By: Mario Hernández / Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / April 11, 2016. Mario Hernández interviewed Camille Chalmers, secretary of the Haitian Platform for the Defense of an Alternative Development (Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif, PAPDA) and member of the Jubilee South/Americas.
Mario Hernández: We are in communication with Montevideo, Uruguay, with Haitian human rights activist Camille Chalmers. I’d like you to tell us about the situation your country is in, and which are the main reasons why you’re in the capital of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.
Camille Chalmers: We’re going through a very serious situation in Haiti, which is the result of twelve years of occupation of the MINUSTAH forces, which are supposedly a peacekeeping mission but has in fact had a very negative result.
In this context, we are going through a profound electoral crisis that meant a global protest by popular movements in Haiti, against the attempts to manipulate the elections and blocking the expression of the popular vote.
In 2015 there were two elections, the last ones in October 9, where the majority of the democratic sector and the reports and evaluations carried out show that these were completely fraudulent elections with gross manipulations, which even went as far as attempting to organize a runoff election with only one candidate, because the rival candidate refused to participate in a second stage, confirming that the first one had been a farce.
So we reach a situation of institutional vacuum, which results of the political view of part of the oligarchy, that never accepted the democratic conquests of the people after Duvalier’s dictatorship.
Martelly’s government tried to reinstall the dictatorship, but it wasn’t successful, thanks to people’s resistance. For 5 years he didn’t call to elections, therefore, we reach a stage where there’s a vacuum and many difficulties to hold republican elections again.
The interesting thing is that the people learned a lot between 2010 and 2015, so they haven’t been able to do what they did in 2010, when they imposed Martelly as President even though the popular vote hadn’t elected him. In 2015 there was a great resistance from political and popular sectors and social organizations, that halted the electoral process of January 22, 2016.
H.: Could there be a new election in your country?
Ch.: The current crossroads is that imperialism wants to accelerate the process to hold elections and establish a new President before May 14. They want to carry out a runoff election, accepting the results of the first round. We, along with the other pro-democracy sectors in Haiti, say that this is unacceptable, because we will have electoral results that are going to be widely rejected and won’t support legitimate and respected decisions. It’s very important that we take advantage of this crisis to rethink the electoral system and establish one that is sovereign, controlled by social and political actors and that is in relation with the problems of the country. We currently have a completely colonial system, that is controlled by external forces, a very expensive system that isn’t coherent with democracy.
H.: What sort of work are you carrying out in Montevideo?
Ch: I’m promoting a campaign to get the MINUSTAH troops to leave the country. We are preparing a great day of continental-wide protests, which is going to be June 1, where we are going to demand that they leave, but it’s also going to be a day of protests against militarization, against US bases in the Caribbean and to say that they don’t just have to leave, but they must carry out a process of reparation, justice and compensation for everything that they have done in the last 12 years. The grimmest example was the introduction of cholera by infected troops of the United Nations. In June 2010, they brought with them this disease to Haiti, which didn’t exist in the country. To this date it has caused the death of 9,000 people and 170,000 have been infected.
H. Were you able to make any type of advance regarding the withdrawal of Uruguayan troops, given that this is one of the countries that contributes the most troops to the MINUSTAH?
In previous visits we had talks with the Presidency, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Parliament but this time we focused more on public opinion and social networks, because I think that today many people have a clear understanding of the fact that this mission has failed and that its effect has been completely negative, and far from the objectives set in 2004. They also understand the need to end with that experience and launch real processes of solidarity with the Haitian people, similar to those that we have, for example, with Cuba, where there are more than 800 Cuban doctors disseminated through the most remote rural communities, who are carrying out a wonderful work, completely integrated to the communities. It’s a solidarious cooperation that doesn’t generate debt and that is carried out with respect towards the Haitian culture and history.
H.: Is there anything else that you want to add?
Ch.: I believe it’s important to give out information that unveils the role of the MINUSTAH, which is not a humanitarian mission, but is inserted in the plan for the complete militarization of the Caribbean and is a force that is present in Haiti in the process of recolonization of the whole region.
The MINUSTAH directly participated in the repression of the people when they were demonstrating to claim for the raise in the minimum wage.
It was present in the process of privatization of public telephone services, when they illegally laid off 3,000 workers, and the MINUSTAH was there to make it possible.
There’s a clear alliance between the MINUSTAH and anti-democratic forces, which are conservative and retrograde in Haiti, and therefore we think it’s extremely urgent to acknowledge this failure and, at the same time, think about the best solidary actions that we can carry out directly, people to people.
When the Haitian nation was born, it was with an internationalist conviction, and it contributed to strengthen independentist struggles throughout the continent, so I believe it’s natural that now we resort to that internationalist network to resist against the newest onslaught of imperialism.