For ten years, Haiti has lived under a bloody military dictatorship established by the UN, imposed by Washington and led by the Brazilian army.
[This article was originally in Spanish in in December 2014 and published in the sixth edition of the Marxist Journal America Socialista]
Some argue that this is a UN “peace mission”, but the truth is otherwise. Begun as a military coup in which US troops abducted the then President Jean Bertrand Aristide, MINUSTAH (The UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti) is no more than a repressive military occupation that prevents the Haitian people from demonstrating and fighting for better living conditions and for change, guaranteeing the control of imperialism in the region.
That same “Uncle Sam” imperialism supported and financed military dictators in all of Latin America in the decades that followed the Second World War, to contain the advance of socialist ideas and to repress the workers movement. Now they use the armed forces of various countries – under the control of Brazil – to dig their claws into the Central American island with its history of popular struggle that was an example to all of the oppressed people of the continent.
For those that have doubts about this brief introduction and have illusions in the supposed “Peace Mission” of the UN we urge you to watch the hour long documentary film by Kevin Pina called “Haiti: We must kill the bandits (which can be found on http://youtu.be/25Mf7Lv5Qo8).
The roots of the historic struggle of the Haitian people
More than five centuries ago, with the arrival of the Europeans in America, the second biggest island in the Caribbean, called Ayiti or Quisqeya by the indigenous people, was christened Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus, who established there in 1493 the first colony in America. After the genocide which in less than two decades reduced the indigenous population to just 12% of the 500,000 whom previously lived on the island, the Spaniards took almost all the gold. As the Spanish abandoned the part of the territory where the gold had been depleted out, the French began to occupy the north of the island. Finally in 1697, the Spanish recognised the western part of the island as a French colony which the French renamed as Sainte Dominique. With scarcely any gold the French colonizers opted to produce sugar cane and coffee worked by slave labour brought from Africa.
Sainte Dominique became an important producer of sugar and a source of big profits from the slave trade. It was the most prosperous French colony in the Americas and the high quality sugar competed with that produced in Brazil. Just before 1770 the colony exported 35,000 tonnes of raw sugar and 25,000 tonnes of white sugar each year. Between 1764 and 1771, an average number 10,000 slaves was purchased each year, brought by ship from Africa. At the end of the 1780’s the production of sugar had almost doubled and from 1787 onwards more than 40,000 new slaves were bought each year. The small island was “colonised” by African slaves, who received the worst treatment imaginable by their French “owners”.
“The Africans who became slaves were survivors: the blacks who had to face a transatlantic voyage via the Middle Route as cargo of savage slavers. It is no surprise that almost a quarter of the slaves died on the way amid horrific conditions with terrible food and hygiene. When they reached port they were examined, sold and branded on each side of their chest to identify their owner. This abuse incited oaths of revenge. Some of these were uttered at night time Voodoo rituals, combining African rituals with Catholicism.” Aloiso Milani, Black Revolution, Living History Magazine no 51, January 2008).
A great mass of slaves – who spoke Creole and French – were put to work across the whole colony (the western part of the island). Faced with inhuman workloads, torture and punishments the slaves revolted.
In his book “The Black Jacobins”, the Trotskyist historian CLR James describes: “In the Creole language they danced and shouted threatening songs ¡E! ¡E! ¡Bomba! ¡Heu! ¡Heu! ¡Canga, bafio té! ¡Canga, mauné de lé! ¡Canga, del ki la! ¡Canga, leí!” The translation of which is something like “We swear to destroy the whites and all that they possess; let us die rather than fail to keep this vow”. There were “quilombos”, or maroons (communities of resistance, where the slaves could live free) organised on the Haitian mountains to mount a resistance against slavery. The most feared was the leader Mackland, born in Guinea, who was a visionary, a great speaker and said to be made immortal by his Voodoo powers. He had a great number of followers. In 1758, they planned to poison the water of the white households and free the slaves. He was betrayed, captured and burned alive.
But it wasn’t only the mistreatment of the slaves by the French which instigated on the revolts. News of the independence of the United States in 1778 – inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment – and the French Revolution of 1789 affected the mood on the Caribbean island.
The French Revolution and the struggle against slavery
In 1789, the great revolution broke out in France. But the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity that inspired it would not be employed in the colony of Sainte Dominique, as they were contrary to the economic interests of the slave owners. However, at the height of the revolution the French began to turn against the colonialists. As a result of this, the struggle of the slaves in Sainte Dominique would be linked intrinsically with the struggle for revolution in France.
In 1790, after the fall of the Bastille, as the revolution was gaining momentum, the institution of a colonial assembly was permitted in Sainte Dominique, divided between “the big landowners, poor whites, free Mulattoes and slaves. But in the debates the power of the big landowners prevailed. It wasn’t until 1791 that equal rights for all the people of Sainte Dominique were approved in the French constituent assembly.
The news of this decision slowly reached the ears of the slaves on the island. The big landowners did not accept it and argued that on the contrary that the blacks and Mulattoes were not people and therefore couldn’t have any rights. A revolutionary mood began to spread among the plantations. It was Boukman a foreman and Voodoo priest, who led a revolt that set fire to all the estates in the northern plain of Sainte Dominique, killing the landowners.
The slaves in the Spanish south and east of the island joined the rebels. The repression intensified and Boukman was killed in combat, but not the revolt! Each day the number of insurgents increased. Growing to 100,000 men, quantity took a qualitative leap that took the struggle to maturity, and the banner of independence for the colony was raised.
The struggle for Independence
After Boukman there were other leaders, of whom the most outstanding was Toussaint L’Ouverture, an ex slave who had access to political literature and who emerged as a great military strategist. He unified the rebel groups and organised an army capable of defeating the European troops. Without doubt, he was inclined to conciliation with the landowners, but on their part they rejected every peace accord. France sent three Commissioners with 6,000 soldiers to contain the slave rebellions and resolve the situation.
But while the commissaries intended to reach an agreement, the new French republic declared war on England. The war involved the European colonies and the army of Toussaint defended the island, fighting French, English and Spanish troops.
In 1794, the French republic declared the abolition of slavery in all its territories and the army of Toussaint, now allied with the French, expelled the English and Spanish from the island (including the Spanish part of the colony). After this feat Toussaint was named by the French government Chief of the Army of Sainte Dominique. In 1801 Sainte Dominique proclaimed a constitution, becoming an autonomous province.
However, in 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte launched his struggle for domination over everything and everyone. Alongside Louisiana, to the south of the United States, he saw in the island of Sainte Dominique a key point for the expansion of the French empire in the new world and sent an army to recover the colony: 47,000 men under the command of General LeClerc.
Toussaint fought the Napoleonic troops but his conciliatory character betrayed him one more time: the black leader sought a peace accord and travelled as a prisoner to France with the intention to negotiate. He ended up dead in a prison in Fort Joux in the Alps.
But the struggle for Independence continued. The ex slaves organised under the leadership of Jean Jacques Dessalines and defeated LeClerc’s troops on 28th November 1803. On January 1st 1804, Dessalines proclaimed the Independence of the colony (and of the whole island) which was renamed Haiti, in homage to the old indigenous name of the island which means “island of the high mountains”.
The defeat of the French troops meant that Napoleon sold Louisiana at a knockdown price and impeded his possible expansion in the Americas. It had a big impact on the market for the slave trade and in the price of sugar. Yes… history knows many transformations: the bourgeoisie that took power in France inspired the revolt in Haiti, and the revolution in Haiti ended up liquidating an important source of income for the French bourgeoisie.
An example of struggle for the peoples
The struggle of the Haitian people that developed from 1791 to 1803 was and is considered as the only successful slave revolt since classical antiquity. It had great repercussions throughout the world and represented a giant point of support for all those that fought against slavery. The slave owners in all of the Americas were worried about the repercussions of the victorious black revolution. In the United States, the landowners were interested more in the events in the Caribbean island than in the war between the European powers.
The slaves and the abolitionists shared a common goal. In Brazil, a mixed race militia was formed that used portraits of Dessalines; and those that fought against slavery and racism were called “Haitianists” for some time: “During the period of the Regency (1831-40), the term ‘Haitianism’ was used as an epithet against journals that supposedly represented the interests of the free people of colour and persistently addressed the race issue” (Stuart Schwartz, Secretos internos - Ingenios y esclavos en la sociedad colonial).
Two centuries of exploitation and repression
The imperialists couldn’t get over what the Haitians had done. The defeat that the ex slaves had inflicted on the Napoleonic troops had come at a high cost to the people. The president of the United States Thomas Jefferson – defender of liberty and slave owner – declared that Haiti was a bad example and that the plague must be confined to the island!
“In 1804, they inherited a land ravaged by the devastating sugar cane plantations and a country ravaged by a ferocious war. They inherited “the French Debt”. France resented deeply the humiliation inflicted on Napoleon Bonaparte. Soon after its birth, Haiti had to agree to deliver huge reparations, through which they were forced to pay for their own liberation. That atonement for the sin of freedom would cost 150 million gold francs. The new country was born strangled by this rope tied to its neck: a fortune that is equal to $21.7 billion in today’s currency, or 44 times the total budget of Haiti today. It took far longer than a century to repay the debt and the hefty interests. In 1938 the final debt was paid. By then Haiti belonged to the US banks” (Eduardo Galeano, La Maldición Blanca, 2004).
After the independence of 1804, the inhabitants of the islands lived through many conflicts. The external pressure was very great. The republic was unstable. Dessalines was proclaimed emperor and was assassinated in 1806. The country was divided in two and the Spanish retook the east of the island. The conflicts continued and in 1822, the president of the republic of Haiti, Jean-Pierre Boyer occupied militarily the Spanish part of the island. This only lasted until 1844, when this collapsed and the Dominican Republic was declared (which occupies two thirds of the eastern part of the island). In 1861 the Spanish retook control of the eastern side of the island and the Dominican Republic was declared anew.
The Haitian people suffered decades of terrible economic hardship. Despite the French debts they had to shoulder, the country invested in agricultural production, but this process was at the cost of a huge external debt, especially to North American capital. This dependency increased until the point that the US invaded Haiti in 1915 on the pretext that the debt obligations were not being met.
“The first thing they did was to occupy the customs and the tax collection office. The army of occupation retained the salary of the Haitian president until he resigned himself to sign for the liquidation of the National Bank, and its conversion to Citibank of New York. The president and all other blacks were refused entry to hotels, restaurants and the exclusive clubs of the foreign power. The occupiers did not seek to re-establish slaver, but imposed forced labour for public works. They killed many. It was not easy to put out the fires of resistance. The guerrilla Chief Charlemagne Péralte, was nailed to a cross against a door and was exhibited, as a warning, in the public plaza” (Eduardo Galeano, La Maldición Blanca, 2004).
The balance sheet of the military regime under the mandate of the US that lasted until 1934 was of more than 10,000 dead. At the end of the 1930s US imperialism treated the islands of the Caribbean as a backyard that could be used for cheap labour, smuggling and prostitution. Even after 1934, the American influence over Haiti continued. Even after the military left the country, they maintained a national police force faithful to Washington.
After a series of military coups, in 1957, François Duvalier – a doctor better known as Papa Doc – assumed the presidency under the patronage of the United States and implemented a new regime of terror massacring all those who opposed his will. The remaining opposition was tightly controlled by Papa Doc.
While neighbouring Cuba went through its revolution under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Papa Doc cracked down on any dissent from the Haitian people. He trained militias known as the Tonton Macoutes (armed bands or literally, armed guys with knives) who carried out murders, sexual abuse and controlled the smuggling of arms and drugs in the region. It was a cruel regime for the poor and submissive to the interests of US imperialism.
During the 1960s many left wing Haitians were organised in the Catholic Church. In this period Papa Doc exterminated systematically all those who were under “Cuban influence” and persecuted the Catholic Church.
Papa Doc’s regime expressed the degeneration of a society subjected to all of the evils of capitalism. Under the patronage of Washington, Papa Doc mounted an enormous illegal commercial system that transformed Haiti into an obligatory route for drug smuggling between Colombia and the US. At the end of his government, Haiti was the poorest country in the Americas, with the highest rate of illiteracy and infant mortality. Dying in 1971, Papa Doc was substituted by his son Baby Doc.
Baby Doc imposed a brutal system of exploitation at work, which greatly benefitted the US multinationals also the rickety Haitian bourgeoisie. The working class reacted. Baby Doc decreed a state of siege, until when in 1985 the popular protests intensified and Baby Doc fled to France in a USAAF aeroplane, leaving in his place a junta commanded by General Henri Namphy.
A dispute arose between the military under the command of the state and the drug traffickers. There followed a series of coups until under popular pressure a new constitution was approved and direct presidential elections in a type of parliamentary democracy in December 1990.
The origins of the current crisis
With a campaign denouncing the imperialist domination of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide a former catholic priest and Haitian defender of Liberation Theology was elected with an enormous popular support of 67%, taking office in February 1991. Leader of a popular movement called Lavalas (avalanche or torrent in kréyòl) and nominating a trustworthy prime minister. Aristide established as the focus of his government the struggle against corruption and drug trafficking and the struggle against poverty. Seven months later he a military coup was staged against him, launched by General Raoul Cedras under the sponsorship of the CIA.
Exiled in the US, Aristide looked for international support. It was a golden opportunity for imperialism to recover its dominance over Haiti after the flight of Baby Doc and to establish direct military control over the transport of drugs, holding back at the same time popular dissatisfaction by reappointing Aristide. The US government thus proposed the return of Aristide to power on condition that he endorse and support the presence of US troops to “stabilise the country”.
Ex US President Jimmy Carter presented himself as a “mediator” and reached an “agreement” with Cedras; in exchange for an amnesty, the military gave up power, the Haitian military was dissolved and US troops entered the country in September 1994 to “assure a return to the rule of law”. Aristide reassumed the presidency in October with Smarck Michel as his prime minister. In April on 1995, the US troops were substituted by UN soldiers.
Aristide was welcomed by the Haitian people with big rallies. In the elections of June 1995, René Préval the candidate of the Lavalas movement, endorsed by Aristide – and also the White House - was elected president with 87.9% of the votes. The people, however, wanted Aristide. But the constitution of Haiti did not permit re-election in consecutive elections and Préval got the votes of his predecessor. But this did not correspond with the expectations of the masses. He maintained the presence of the UN troops and nominated as his prime minister an economist aligned with Washington, Rony Smarth.
In March 1996 Préval announced a plan to privatise all state enterprises and public services, triggering strikes and big protests. In August of the same year, Lavalas was blamed for the assassination of two bourgeois politicians. The situation became unstable and the population was repressed by the UN troops. Aristide broke with Préval and created Fanmi Lavalas, announcing that he would be a candidate for the presidency in 2000.
In January 1997, the Dominican Republic decided to expel undocumented Haitian immigrants, but this was suspended following protests by the Haitian people after 16,000 were deported. The protests gained force on the streets and enabled the formation of a national movement against the imposition of the adjustment programme agreed between prime minister Smarth and the IMF. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets. The institutional crisis intensified and less than 10% voted in the legislative and municipal elections in April 1997.
In this period the population of Haiti had reached almost 8 million. Unemployment soared to 70% of the active population. Hunger was rife in rural areas. A general strike of the teachers closed the schools across the whole country! The working people of Haiti had the conditions to stage a successful insurrection and take power in 2007. But, in addition to the presence of UN troops, they were held back by the lack of a revolutionary party. Political fragmentation was extreme. There were more than 100 parties and political organisations in Haiti. With the recent break between Préval and Aristide and the betrayal of the Préval government, the Lavalas movement, still the most popular one, was unable to play this role.
The Prime Minister Smarth resigned in June but continued in charge until October. In November the president Préval appointed Hervé Denis to the post of Prime Minister. The UN withdrew its military troops and pulled together the United Nations Civil Police (MIPONUH) to contain the revolutionary wave and to professionalise the Haitian National Police – the only repressive force of the state, after the army was dissolved in 1994. This UN mission remained until March 2000.
A coup hatched four years earlier
Aristide was elected president again in December 2000 in a troubled scenario. While in the past he had shown that under pressure he would follow capitulate and follow faithfully the commands of the imperialists, he represented the will for change of millions of Haitians, and the gentlemen in Washington had no confidence in him.
A strong opposition composed of the big landowners, employers, paramilitaries, drug cartels and NGOs accused Aristide of manipulating the parliamentary elections at the beginning of the year and they boycotted the presidential elections. The truth is however that they did not have the forces to defeat Aristide, who had huge popular support and promised to break with the legacy of the treacherous government of Préval. Without any opposition, Aristide was elected on a 50% turnout, taking office in March 2001. Doubtless this time Washington was on the side of the opposition, and the World Bank cut the annual support of $500 m that they sent to the previous government.
The economic policy applied by Aristide was ambiguous, while openly critical of the of the IMF he followed their dictates to the letter. Unemployment grew, along with misery and hunger. The AIDS epidemic reached alarming levels. His popularity fell. With no money for social programmes, Aristide agreed to pay the French €22m as compensation for money provided to Haiti during the 19th Century.
In January 2004, the commemorations for 200 years of Haitian independence were transformed into food riots The Haitian bosses’ organised strikes and armed groups began to attack Aristide supporters on the street. The press reported clashes were scores were killed. The US government pronounced that Aristide had to stabilise the country and guarantee democracy. The right wing opposition demanded his resignation and threatened a coup. Groups of Aristide followers resisted, but the opposition had far greater resources. Aristide said that he wouldn’t resign and that he would not abandon the Palace of Government even if he had to pay with his life. The people took to the streets.
Since Haiti didn’t have an army (dissolved in 1994) it was difficult for the opposition to take power militarily as they would have done in the past. It was therefore the US marines who abducted the elected president on the 29th February 2004 and declared that he had resigned. An interim government was appointed by the US and France, while Canadian and US troops quelled the massive demonstrations in support of Aristide, leaving dozens dead, until on June 1st 2004 the UN troops arrived under the command of the Brazilian Army.
The UN mission and the Lula Government
The coup in Haiti resulted in a greater scandal than the Venezuelan coup of 2002 when Chavez was kidnapped for three days. This wasn’t a coup lead by the Haitian military under the patronage of the United States. It was a coup, carried out directly by the US military! And it took place in a context in which Bush was facing the biggest global mobilisation in history against the war in Iraq, with millions of people in the streets in all corners of the world. Washington could not let it seem as if it was beginning a new war on an island so near to Cuba and Venezuela!
It was very important for the US that the military occupation of Haiti had the appearance of a “humanitarian mission” a “peace mission”. For this it was important that a country that wasn’t imperialist, “of good reputation”, commanded the UN troops. Brazil came in handy, as was the recently elected president, a respected figure among left-wing movements in all countries: Lula.
Lula, who was already following Washington’s dictates in Brazil (pacts with the bourgeoisie, cuts in social security, subsidies to the landowners, increasing the government surplus to pay the external debt, etc.) didn’t think twice. He argued that this would help Brazil win a permanent seat in the bloodthirsty Security Council of the United Nations!
The Brazilian workers didn’t elect Lula to win a place for Brazil in a council that decides which countries are to be invaded, never mind participating in any of those invasions! But Lula was intelligent and made strong propaganda over the UN “peace mission”. He even organised a football friendly between the Brazilian and Haitian national teams in Haiti in August 2004. It was called the “game of peace”. Brazil won 6-0.
We, the Brazilian Marxists organised to collect signatures before and after the troops were sent. Thousands of signatures were sent to Lula saying “Don’t send the troops!”, “Withdraw the Troops”. But the government ignored it. They would not pay any attentions until the masses mobilised for it. We will return to that later.
The MINUSTAH (UN Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti) was created with the participation of troops from the following countries:
Troops: Argentina, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, Spanish, France, Guatemala, Jordan, Morrocco, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, US and Uruguay.
Police Forces: Argentina, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Granada, Guinea, Jordania, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Phillipines, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey, USA, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Yemen.
Note that alongside Brazil, there were troops from other Latin American countries whose presidents were victorious in elections as an expression of the struggle of the toiling masses for change in their own countries: Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Chile’s Bachelet, Paraguay’s Lugo, in Uruguay Vasquez and in Ecuador Rafael Correa!
All of these played a disgusting role under the command of the imperialists, sending troops, using material and human resources to repress and assassinate the poor and the suffering in Haiti. Along with Fidel in Cuba, in 2004 only Chavez stood against the occupation of Haiti. No wonder, there was a revolution on the march in Venezuela!
Initially, the UN announced a six-month mission. Later this was extended until there could be elections. After many delays there were elections in 2006, but Aristide – the president who had been elected by the people, now exiled in South Africa, was barred from returning to Haiti! Préval ended up being elected again. Since 2010-2011, in other turbulent elections and without Aristide, the singer and actor Michel Martelly, also known by his stage name Sweet Micky, was elected and is the current president of Haiti. Now there is an “elected” president (de facto imposed) – yet the troops remain there! The argument of the UN is that without the presence of the troops, the bands of drug traffickers and kidnappers would through the country into chaos once again. But this is not true!
Elite Police and Death Squads
The deaths and assassinations at the hands the occupying forces over the past four years are countless. It is very clear that these are not the result of operations against the drug traffickers. It comes from the repression levied against the Lavalas movement that opposes the dictatorship imposed by the United States and the UN and has strong support among the masses, that demanding the return of Aristide.
In the townships and favelas of Brazil doesn’t the police also kill poor blacks under the pretext of the war on drugs? Not for nothing for nothing has the BOPE (the Battalion of Special Police Operations) of the military police of Rio de Janeiro agreed to “exchange combat experiences” with the Brazilian troops deployed in Haiti, while the troops sent to Haiti spent weeks training in the “BOPE Favela” in Rio.
Brazilian soldiers returning from Haiti were interviewed by the newspaper “Folha de SP” who affirmed that the name “peace mission” gave a false impression of events in Haiti. One of the soldiers identified as “S” explained “It seems that this name is to tranquilise the Brazilian people. The truth is that that not a day passes where the UN troops don’t kill a Haitian in an exchange of fire. I myself definitely killed two, others, I didn’t look back to see”. (Folha de SP, 29/01/2006).
The most outrageous thing: since 2005 the UN troops have carried out killings of Haitians in reprisal for attending protests for the withdrawal of the troops and for the return of Aristide – Titid as the poor call him. The bullets of the UN police and soldiers crack down on demonstrations of tens of thousands of Haitians. On the day following big demonstrations, the UN troops tend to make incursions into Cité Soleil which with, 300,000 inhabitants, is the biggest slum on the periphery of the capital Port-au-Prince, and for hours they attack the homes of ordinary, killing men, women and children The old are not killed simply because they are so rare to come across. The life expectancy is 49 years!
In these incursions –called “collective punishments” by some journalists present in Haiti – the soldiers fire from the interior of armoured vehicles and helicopters. Many people, mostly children, are killed in bed, while sleeping, by heavy caliber shells that pierce the roofs of their houses.
After counting and grieving for the dead, the poor people of Cité Soleil return to the streets protesting and are repressed once again! An unarmed population pitted against foreign forces as strong as these can see a whole generation annihilated physically and psychologically. This is the objective of the UN, to finish Lavalas and every chance of political resistance to the imperialist’s plans.
Those who seek to organise or participate in resistance movements are assassinated of held without charge, illegally. After being imprisoned they suffer torture and generally are “disappeared” by the National Police. Countless political prisoners and activists have disappeared. Independent journalists say that more than 20,000 have died or disappeared in the last 10 years!
The situation in occupied Haiti
As if the deaths caused by foreign troops and by the National Police were not enough, Haitians run many other risks in their lives.
Hunger: Who could not be horrified to see televised images of the mud cakes that Haitians eat? When there is nothing to eat Haitians try to act like plants, taking the nutrients directly from the soil. It is not difficult to meet someone in Haiti who has lost a child in their family to hunger. More than 80% of the population live below the “poverty line”. But things will get worse! With the global crisis there has been an increase in food prices in Haiti; in 2008 a bag of 23 kilos of rice rose from $35 to $70. Meanwhile maize, beans and cooking oil recorded increases of 40%. This provoked massive protests, with looting of food stores and barricades with burning tires in the streets. The UN troops put down the food riots with bullets. Today 80% of the rice consumed in Haiti is bought from the USA with high import duties.
Disease: Almost 300,000 Haitians carry HIV (4% of the population). Other epidemics such as malaria and tuberculosis also affect the poorest. Infant mortality stands at 57 per 1,000 babies. Deaths in childbirth reach 630 in every 100,000 births. There is a lack of basic medicine in pharmacies, a lack of pharmacies, a lack of doctors, resources and infrastructures in hospitals. In the majority of neighbourhoods there is no sewage system or garbage collection. The level of contamination of drinking water is very high. The lack of hygiene and sanitation aggravates health problems and increases the risk of contracting many easily preventable diseases. In 2010 after the great earthquake a cholera epidemic devastated the population with thousands of deaths in a few months.
Super exploitation of labour: According to the leader of the Brazilian Lawyers’ Association (OAB-RJ) Anderson Bussinger Carvalho, the international military occupation under the command of Brazil “has an interest in exploiting Haitian labour through free zones.” The working day often surpasses 12 hours a day and the minimum wage, which was doubled in 2008, amounts to the equivalent of $120 a month. US, Canadian and Dominican businesses are having a blast. Haitian unions have denounced the increase in “maquiladoras” (Mexican-style assembly plants) in the country. The Brazilian government has been in constant dialogue with the US government since 2006 over Brazilian industries that are interested in creating branches in Haiti to export products to the USA. But industrial workers only make up 3% of the active workers in Haiti: The big majority are in the informal sector and working in the countryside where work is much more precarious. It is not unusual for deaths to occur in the countryside as a result of overwork.
Hurricanes: Imagine all of these problems thrown into a blender. Frequent hurricanes and tropical storms develop in the Atlantic and travel in the direction of the South East of the United States. On their way they pass over the Antilles. Even when they don’t quite touch Haiti, but pass close to the coast, they cause major destruction, the sea level rises and causes the rivers to flood. In 2004 Gonaives, the principal city in the north, was hit by hurricane Jeanne and was buried by mudslides 3 metres deep. Almost 3,000 died. This occurred immediately after the UN military was deployed. The interim government broke all records of corruption: those who had lost all of their possessions had to pay for an identity card which gave them the right to support after they lost their homes. Many NGOs receive huge quantities of money in international humanitarian aid but nobody knows where this money goes. In 2008, the country was struck by four more storms (Hannah, Gustav, Ike and Fay) causing great devastation and hundreds of deaths. The Haitian government asked that the donations be made straight to the government and not to NGOs. Press reports circulated of food being diverted that should have been delivered to the homeless (which numbered over 20 thousand).
“Hurricane Jeanne devastated Haiti in 2004, eight months after the coup that brought down Jean Bertrand Aristide, Gerard Latortue (the Prime Minister of the provisional government) the figurehead of the UN dictatorship and a native of Gonaives, received money from all of the world to support the reconstruction of the city. Disgracefully the victims received little benefit from this money. Gonaives is situated below sea level but nobody had constructed dikes; many roads had not been repaired. The small results gained with the money from international support only reinforced the conviction that in Gonaives, the friends of Latortue and the corrupt NGOs simply pocketed the money”. (Wadner Pierre, HaitiAnalysis.com, 9/9/2008).
The Earthquake of 2010 unmasks the UN “peace mission”
We reproduce here extracts from one of our articles written a few days after the earthquake that killed more than 300,000 Haitians in January 2010:
“We have all been moved by the news and images that have arrived from Haiti on January 12th, when a powerful earthquake destroyed the capital and many cities in the country. The international news agencies speak of 70,000 bodies burned and buried in communal graves. Some analysts say that there are 100,000 dead, others 200,000 and there are some who say 500,000 dead. More than 3 million Haitians have been rendered homeless, a third of the country!”
Also there was news of an “increase in violence”. Reporters related that the surviving population were starving and thirsty and had started to loot commercial premises in search of food.
“Outbreaks of violence in the streets of Haiti, although isolated cases, are a security problem hampering humanitarian efforts in Haiti, said two senior officials of the Government of the United States today. Both the US Army lieutenant general and deputy commander of the Southern Command, PK Keen, with the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, made the warning in several Sunday talk shows on American television. "There are isolated cases, but they worry us and we have to deal with that problem. We need to establish a secure environment in order to succeed in our mission of humanitarian assistance," Keen told CNN, which coordinates the activities of the US Armed Forces in the rescue and reconstruction. "(EFE, 17/01/2010)
But, why is it that, a week after the earthquake the surviving Haitians were obliged to loot shops in search of food, which according to the press reports was delayed in Port au Prince Airport, alongside medication and water arriving from all over the world for the victims of the earthquake? The truth is that the aid that arrived, in large part was not being distributed to the homeless?
“"Many victims complain that they received no assistance, even though the airport in Port au Prince suffered real bottlenecks of aircraft with loads of food and medicines. (...) "I know that in three days I only ate a bowl of rice I received from a neighbour," said Bobien Ebristout, who lives in a shack made from four canvases on the dusty hill of Peguyville, where the smell of excrement permeates everything." (EFE, 17/01/2010)
'International aid agencies, however, warn that many homeless or injured Haitians are dying as teams try to overcome the chaos in the organization of aid delivery. Some of them, says the British newspaper "The Guardian", criticized the excessive control of the US as part of the problem. NGO Medecins Sans Frontiers say the confusion over who is leading the effort - the Americans or the UN - is hampering the delivery of supplies essentials to thousands. "Coordination does not exist or is not working so far," Benoit Leduc, head of operations of the NGO in Port au Prince told the newspaper. "(Folha de Sao Paulo, 19/01/2010)
The huge quantity of aid that arrived in Haiti demonstrated the solidarity of the whole world. This undermined the arguments of those who try to blame “human nature” as the cause of injustice and inequality across the planet. Humanity is quick to respond with solidarity and co-operation. The obstacle is the system of competition between individuals and the system based on private ownership of the means of production: capitalism.
It is this subordination to capital that made living conditions so terrible in Haiti even before the earthquake; this is what amplified the consequences of this natural disaster. In addition, in the service of capital there are the UN troops. After all, instead of the US sending 11,000 more armed soldiers to "deal with the problem of violence" and "ensure a safe environment" in Haiti, should the troops of the United Nations not have rather been involved in the distribution of supplies arriving from other countries? And in regions where access is difficult, shouldn’t the soldiers themselves take the initiative and open stores with food for distribution among the survivors?
The report of a Brazilian student who was in Haiti, before, during and after the eartquake, with a a group of anthropologists from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) could not be more clear:
“What have Brazil and the UN done in six years of occupation in Haiti? The houses made of sand, there is a lack of hospitals, of schools, garbage everywhere. Are any of these problems were resolved with the presence of thousands of troops from all over the world?
The UN spends $ 500 million a year to turn Haiti into a military training ground. Yesterday morning we were in BRABATT, the leading Brazilian battalion of MINUSTAH. When asked about Brazil's interest in military occupation of Haiti, Colonel Bernardes did not hesitate: Haiti, certainly serves as a guinea pig (exactly, a guinea pig) for the Brazilian military to contain the rebellions in the favelas. Unfortunately, this is the best we can do for this country.
Today, on January 13, the Haitian people are wondering more than ever: where is the MINUSTAH when we need it most?
I can answer this question: MINUSTAH is removing debris from the luxury hotels where rich foreign guests were staying.
I am not against these type of measures, although we are foreigners and white, we may also need the support of MINUSTAH.
In reality, however, this shows the likely result from this tragedy -the people of Haiti will be the last to be helped, if at all. What we saw in the city today and what we hear from Haitians is this: we are abandoned.
Haiti’s police, fragile and small, is fulfilling its role well - to protect supermarkets destroyed by a poor and hungry people. As usual, putting the property before humanity '(Haiti: "We are abandoned" by Otavio Calegari Jorge).
Information from the Red Cross indicates that 6 days after the earthquake the price of bread had doubled in Haiti and that “the search for bodies had ended, now people search among the ruins to find anything useful and something to eat”.
The situation that existed before the earthquake could have already been classified as catastrophic, and the UN troops only serve to maintain this state of affairs!
So that no one can have any doubts, we will look at what was said in an interview in 2009 by the Director of the Haitian Democratic Committee, Henry Boisrolin, on the Argentinian Resumen Latinoamericano website:
'The actions of the UN troops are something that infuriates any human being with a little sensitivity. In a country where 70% of the active population is unemployed, where we have an infant mortality rate of over 80 per thousand and an illiteracy rate of over 70% in the countryside and 50% in the cities, where the life expectancy is no more than 50 years. We are talking about a country whose economic structures are destroyed, where 60% of Haiti's budget comes from international aid and remittances from Haitians working abroad. Therefore, to suggest that you should go in with tanks, planes and helicopters to solve it, is totally mistaken and cruel.
What have these "saviours" done? They have raped Haitian girls and women, have beaten and tortured our youth. It isn’t just us saying this, but their own UN investigation confirmed these facts, and the only thing they did was to get some soldiers and send them home, because according to the Convention Resolution 545, which allowed the entry of the troops 1 June 2004, Haiti has no right to judge any foreign military personnel, though they committed crimes against humanity. A baser submission than this cannot exist.
(...) We can see, for example, in Port au Prince, in some of the better-off neighbourhoods and at night (because there is virtually no nightlife in Haiti, no light, none of the services which can be found in other countries) there is a continuous parade of United Nations cars, in front of the best bars and restaurants, spending many dollars, while the people are sleeping out in the streets.
(...) This calls for reflection, because we have heard some governments say, that when hurricanes or other weather events happen, the troops are there precisely to help in bad times. But that's not what matters. Far from it. The occupation of Haiti is a new scheme to subdue the popular revolt in a country where the ruling classes have no chance of winning the elections cleanly. Then, it is necessary to impose by force of arms a strategy of domination. That is the true role of the occupiers. And to those who say that "those troops are better than the US", we say it's just the opposite. The other way we were confronted with the enemy more clearly. Instead, we now see Latin American brothers from Governments who should have another type of attitude towards the Haitian drama; it's hard. I was in neighborhoods hard hit by these troops, and heard from the heart of these people the indignation with which they tell of the bombings in the early morning hours to take out alleged bandits in these neighborhoods. Or when the soldiers come in droves and kick in the door, dragging out the terrified inhabitants. So there is no place for more lies: it is an outright occupation of the Republic of Haiti, and to the extent that this situation continues, there will be more resistance. "
But those who try to resist, or organize demonstrations against the military occupation are criminalized immediately, labeled as drug traffickers, smugglers, kidnappers, and are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and disappeared, like a real fascist regime. As in Brazil, the police always treat people in poor neighborhoods and communities as suspects. Let’s see what a UN special envoy said at a press conference:
"There are many sectors that do not like our presence there. That is true and they have an enormous antipathy to us. Those we have identified as being involved in drug trafficking, those benefiting from the existing impunity, lawlessness, from the lack of a state, the lack of institutions, those that benefit from smuggling ... '(Edmond Mulet, UN special envoy to Haiti, Jan / 2007).
Humanitarian aidHenry Boisrolin, Director of the Haitian Democratic Committee, made clear in a 2009 interview, what help the Haitians need:
'We ask for solidarity so that the governments of Latin America understand that this is not the way. That Haiti does not need troops. What we need is the kind of help given by Cuba and Venezuela; this is the true model of aid, humanity, respect for our independence and sovereignty. '
While the US government announced the deployment of 10,000 additional armed personnel to Haiti, two days after the earthquake, Fidel Castro explained that the 400 Cuban doctors sent the day after the earthquake were already saving lives in many towns in Haiti. The first planes to arrive with medicines, food, doctors and firefighters were from Venezuela.
But on the 19/01/10 the UN Security Council decided to send 3,500 more MINUSTAH soldiers! Why this decision? Why send armed soldiers to a place where medicine, food, water, engineers and teachers are needed!
The UN called on governments around the world asking them to gather or contribute an amount of $575 million to help Haiti after the earthquake. The UN has announced that it has raised 19% of that, i.e. $110 million!
This is where all the masks fall from the capitalists and the advocates of this rotten system. We all saw the development of the global crisis. Over a few months, capitalist governments and their central banks donated more than 15 trillion dollars of public money to a handful of bankers! With that money it would be possible to feed forever thousands of countries like Haiti forever. And why do we need the NGOs? To syphon off the money as they did in Haiti in 2004! There is enough money and resources for the entire population of the Earth!
To save a handful of bankers: billions of dollars! To fight hunger among nearly one billion human beings on the planet: thousands of NGOs! And for the people of a country destroyed by an earthquake: more troops! This is the real face of the current system, which allows no future for humanity.
And they all cry. Faced with television images they mourn the thousands of Haitians whose lives were taken by the quake. And the heavily armed soldiers with high-caliber rifles, tanks and helicopters that they sent to "pacify" the Haitians, now become heroes and saviours. But not for long. They will soon be stomping their boots on Haitian heads again. This is because, they fear another type of earthquake; a social earthquake, like that which struck Haiti more than 200 years ago. The only successful slave rebellion since classical antiquity, which gave birth to the first black republic in the world! And every time they feel a tremor, a small sign of that earthquake, they despair and increase the number of troops. And they send bullets! But the march of history is unstoppable! This earthquake will be relentless. It will bring capitalism to the ground, with all its crises, taxes, prices, NGOs, law, profit rates, peacekeeping troops, maquiladoras and multinational banks.”
There is a way out! Fight for socialism!
The passage quoted from our 2010 article is are relevant now as when it was written. The Haitian people is asking for help! They need food, medicine, infrastructure, jobs, hospitals, schools! But help comes in the form of bullets that pierce the breasts and heads of children. It seems that they are following to the letter Thomas Jefferson’s desire to "confine the plague to the island."
Despite all the difficulties, Haitians somehow found the strength to lift their heads and shout out! They lift their arms and their clenched fists, march forward! The strafed men and women are fighting back! And how they fight! And they continue to fight, for history belongs to them! History is ours! Of those who struggle! The class struggle is the motor of history and it will not end until we come out victorious!
As the Haitians did in the late eighteenth century, all over the world, the masses are setting the example. A few miles across the Caribbean Sea south of Haiti, we come to the shores of Venezuela, where a revolution is taking place and has been going on for longer than the current occupation of Haiti by the UN.
The defence of the Cuban revolution and the deepening of the revolution in Venezuela and throughout Latin America are critical to the struggle of the Haitian people. One can say that in the same way as in the late eighteenth century the struggle for Haitian independence was intrinsically linked to the development of the French Revolution, today, the struggle for self-determination of the Haitian people is intrinsically linked to the development of the revolution in Venezuela.
It is the theory of permanent revolution: the most basic democratic gains in backward countries are invariably associated with the struggle for the seizure of state power by the working class. No struggle for the sovereignty of Haiti without the struggle for socialism is possible.
To cope with all the problems of Haiti, which in some respects are common to all the backward countries of the world, it is necessary to plan the economy, socialize ownership of the means of production and establish democracy through councils of workers and peasants. With world socialism we can plan production and distribution of all goods, so everyone’s basic needs are met in order to live a dignified life. That will put an end to the state and establish a classless society: communism! There will be no more hunger, no more wars. No more exploitation.
But to get to this point it will be necessary to fight. And it is necessary to fight in an organized way. In Haiti, for the workers and peasants and poor people to fight and organize, we must restore a minimum of democratic rights. We must demand the withdrawal of the military dictatorship installed by the UN!
An immediate task
In Brazil from before the start of the occupation we demanded Lula not to send soldiers; and that he withdraw the troops. We continue to demand that Dilma bring back the troops from Haiti. But although we gathered thousands of signatures and we will continue to campaign, we have no illusions that Dilma’s government will take on board our demands. It is not that she is unaware of what is happening in Haiti. They know and approve of the slaughter. That was the decision that Lula and the PT leadership took when they chose to align themselves with the Brazilian bourgeoisie and completely bow down to American imperialism. The only circumstance that would push Dilma to buckle and withdraw the troops would be a mass campaign that had enough strength to force her to do so.
So it becomes an urgent task to organise a broad campaign of propaganda and agitation. We must use texts, photos and videos to explain that we cannot accept that Brazilian taxpayers’ money is allocated for this purpose, or that young Brazilian soldiers are to be sent to massacre our Haitian brothers, nor that the occupation should serve as a training ground for the troops to learn how to massacre young blacks and poor people in the favelas and the townships of Brazilian cities.
The same should be done in other countries in Latin America, where “left” governments keep troops in the armies of the UN "peace mission", such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina or El Salvador.
- End the Military Occupation Now! Withdraw the UN troops!
- Humanitarian aid should comprise doctors, teachers and infrastructures! No more military troops!
- For the right to self-determination of the Haitian people! Haitians must have the freedom to organize and demonstrate! They must fight for reforms and determine their own future!
- President Aristide must be free to return to Haiti!
- Stop the killings, sexual abuse and massacres of the poor by UN troops and the National Police!
- Freedom to political prisoners! No more illegal arrests and torture in Haiti!
- The executors of the coup and massacres of the poor must be punished! The victims should be compensated!
- In Brazil: Dilma, withdraw the troops immediately!