Haiti: past, present and future of America’s oldest struggle against imperialism

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By: Camille Chalmers / The Dawn News / December 22, 2017

Photo credit: Alamy

This article was adapted from a talk Camille gave in Buenos Aires during the Anti-WTO People’s Forum in December 2017.

In America, most of the slaves who worked in the Caribbean region, in the United States and in Brazil, secretly carried with them an image of [Haitian revolutionary] Jean-Jacques Dessalines—and they risked being punished for this, even incarcerated for supporting Dessalines.

During the 19th century, there were many revolts throughout America that followed in some way the path opened by the Haitian Revolution. The first leaders of the Haitian Revolution had a clear vision: that the success of their revolution relied on the possibility of making it international. If it remained local, it would be crushed. And they invested a lot of effort in generating processes of liberation of slaves throughout the whole continent.

So the Haitian revolution is a transcendental event, that brought new elements. For example the universalization of human rights, which is a very important element because in the French declaration of 1789 they talked of human rights only for one part of humanity. They introduce a new dynamic, the revolution is really anti-colonial, abolitionist, anti-racist and against the concentration of land ownership. The response by the imperialists was terrible.

The first response was total isolation, “nothing happened there, this revolution doesn’t exist” Even French encyclopedias, when talking about the abolition of slavery, refer only to 1848, they talk about abolition in England but they do not talk about Haiti in 1793. Haiti has been erased from history in order to avoid the spreading of its rebellious spirit. The vocabulary used against Haiti is also very interesting; it identifies Haiti as a danger, a threat for the elites of the world. In Brazil, the elites feared a wave of “haitianism”, and they persecuted and imprisoned those who might attempt to replicate the revolution.

Likewise, Haiti is treated as a threat in the Resolution 1542 of the United Nations when they create the MINUSTAH in June 2004, considering that Haiti is a threat for the hemispheric stability. I don’t know who can explain to me how a country so small with 10 million inhabitants could possibly be a threat to the hemispheric stability? There is a continuity, a connection, between the fact that the world order can not accept that a country with a revolutionary proposal exists, and its this same continuity in the new modalities of occupation that are manifested for example with the MINUSTAH.

A second element is that it is necessary to look at the historical context in the moment of the rise of the MINUSTAH in June 2004. When the MINUSTAH is installed, an office in Washington specialized in “failed states,” is created using the concept of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and it puts this concept to the service of imperialist operations, imperialist invasions like those that have been done in the Middle East where the failed states should be fixed by external military intervention. With this a proposal of re-engineering the whole society, a complete domination and putting this society to the service of transnational companies and of the interests of the powerful. And From 2004 to 2017, around $8 billion was spent to maintain the troops and military camps in Haiti and the proclaimed objectives of this resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations of course failed completely.

I will cite rapidly, the first objective: to re-establish a climate of security for the citizens of Haiti. Not only did was it not re-established but there are new waves of insecurity that did not exist before the arrival of the troops in Haiti like for example the famous kidnapping industry that did not even exist before. And we know that all of this is related to the traffic of drugs, to the crime industry, the subterranean economy and from 2004-2017 the transit of drugs through Haitian territory increased instead of decreased, so even the source of insecurity increased.

The second objective is to create rule of law with two elements: reinforce the judicial system and hold democratic elections. The Haitian judicial system is now in a situation of total discredibility which is the response of the people in response to impunity and the forces of the same United Nations were left completely in impunity in all of the crimes that they committed, including those documented such as the mass rapes against women and children. And the democratic elections, if we look at the electoral cycle of 1990 when Jean-Bertrand Aristide is elected, massively supported by the people and the last elections that were held. In the last elections, we had a participation of 20% of the electorate which is a complete loss of legitimacy in this political electoral game because the people know that this is controlled from outside, controlled by the MINUSTAH and they don’t have confidence in the proclaimed results and there is documentation that shows how the United States since 1915 impose the presidents, they select the presidents of Haiti. The only exception was Jean-Bertrand Aristide that was elected in December of 1990 and seven months later, there was a coup d’etat. All of the other presidents were selected by the empire to fulfill their imperialist program and agenda, we can see this clearly with the case of Honduras today. So there has been no constructive step taken in institutional terms about the electoral question.

The defense and promotion of human rights was another proclaimed objective. The forces of the MINUSTAH were actively involved in human rights violations. For example the forces of the MINUSTAH occupied university campuses, expelling students. The Brasilians for example occupied a university campus for six years and thousands of students had to leave their studies, every day the Dominican army expels migrant workers from the Dominican Republic in violation of the bilateral agreements and in violation of the conventions on migrant workers, and the MINUSTAH says nothing.

The most grave example perhaps (although one must not try and put tragedies in a hierarchy), but in the neighborhood in the southern area of Port-au-Prince, are the thousands of documented cases of systematic rape of young women and children by 103 soldiers from Sri Lanka. It was so evident that they had to take them out of the country, repatriate them, and the Minister of the Rights of Women in France asked to be present when they would put them on trial, yet up until today there is no legal process so there is total impunity for these 103 soldiers from Sri Lanka and on the other hand complete destruction of thousands of lives and families.

The introduction of cholera in October 2010 is another example. There was an epidemic of cholera in Nepal and there were troops from Nepal that were part of the United Nations forces and they arrive to the country, of course the direction of the MINUSTAH knew that there was a Cholera epidemic, they did not perform one medical exam and this started the infection in Haiti that had not existed before. It was done by the contamination of the main river in Haiti, another violation of the rules of the United Nations because they were dumping fecal content into the principal river of the country. It is very important to follow the process of infection by the river and of course the catastrophe from a humanitarian standpoint because the people did not know what this disease was. The people were dying and they did not know how to explain. There are places where you have to walk eight hours to arrive to a health center and you die if you have cholera and you walk eight hours, you die before you arrive.

According to the official figures accepted by the United Nations, they talk about some 9,800 dead but even the Secretary General in their report accepted that this number cannot correspond to the truth because many people died before arriving to a health center, so they were not registered. Additionally cholera is an embarrassing disease, people do not want to accept that they have cholera because their neighbors will be alarmed when they find out that someone has cholera, so we calculate at least double, 20,000 dead, and 800,000 infected, so its an enormous catastrophe with terrible economic impacts.

For example with all of the agricultural production, the Dominican Republic did not want to buy the agricultural products saying that it was infected with cholera. The peasants that grow rice, stopped because they did not want to go put their feet in the water because they said that the water was infected. So from the economic standpoint there were very severe impacts on the Haitian economy.

During the six years the United nations tried to hide their responsibility, they even organized a pseudo scientific mission, that was debunked by many university centers in the world, that tried to show that cholera existed in the environment. But all of the biologists say that cholera is transmitted between people, and what exists in the environment cannot infect people. So they tried to hide their responsibility including with scientific manipulation, and finally in December 2016 Ban Ki Moon made a speech to recognize their guilt and responsibility and asks for forgiveness from Haiti and says that the UN will create a fund to eradicate cholera. From December 2016 to December 2017, 3% has been collected for this fund, which is to say that MINUSTAH is leaving in October 2017, without even compensating the families of the victims to give reparation for economic damages suffered by the country, nor investing in access to potable water like we demand them to, which is the best formula to eradicate cholera.

So it’s really a scandalous situation which even puts into question the good faith of the United Nations when they proclaim the value of human rights. We should analyze the entire history of these “peacekeeping” forces, beginning with the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, and so on. But we must also highlight that now the US National Security Doctrine has changed: mountains are no longer identified as the locus of conflict like in the times of the guerrillas—now the main enemy are urban citizens. A leader of the Brazilian army said that when Brazilian soldiers go to Haiti they are trained and when they come back to Brazil they are used for repression in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. So it’s very important to analyze what the MINUSTAH has done for 13 years. The main target of repression were poor neighborhoods. There was even a massacre in December 2006, when at 3 am 580 militaries showed up in 35 war tanks in a poor neighborhood, and they began to shoot, and many children died in their beds.

They are experimenting with methods to repress poor neighborhoods and with methods of social control, for example through Brazilian NGOs, like Viva Río, which accompanies these military forces, so I believe it’s very important to study this in order to debunk the whole rhetoric of humanitarian aid and show that this is not truthful. The truth is that the MINUSTAH is a force that’s aligned with the imperialist agenda, and is a direct threat to all the peoples of the region.

Fundamentally, we’re undergoing a process of crisis and militarization of the Caribbean, where crises are met with military responses. As capitalism always does, war is just a way of destroying capital in order to rebuild itself.

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