Haitians and Brazilians protest UN occupation

On July 28 Haitians protested in Port-au-Prince, Hinche, St-Marc and other cities to mark the 95th anniversary of the start of the 1915-1934 US military occupation of their country. Dozens of supporters of the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004) held a sit-in in front of the US embassy in the northeastern Port-au-Prince suburb of Tabarre to demand Aristide’s return from South Africa, the firing of election officials and the withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member military and police occupation force. Embassy officials met with a delegation of FL leaders, including Maryse Narcisse, who demanded that the US not finance the scheduled Nov. 28 general elections as long as the FL continued to be excluded from the ballot.

Hundreds of supporters of other opposition parties marched in the center of the capital to demand the resignation of President René Préval as well as the removal of election officials and of MINUSTAH troops. Some protesters set up barricades of flaming tires and threw rocks at government vehicles. An unknown person on one of these vehicles fired a gun, wounding one protester, Jean-Claude Dorélus, and then escaped. Eventually the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters at Lamartinière Ave in the Bois Verna neighborhood.

Also in Bois Verna, a number of organizations held a sit-in outside the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s new location to demand the removal of MINUSTAH forces. Yanick Etienne, from the labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), noted that despite its name, MINUSTAH had done nothing to bring stability to Haiti since the soldiers arrived in 2004. Other groups at the protest included the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA) and organizations representing the Duvivier neighborhood and laid-off public employees. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, July 28; Agence Haïtienne de Presse, July 28; Maximini.fr, July 28)

The sit-in at the foreign ministry was coordinated with a number of protests in Brazil, the country that heads up the MINUSTAH forces. In São Paulo activists protested in front of the Haitian consulate, whose officials agreed to meet with representatives on July 30. In Belo Horizonte, the protest was headed by the women’s movement and grassroots and student groups; participants denounced violence against women in Brazil as well as in Haiti. In Río de Janeiro, protesters passed out an open letter at the United Nations Information Center calling for an end to the MINUSTAH and charging that other countries had abandoned Haiti, which was devastated by a major earthquake.

The Brazilian protests were sponsored by the National Coordinating Committee of Stuggles (Conlutas), Jubilee South and the Landless Workers Movement (MST). Jubilee South’s Sandra Quintela said that Haiti’s need for international aid was no reason for foreign interference in the country. “It’s not the artists or the politicians going to Haiti to promote themselves that are going to be the protagonists at this time,” she said. “The protagonists required by the country’s reconstruction are Haitian men and women, and organizations from the country.” (Adital, Brazil, July 29)

There was also a protest in New York City, where dozens of activists rallied outside the United Nations headquarters to oppose the MINUSTAH occupation. (Eyewitness report, July 28)

According to the non-governmental Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), only Brazil, Estonia and Norway have sent any of the reconstruction aid promised at a UN meeting in New York on March 31—just 1.5% of the total international commitment. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (ICRH, or CIRH in French and Spanish), set up four months ago to administer international aid, still doesn’t have an executive director, PAPDA wrote on July 22, and the main concern of the donor nations seems to be making sure their own companies get a share of the reconstruction money. (Adital, July 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 1.

See our last posts on Haiti and Brazil.