told us. “They should leave 
because they are wasting resources and not fixing 
anything. MINUSTAH money should instead train 
more police and security forces, and go to 
creating more jobs.” The overwhelming message we 
received: MINUSTAH is in Haiti to maintain the 
status quo, which features a huge chasm between between rich and poor.

SOA Watch helped initiate a recent letter to 
Latin American governments, signed by a number of 
prominent Latin American intellectuals, academics 
and human rights defenders, demanding MINUSTAH’s 
immediate withdrawal. Also, our delegation 
released the following statement: “Members of 
U.S.-based human rights, legal, faith-based, and 
policy organizations call for an end to foreign 
intervention in Haiti today, including the 
withdrawal of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.”

Many Haitians we spoke to were also concerned 
that the current President Michel Martelly wants 
to bring back the Haitian army, which Aristide 
dismantled in 1995. The former Haitian army, 
which was set up by the U.S. Marines following 
their 1915-1934 military occupation, was a 
corrupt and brutal force, responsible for many 
coups and massacres. It never protected Haiti 
against foreign states; it only repressed and terrorized the Haitian people.

The new force that Martelly proposes would cost 
$95 million annually to start. This is money 
Haiti cannot afford, for a force the Haitan 
people do not want or need, people told us.

Haitians we spoke with also denounced NGOs that 
purport to “help the people” but which are, in 
their view, corrupt and parasitical. The NGOs 
spend more on overhead and living expense than 
they do on providing aid. Many of these same NGOs 
participated in the coup against President 
Aristide by financing the opposition and writing 
reports filled with disinformation that 
contributed to a pro-coup media campaign. Many of 
these NGOs also support the neoliberal agenda 
which is destabilizing democracy in Haiti.

Haitians provided great inspiration for 
continuing our social justice work and organizing 
here in the U.S.. Their history is inspirational: 
the only successful slave revolution routed the 
most powerful army at the time, and then, as a 
free nation, provided support and safe refuge for 
anyone fighting slavery and colonialism, 
including Simon Bolivar, who led the freedom 
struggles on the South American continent.

This heroic history has instilled a resilience in 
Haitians that you can see in the faces of women 
as they balance huge baskets on their heads, or 
in the faces of children playing soccer in the dust of Cité Soleil.
Despite their near total lack of financial 
support, many Haitian grassroots organizations 
continue fighting, interacting and empowering the 
poorest and most disenfranchised sectors of 
Haitian society in the pursuit of jobs, water, 
food, housing, and security. One representative 
of MOLEGHAF (Movement for Liberty and Equality by 
Haitians for Fraternity) told us that “there 
cannot be freedom if people’s basic needs for 
survival are not respected and met.” Others whom 
we interviewed repeated this several times during our visit.

No amount of studying or analysis beforehand can 
prepare you for the situation in Haiti. My 
conclusions after this, my first trip to Haiti, 
are clear and straightforward: I support 
Haitians’ demand for sovereignty and believe they 
have the right to govern themselves. We must 
support lawyers working both to bring justice for 
crimes of the past but also to empower people to 
change their own futures. We must support student 
groups working for justice and reparations for 
victims of MINUSTAH violence and cholera. We must 
support Haitian journalists working to 
investigate injustice and give voice to the 
Haitian people’s concerns. We must support 
Haitian women's organizations working on issues 
of rape and gender imbalance. I support the 
demands from all quarters for “solidarity, not a 
military force,” solidarity like the doctors 
provided by Cuba and the petroleum provided by 
Venezuela. I hope that people from the 
international grassroots community will join in 
the call that international money raised for 
Haiti be spent on Haitian initiatives to benefit 
the Haitian people, and not on military 
occupation and economic initiatives that benefit 
the international and Haitian ruling elite.

I have learned how the U.S. government has worked 
to undermine rather than to build democracy in 
Haiti. The strategies to solve these problems are 
complicated and not mine to determine. But I will 
continue to support the organizations working 
with the Haitian people for democracy, justice and sovereignty.

Becca Polk works at SOA Watch in Washington, DC 
and can be reached at <mailto:Becca at soaw.org>Becca at soaw.org.

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