Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Blanco Go Home! (Interconnect)

By: Brian Concannon, Jr., IJDHBrian Concannon, Jr.

One of Latin America’s most important, and desperate, anti-occupation struggles is being waged in Haiti, against an unlikely opponent: a UN force led by soldiers from progressive Latin American countries sent to Haiti to do the Bush Administration’s dirty work.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is a force of 12,000 soldiers and police officers —  10% of worldwide UN peacekeeping forces —  led by Brazil and containing troops from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay,  Peru and Uruguay.  The Mission was established under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in 2004, to replace the Multinational Interim Force (MIF), an occupying force primarily comprised of U.S. soldiers, who were needed elsewhere. The MIF was deployed by President Bush to consolidate the February 29, 2004 coup d’état in Haiti. That coup was consummated when the country’s elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was forcibly removed from Haiti on a U.S. government plane diverted from the War on Terror’s torture rendition program, and replaced by a former UN staffer from Boca Raton Florida.

There was never a legal basis for a Chapter VII mission in Haiti –  Brazilian officials argued as much in conversations recorded in cables recently  released by  Wikileaks – but Brazil was enticed to overcome its principled objections by the promise of an enhanced candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Other Latin American countries followed to support a neighbor and for the generous UN troop reimbursements.

The U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, in a 2008 cable released by Wikileaks, bragged that MINUSTAH  “is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [U.S. government] policy interests in Haiti”. These policy interests have included suppressing dissent to U.S.-installed governments in Haiti and attacks on neighborhoods sympathetic to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his progressive Lavalas movement. In a July 6, 2005 attack, UN troops fired over 21,000 rounds of ammunition from assault rifles on the crowded, thin-walled houses of Cite Soleil, then left with their ambulances empty as unarmed civilians they shot bled to death in their homes and on the streets. MINUSTAH arrested Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, Haiti’s most prominent advocate of non-violent social change, in 2005. More recently, the mission worked with the Haitian government and United States to prevent the Lavalas movement from participating in Haiti’s 2010-2011 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. In 2010, UN troops introduced cholera to Haiti through negligent sanitation practices, killing 6,000 and sickening 450,000 civilians so far. A rape of a Haitian boy by four Peacekeepers from Uruguay, caught on a cellphone video released in September,  is just the latest in a long line of sexual violence by MINUSTAH soldiers.

Perhaps most galling for Haitians is MINUSTAH’s cost- over $800 million this year,  more than the entire national budget of the Lavalas government that MINUSTAH replaced, and several times the UN expenditure on cholera response.

Latin American countries play this role uneasily- diplomats, Commanders, foot soldiers and especially citizens have complained about Latin American participation in violence against poor Haitians. But the uneasiness has not stopped seven annual renewals of the MINUSTAH mandate, the most recent occurring on October 15.

But a developing mobilization is fighting to make the most recent renewal the last one. In Haiti, grassroots and student groups are organizing demonstrations almost every week. In October, they took their fight to Geneva, submitting a report on MINUSTAH’s human rights violations to the UN Human Rights Council (see  On October 5, a group of prominent Latin American citizens led by Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Perez-Esquivel wrote an open letter calling on their governments to withdraw their troops from Haiti. A School of The Americas Watch delegation visited Haiti in October, to learn about MINUSTAH from Haitian groups in order to advocate for withdrawal in the U.S. and Latin America.  In the U.S., reports and advocacy from TransAfrica Forum, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), students at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and other groups are helping to develop a movement of informed, engaged advocates for MINUSTAH withdrawal.

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