To the Presidents of our Latin American nations:
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our rejection of the continued presence in Haiti of the UN Stabilization Mission, known as MINUSTAH, and to call on our respective governments to withdraw all military personnel from this so-called peacekeeping operation.
For over seven years, soldiers from our Latin America countries have participated in an unjustified and immoral military occupation that serves the agenda of foreign powers and continuously violates the sovereignty and dignity of the people of Haiti.
In 2004 MINUSTAH troops arrived in Haiti to buttress a de facto regime. During the ensuing period of intense repression, MINUSTAH itself carried out violent incursions in the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil, in a clear strategy of construction of the “enemy”, focused on the persecution of poor, marginalized communities.
Since the return of limited democracy in 2006, MINUSTAH has contributed to the further violation of Haitians’ political rights, namely through its support of flawed elections in which Haiti’s most popular political party was excluded.
In recent weeks, a case of rape involving troops from one of our Latin American nations has lifted the veil on a dense pattern of human rights violations – including numerous incidents of rape and sexual exploitation – that have existed for years. As a result of an agreement that provides blanket immunity to UN troops, MINUSTAH soldiers are free to continue to commit abuses in impunity.
MINUSTAH has also greatly aggravated an already massive humanitarian crisis through the introduction of cholera to Haiti. Due to lax screening of soldiers entering Haiti, MINUSTAH troops unleashed an epidemic that has killed over 6400 Haitians and infected hundreds of thousands. Experts predict that cholera will remain endemic in Haiti for the foreseeable future and will lead to thousands of additional deaths.
In recent days, there have been a number of popular protests calling for MINUSTAH to leave and the Vice President of Haiti’s senate, Jean Hector Anacacis, stated that “MINUSTAH has done more harm than good to the country.” While MINUSTAH is deeply unpopular in Haiti, classified U.S. diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that U.S. officials consider that the peacekeeping forces are “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti.”
It is unconscionable that Latin American governments, many of which claim to espouse progressive values, are the enforcers of an imperial agenda in Haiti. It is unconscionable that our nations’ armies are directly involved in the military occupation of a country which stood as a beacon of hope and liberty to our burgeoning independence movements, and provided essential support to Simon Bolivar’s campaign for Latin American freedom. It is unconscionable that our countries, which have all experienced foreign aggression, should be among those to trample the sovereignty of a country that has experienced countless brutal interventions since courageously breaking the chains of slavery and colonialism.
On October 15th, the UN Security Council is set to issue a resolution renewing the annual mandate of MINUSTAH for the seventh time. Our Latin American governments should not sit idly by and acquiesce this decision as they have done in the past. Rather than simply supporting the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s recommendation of a decrease of troop numbers to pre-quake levels, our governments should demand that a timeline for a rapid withdrawal of all foreign troops be firmly established. Failing this, our governments should begin removing troops unilaterally and cease to involve our nations in a criminal and imperialist enterprise.
Nearly $800 million is spent yearly on MINUSTAH. We call on our governments to begin pulling their troops from this mission and to work to see these funds reinvested in fighting cholera and contributing to the many other urgent projects to help the Haitian people make it through ongoing humanitarian crisis. It is time for our soldiers to go and for our nations to show true solidarity with this brother nation to which we all owe so much.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (Argentina)
Peace and Justice Service (Servicio Paz y Justicia, SERPAJ América Latina)
Martín Almada, Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (Paraguay)
Juan Gelman, writer (Argentina)
Eduardo Galeano, writer (Uruguay)
Frei Betto, writer (Brasil)
Pedro Casaldaliga, writer (Brasil)
Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Argentina)
Elsie Monge, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos) (Ecuador)
School of the Americas Watch
Alicia Lira, President of the Association of Relatives of Executed Politicians of Chile (Chile)
Alejandra Arriaza, human rights defender (Chile)
Hugo Gutiérrez, human rights lawyer, parliamentarian (Chile)
Markus Sokol, member of the Workers’ Party (PT) Nacional Directorate (Brazil)
Xavier Albó, researcher for the Center for Peasants’ Research and Development (Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado – CIPCA) (Bolivia)
Hugo Blanco Galdós, leader of peasant movement (Perú)
Raul Zibechi, writer and journalist (Uruguay)
Mario Domingo, defensor de derechos humanos (Guatemala)
Alberto Franco, Executive Secretary of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz) (Colombia)
Víctor Valle, academic; (El Salvador)
Father Roy Bourgeois, Founder of the School of the Americas Watch (U.S.)
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