U.N. denies its troops brought cholera to Haiti

The United Nations took 15 months to contemplate a claim that a cholera epidemic, which killed more than 8,600 Haitians and sickened over 680,000, was caused by the U.N.’s “peacekeeping” force, Minustah, dumping excrement into the Meye River. The pollution eventually worked its way into the water supplies that millions of Haitians use for drinking, washing, agriculture and bathing.

Haiti had no recorded cases of cholera for two centuries before the outbreak, which began in 2010. This was shortly after U.N. troops, some of whom came from other countries where cholera is widespread, were stationed there.

On Feb. 21, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Haitian President Michael Martelly to tell him that the U.N. was not going to “receive” the complaint — it was going to use its “sovereign immunity” to reject it. The choice of words was ironic. Haitians lack immunity to the disease precisely because their country had been cholera-free.

Martelly, who has had Washington’s support since he went along with the U.S. ousting of the popular president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004, did not file the claim and in fact opposed it. It was the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, together with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, that filed this claim with an internal U.N. office.

The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and YouTube postings from Haiti have amply documented the dumping. A DNA analysis made by a U.S. doctor specializing in cholera, Daniele Lantagne, showed that the strain in Haiti is genetically nearly identical to cholera in a South Asian country where the U.N. soldiers had lived. (BBC, Oct. 22, 2012)

The U.N.’s insistence that its fault wasn’t clearly established was the diplomatic equivalent of saying its excrement smells like roses.

The Haitian people and their leaders two centuries ago shocked the racist world surrounding them by defeating the mighty French army and driving their French slave masters out. They then built a nation using their own language of Creole, along with a literature, economy and culture that suited their history and needs. Ever since, imperialists of all stripes have maligned, misrepresented and distorted what happens in Haiti, along with mounting direct economic, political, diplomatic and military assaults.

The U.N. is obviously hoping that Haiti’s undeserved reputation as a “poor, failed, dilapidated state” will mitigate the anger created by its refusal to compensate the victims of its carelessness.

The Minustah troops gave an international cover to imperialist occupation, replacing U.S., Canadian and French soldiers there. If the veil provided by the U.N. were lifted, it would reveal the real interests these imperialist powers have in Haiti, its strategic position and economic resources.

The imperialists have used Haitian counterrevolutionaries, from the coup plotters against the independence hero, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to the more modern Duvaliers, father and son, to try to re-establish their domination.

It is easy to see how the U.S. regards the Duvaliers as compared to Aristide, the progressive former president of Haiti. In 1986, while the Haitian people were rebelling against the Duvalier tyranny, the U.S. Air Force allowed Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to drive his BMW onto a cargo plane, which delivered it and him to the French Riviera.

In 2004, President Aristide and his spouse were kidnapped by U.S. Special Forces, who forced them onto a U.S. plane and deposited them in the Central African Republic.

It took seven years of mass protests before Aristide was allowed back.

When Duvalier Jr. returned to Haiti in 2011, he used travel documents issued by the Haitian Consulate in Paris and wound up being charged on human rights violations committed during his rule from 1971 to 1986.

But after Martelly, a longtime Duvalier supporter, was inaugurated in August of 2011, all the serious charges against Duvalier were dropped on a variety of pretexts.

Martelly even granted Duvalier a diplomatic passport as a former president, and then tried to indict Aristide this January on charges widely considered bogus. (Haïti-Liberté. Jan. 11)

Mass pressure forced Martelly’s government to drop the charges against Aristide. Popular anger against impunity for Duvalier Jr. finally grew so strong that a tumultuous, angry hearing on charges against him was held on Feb. 28.

Even under foreign occupation and a reactionary president, the Haitian people are still demanding justice.

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