Thousands of angry Haitians gathered in front of the Hotel le Plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince on June 1 to demand that United Nations troops leave Haiti. They carried signs reading “Aba okipasyon” (“Down with the occupation”).
They came out to support and testify at an international conference held in the hotel, which was called to demand the end of the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti, known as Minustah.
The cause of their anger is a nine-year-long story.
On Feb. 29, 2004, after the coup-kidnapping of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by U.S. forces, troops from the U.S., France and Canada occupied Haiti in order to control it. After they were on the ground, the U.N. Security Council authorized their presence through Resolution 1529. On June 1, 2004, Minustah was set up with the firm support of the imperialist governments of the U.S. and France.
However, it became more convenient and less embarrassing for the U.S. to have troops from Brazil, Argentina and other countries from the global South maintain the occupation of Haiti on behalf of the Security Council. Currently, Brazil supplies 2,200 troops to Minustah and a Brazilian general commands it. Its budget is around $850 million.
Numerous demonstrations have erupted in Haiti against Minustah, alleging crimes such as thievery, rape, murder and massacres. Most have taken place in the poorer areas of Port-au-Prince, like Cité Soleil, Belair and Fort National, where there has been strong resistance to Minustah’s occupation.
What has completely turned the Haitian people against Minustah’s occupation is the overwhelming forensic and scientific evidence proving that U.N. forces brought cholera to Haiti, leading to an unprecedented epidemic that started in October 2010. According to the latest figures from Haitian public health officials, 676,519 people have since taken ill and 8,358 have died. The U.N. has refused to even apologize.
Resistance to the occupation has also grown in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, countries that have committed significant forces to Minustah. An international conference in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2011 led to the formation of “To Defend Haiti Is to Defend Ourselves.” Members of the national legislature from the governing Brazilian Workers Party, politicians and trade unionists from all over Latin America, and hundreds of unionists, students, activists and politicians from around Brazil all attended. There were also delegations from progressive groups in Haiti, the U.S. and France.
This year, “To Defend Haiti Is to Defend Ourselves” invited Haitian Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles to visit Brazil and Argentina to build support for the May 30-June 1 international conference in Port-au-Prince.
Jean-Charles is well-known in Haiti for defending the vast majority of Haitian people, the poor who live on less than $2 a day, and opposing the U.S.-imposed government of Michael “Sweet Mickey” Martelly.
In Brazil and Argentina, Jean-Charles spoke to large meetings at universities and other public places. At a large public meeting held at the Legislative Assembly in São Paolo on April 18, Jean-Charles said: “Brazilian and Argentinian troops are not helping Haiti. They are merely defending U.S. imperial interests.” (Haïti-Liberté, May 22)
Fignolé Saint-Cyr, head of the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers (CATH), accompanied Jean-Charles and spoke to large gatherings of Brazilian and Argentinian labor unionists.
Back in Haiti for the international conference, Jean-Charles spoke at the foot of a statue of revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines on the Champ de Mars. He reiterated his stand against foreign troops occupying his homeland and said that a Senate resolution he sponsored, which was passed, says that Minustah will have to leave before June 1, 2014.
Fignolé Saint-Cyr, speaking from the same spot, said: “This colonialist and imperialist force for the past nine years has not stopped violating the Haitian people’s right to self-determination. We must unite to create a political space, both national and international, for a combat that will lead to the immediate retreat of this foreign force and to regaining our sovereignty.”
Julio Turra, a member of Brazil’s Unified Workers Central (CUT), expressed his union’s solidarity in Creole, which got a big response. (Le Nouvelliste, June 1)