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Why U.N./U.S. occupation of Haiti must end

Published Sep 17, 2011 8:31 AM

On Sept. 5, hundreds of militant protesters — facing off police and tear gas in Port-Salut, Haiti — called for justice and reparations for a Haitian youth who has charged Minustah marines with gang rape. They also called for the U.N. occupation forces to leave their country.

Outrage has been sparked throughout Haiti as a video — which was shot from a cell phone camera — has circulated which shows four Uruguayan U.N. sailors laughing as they assaulted 18-year-old Johnny Jean in Port-Salut.

Ansel Herz, an independent reporter who works with Haïti Liberté, broke the story in the international press. He says that the video of the assault was uncovered when one of Jean’s cousins saw it on a cell phone belonging to one of the accused U.N. sailors. The video was transferred to another phone and spread further.

The Committee for Research in the Development and Organization of Port-Salut calls the sexual assault on July 28, which occurred on the Minustah naval base, “immoral, inhuman, sadistic, dishonest and criminal.”

Jean says that the soldiers tried to talk his mother, Rose Marie Jean, out of reporting their crimes, but she insisted. She said: “My son has been raped. It is a crime that should be punished. So we are demanding justice and reparation.” (Reuters, Sept. 5)

Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, has apologized for the assault. The accused marines were detained and sent home. The Uruguayan Navy fired its naval commander in Haiti, yet the Uruguayan military is questioning if a rape really took place. The U.N. also questions whether a rape took place. Minustah spokesperson Eliane Nabaa apologized and said that they are carrying out an investigation.

Increasingly, Haitians are calling for the removal of Minustah’s forces. There is a history of sexual abuse by these so-called “peacekeepers.” There is outrage that these soldiers brought the deadly cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 6,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands. They also condemn Minustah’s massacres of poor people in Cite Soleil in 2005 and elsewhere.

The CREDOP says that the U.N. troops are still discharging their wastewater onto the beaches that make Port-Salut a tourist destination. The same practice by Minustah introduced cholera last year.

Minustah is a “stabilization” force in name only. Its real purpose is to maintain domination of Haiti so that U.S. geostrategic and economic interests are maintained.

U.N. troops have occupied Haiti for seven years, taking over from the U.S. forces that kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. When the U.N.’s command structure in Haiti and many of its facilities were destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake, the U.S. rushed more than 20,000 troops to the country to keep a tight lid on popular protests.

Radio Vizyon Plus FM’s website says: “Minustah, which has 13,331 soldiers, has occupied Haiti since the first of June 2004, following a criminal coup d’état against a democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide. Since then billions of dollars have been wasted in the name of stability, but the country has been constantly plunged into chronic instability by cholera, misery, unemployment and the violation of human rights. The July 2010-June 2011 budget for Minustah is $854 million.”

Bill Clinton’s chief of staff proposed for prime minister

The U.S. doesn’t just rely on Minustah to protect its interests. Michel Martelly would have never become Haiti’s president if the U.S. hadn’t stepped into the counting of the first round of ballots in the November elections.

On Jan. 30, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti to get the vote count accepted which put Martelly into the election’s second round to be held in March.

Since he was inaugurated on May 14, Martelly has proposed two far-rightist politicians as candidates for prime minister, but the majority in Haiti’s parliament rejected them.

In Haiti’s political system, the prime minister is the government’s main executive officer, so the absence of one for 100 days meant that a lot of policies and decisions weren’t being made, as crises are growing.

Hundreds of thousands of families have been living in tents and shacks since the earthquake. Vast numbers have cholera. Unemployment is too high to measure. Tens of thousands of families can’t afford tuition fees to educate their children.

Because of this, having a government that was avoiding decision making was dangerous to the Haitian ruling class and the U.S. They know that public indignation and anger could quickly move to mass protest, especially since opposition to Minustah’s occupation is deepening.

In late August, six Haitian senators in the opposition were called to a meeting with U.S. diplomats in which Garry Conille was proposed for the prime minister post. He is the son of Serge Conille, a former minister under Duvalier, and a close associate of Roger LaFontant, the chief of the Tonton Macoute, Duvalier’s hated henchmen.

Reportedly, he was a Duvalier spy in the 1960s student movement before he got his medical degree in Haiti. (Haïti-Progres, Sept. 7-13). After he got a public health policy degree in the U.S., he worked for the U.N. in Africa. He is now the chief of staff to Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti.

All of this exposes U.S. and other imperialist intervention in Haiti. The people’s struggle for sovereignty and for an end to occupation must be supported by progressives worldwide.