Camille Chalmers: The Neo-colonial Haitian State

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By The Dawn News / December 2017

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


International Solidarity

It is important to underline that in the face of all the hardship, the Haitian people have benefitted from admirable processes of solidarity. For example, Cuba maintains a brigade of 800 doctors. After the earthquake and the cholera epidemic, the Henry Reeve bridge was launched, which really limited the impact of cholera. The death rate would have been much higher without the fraternal presence and solidarity of the Cuban brigade, a brigade which is completely integrated in the rural communities of Haiti.


To give an example, when the second coup d’etat happened against Aristide in 2004, the government cut the subsidies that allowed the Cuban doctors to eat in the communities, but the rural Haitian communities decided to maintain the doctors themselves for more than a year and a half with food and everything else they needed. From 1998 to 2017 there was not one incident of insecurity for any Cuban doctor there. The official propaganda about Haiti always presents it as a very dangerous country, but these Cuban doctors are spread across the whole country without any police or military presence and they are completely integrated in the communities.


It is also important to highlight the presence of the Landless Workers Movement. The Brazilian militants said that it is not possible that the only presence of Brazilians in Haiti would be the blue helmets, and they created a solidarity brigade called the Dessalines Brigade that works with the peasants of Haiti. In the Dessalines Brigade there are peasants from the Landless Workers Movement, the Movement of Small Peasants, the Vía Campesina, educators from the Martin Luther King Center in Cuba and also from the Argentine social movement Patria Grande. So there is an important process of solidarity being created, building off of the important work of the Latin American committees of mobilization for the withdrawal of the troops which was an extraordinary job of training, educating and sensibilizing to denounce the presence of the troops.


In October of 2017, the end of the MINUSTAH was announced and the same day a new mission called MINUJUSTH is created, and it is an important change but not of its nature, it is the same occupation that continues, it has problems with its budget with financing the peace-keeping troops and they tried to create a new mission due to the disgrace of the MINUSTAH. The MINUSTAH was denounced by the social organizations in Latin America and the world, so they create a new formula, but if you look at the objectives of the mission they are the same as those from the missions that have existed since 1992 because the MINUSTAH was the first military mission but since 1992 there have been missions of the United Nations that have always failed.


It is also necessary to look at over the course of these thirteen years what they have done is within the police force train military units, so in the police there are units that have a military training, that have military equipment and in these interventions they intervene as soldiers.


We have an example in Haiti from a couple of weeks ago, there is a specialized unit of the police that intervened in a poor neighborhood and killed 15 people. A military intervention where the poor neighborhood was the enemy. There is also an element of privatization because in Haiti there are a lot of private security agents, armed and there is no real control over this. About 10 years ago there was a survey of the United Nations that talked about the presence of 200,000 illegal arms and there has never been a real process of disarmament. The only disarmament process that happened in Haiti was the disarmament of the peasants fighting against the North American occupation.


The new government talks about the remobilization of the Armed Forces in the Duvalier style, taking up the spirit of creation of a repressive military force that does not have anything to do with the Nation, because the armed forces that we had until their demobilization by Aristide were armed forces created by the United States and directed by the United States. In the first 20 years of the armed forces, all of the officials were American and this armed force was a section of the US Army.

Economic Impacts

There is an important element also, the fact that the presence of the MINUSTAH has favored some important economic changes in the country. One of the things that is in play now in Haiti that is very important is a new offensive of nine transnational mining companies now in Haiti that want to do open-pit gold mining projects. According to the latest investigations they have discovered that in the whole island not only in Haiti but in the Dominican Republic as well, there are important deposits of gold, silver, copper, calcium, bauxite etc.


We have also gotten to know processes of copper and bauxite mining but now they want to use the worst technology that exists to introduce these projects in Haiti and we all know the impacts of this type of technology. These impacts will be further exacerbated in a country like Haiti which is a small territory, over-populated, with a serious ecological crisis, it is difficult to imagine how damaging the impact will be.


There is a whole economic project also of penetration of capital and transnational companies through free trade zones with an over-exploitation of the workforce, with mining industries and nine big companies, including the most powerful in the world like Newmont Mining Corporation of the United States and also luxury tourism.


There is an interesting experience of struggle against the installation of a resort in an island that is called Île-à-Vache which is an island with 18,000 inhabitants and 17 kilometers long. In this island they tried to build three golf courses, an international airport and 3,000 luxury rooms, but without telling the 18,000 inhabitants. And what will they do with these 18,000 inhabitants? There was a very interesting process of mobilization that was accompanied by sectors of the society that allowed to partially block this project.


The free trade zone is designed for privileged exportation to the United States, mining industry above all gold, copper, bauxite, luxury tourism and exportation of agriculture mostly towards Europe of organic bananas. The current president is the owner of a company that exports organic bananas. There are important new investments for the exportation of organic bananas, of course taking land and taking land away from feeding the population, and this in the context of a food crisis in Haiti.


Health and Education

Haiti is following the orders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which is reduce the public costs in health and education. Haiti is one of the countries that invests the least amount in the region in the area of education and public health. There is a very active process of privatization in the public health sector. They have also adopted the concept of the World Bank in education which changes “education for all” to “learning for all”, so there is a direct connection between education and the necessities of the market.


There is still a sizeable deficit in terms of access to education, there are still many kids who are not able to go to school. There are 38 communal sections (smallest administrative division in Haiti) without schools, where the kids have to walk 10 km to get to school.


Revolutionary Culture

When the counter-revolution happened, driven by the dominant elites and external capital, the neo-colonial state was built, but the neo-colonial state is completely separated from the nation because the nation in Haiti has three base elements.


During the period of slavery, the French plantation owners would make sure that the enslaved people on their plantations came from distinct African origins so that they would not communicate. The Haitian people in their struggle for liberation invented a language, creole. They also invented a new type of spirituality, voodoo which is a very interesting cosmology. They also invented community land spaces that cannot be sold and that are dedicated to producing food for the population which is a sharp contrast of course from the plantations which produce for exportation with exploitation.


The neo-colonial state declared war on these three elements. For example when I was a kid, it was prohibited to speak creole in school, if you spoke creole in school they would punish you. Voodoo also suffered multiple processes of repression, incarceration, destruction of temples. There was an interesting act of resistance there, in Voodoo people create many things: sculptures, paintings, altars, veve etc. and during a big campaign directed by the Catholic Church and the Haitian state, they burned many temples, so all these works which were cultural heritage disappeared. At that time they made most of their works from wood, and after this big campaign against the Voodoo the people started to make things in concrete so that they would not burn.


There is a permanent resistance and a permanent affirmation to the state, and this has its roots not only in 1804 but also in the maroon communities. The maroons, enslaved people that escaped from the plantations to form autonomous communities in the mountains, invented a way of living and they played a very important role because they attacked the plantations and they represented the rear-guard, spaces of reproduction and of struggle.

The constructed state, is a state that opposes the nation and declares a permanent war as of 1826 when a decree is issued that says that food should not be produced in the fertile plain lands, because these good lands should be dedicated to production for exportation to the world markets. It is a state of exclusion for the majority of the people.


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