All Foreign Troops Out of Haiti
Haitians Still Suffering under UN/US/Canada/France Occupation
By Thomas Davies
On February 29th 2004 Haiti was invaded. Canadian, US and French military were the first to move in. They forced out the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and forced in an interim government under the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Unfortunately for Haitians, Haiti was not spared the brutality of the many other recent occupations such as Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia. Well-documented massacres and human rights abuses either organized or directly inflicted by UN forces have defined the mission, as well as a continuing lack of civil institutions and basic services. Today the MINUSTAH forces remain to control and abuse the Haitian population, and Haitians continue to demand their freedom.
No End In Sight
On October 15th the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend the Haitian mission through at least mid-October 2008. 7,060 troops and 2,091 will remain posted, while Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon admitted that "the potential for renewed armed violence within the country remains considerable." Of course the potential remains considerable, because the 9,000 primary perpetrators just had their mission extended.
A study published in the British medical journal, the Lancet, estimated that 8,000 Haitians had been killed and 35,000 sexually assaulted- in the greater capital of Port-au-Prince alone- during the first two years of UN occupation. 100,000 became internal refugees and 20,000 more went into exile.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Haitian National Police Forces, trained by Canada under the UN mission, "perpetrate abuses with almost total impunity," and "Human Rights Watch knows of no members of the HNP who have faced criminal prosecution for their abusive conduct."
Declassified documents from the US Embassy admit that in one single raid in the poorest area of Port-au-Prince on July 6th 2005, MINUSTAH fired up to 22,000 bullets. In the most densely populated area in all of Haiti, they claimed only 6 "bandits" were killed in the shootings.
Accounts of similar incidents flood reports by Haitian NGOS and international organizations, but one example comes another raid on December 22nd 2006 by Frantz Michel Guerrier, a young man who is the spokesman of the Committee of Notables for the Development of Cite Soleil. "We saw helicopters shoot at us, our houses broken by the tanks. We heard detonations of the heavy weapons. Many of the dead and wounded were found inside their houses. I must tell you that nobody had been saved, not even the babies. The Red Cross was not allowed to help people. The soldiers had refused to let the Red Cross in..."
Occupied Elections Produce Occupied Country
After being delayed 4 times, the UN imposed interim government of Gerard Latortue was replaced by Rene Preval after elections took place on February 7th 2006. But how can you elect another President in Haiti when Haiti already had an elected President? Jean-Bertrand Aristide won 91.81% of the votes in the November 26th 2000 Presidential Election, and had not completed his 5 year presidential term when he was kidnapped by occupation forces. Whatever anyone's opinion of Aristide is, he did have a legitimate mandate from the Haitian people. Preval's mandate was created under occupation, and this continues to dictate his policies.
Haiti is now on the brink of the privatizations so many Haitians have fought against for decades. In May, Preval announced that Haiti's public telephone company, Teleco, would be privatized. 2,800 employees have been terminated thus far. Preval's government also has plans for the state electric company (EDH), the customs service and the national airport.
In June, the organization of transportation workers went on a two-day strike protesting increased prices for gasoline. The government refused to regulate gas prices which had increased 20 percent in a two week period, in spite of oil contributed to Haiti by Venezuela at low cost. Fortune Patrice, the Communications Director of the Association of Owners and Drivers of Haiti union in Haiti explained, "The government of Rene Preval is aligning itself more and more with the interests of the foreign powers in Haiti, to the detriment of the Haitian people. Conditions of life for ordinary people are deteriorating all around us and we cannot sit back and let this happen."
The Occupation Continues
Preval used his speaking opportunity at United Nations on September 26th of this year to call for a continuation of the occupation, and while praising the calm brought by MINUSTAH forces.
Voices on the ground say different things. According to Brian Concannon, the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and former UN human rights worker in Haiti, under MINUSTAH and Preval's rule Haiti, "is like Guantanamo Bay" in its absense of rights, "Everyone looks like a criminal and MINUSTAH has heavy weapons."
There is also the 2007 report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), "a Federal Advisory Committee with a U.S. Government Charter to promote security cooperation between American business and private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State." They say: "There is widespread discontent with continued insecurity in Port-au-Prince, and the second half of 2006 saw a resurfacing of the nationalist and anti-globalization sentiment always present in Haitian politics. As Preval's term progresses, those impatient with the government are showing more willingness to air their grievances in the street. Student groups, religious organizations and civil society frequently organize sit-ins and demonstrations that follow several commons themes. They often demand the departure of Haiti's UN force (MINUSTAH), which protesters claim does nothing to fight insecurity in the country."
The Occupation Must End
60% of Haitians are unemployed, and the average person now makes less than they did 30 years ago. There is $24 per person allocated for healthcare each year. The foreign occupiers, who have all said they have Haiti's best interests at heart, will suck $56Million of "debt repayments" out of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere this year. They will also continue to work with the Preval to sell off anything left in Haiti after over 3 years of occupation.
Is it any wonder that protests continue and grow in occupied Haiti? Is it any wonder that on a recent Canadian speaking tour, Secretary General of the Confederation of Haitian Workers, Loulou Chery emphasized, "The governments in Canada and the US say they are helping Haiti, but they are not. Haiti needs friends, not hypocrites…"
The occupation has proved itself unable of meeting even the most basic needs of the people, and worse, goes beyond this to brutalize, humiliate, and murder them. The people of Haiti have a proud history of fighting against foreign domination. They formed the first independent black republic from a successful slave rebellion on January 1st 1804. Two hundred years later, and their struggle will continue until they are able to determine their own lives free from all foreign conquest. We must continue to demand: Canada Out of Haiti! All Foreign Troops Out of Haiti Now!
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