Thursday, September 27, 2012
Earlier this month, the government of St. Lucia announced that it will be maintaining ties with Taiwan. This came as a surprise to many, as it was Dr. Kenny Anthony’s Labour Party (SLP) administration that broke off relations with Taiwan in 1997, shifting diplomatic relations to the People’s Republic of China. While in opposition, Anthony promised that he would review the island’s foreign relations policy, and it was widely assumed that the election of Anthony in December 2011 would result in the SLP favoring ties with China once again.
The many well publicized incidents of corruption and political meddling associated with the relationship between former Taiwanese ambassador Tom Chou and the former United Workers Party (UWP) government widely fueled the assumption that these ties would be broken. Yet this was not the case, and instead Anthony argued that it was best for St. Lucia to stay the course with Taiwan and not behave “like a Jack-in-the-Box, jumping from one country to another every few years.”
In his address to the nation explaining the decision, Anthony clarified, stating that “I repeatedly emphasized that we would not vulgarize our handling of diplomatic issues with Taiwan and would approach the issue of our future relations in a civilized way. Saint Lucia cannot look as if it is just prepared to jump from one side to another, after every general election, just for more largesse. We cannot behave as if our sovereignty is for sale to the highest bidder.”
This was an apparent shot at the former UWP government, which abruptly broke off ties with China with their election victory in 2007. This reversal deeply angered China, regarding the move as Taiwan conducting “brutal interference in China's internal affairs.” Former UWP Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet justified the decision, candidly stating that the best policy was to “Support those who give you the most.” This was widely considered to be a statement of personal benefit, as even WikiLeaks noted the corruption of Bousquet.
The diplomatic break was widely considered a slap in the face to the Chinese, who had donated many significant infrastructure projects to the island, including newly built schools, stadiums, tunnels, roads in addition to an export processing zone in the southern town of Vieux Fort. This political about face resulted in the Chinese abandoning their almost completed psychiatric hospital just south of the national capital of Castries. (The hospital was completed with Taiwanese assistance in 2009).
In order to maintain public support, like the Chinese—the Taiwanese also began investing in projects, mostly related to agriculture, tourism, and recreational facilities. To date, the Taiwanese have funded the construction of a National Tennis Center, a meat processing plan, aqua culture facilities, the development of orchid farms, and the refurbishment of the badly damaged St. Jude hospital. At the moment, over 50 St. Lucian students are studying in Taiwan.
Perhaps one of the key statements of Anthony’s address was that “I have often said in opposition and repeated since my party returned to office, that this is a new era when we have to summon our courage and our common will to think and act differently. This view must also apply in the sphere of external relations. Our foreign policy has to be conducted in accordance with our growing needs in a quickly changing world. This is as much so for us, as it is for Taiwan.”
Anthony went on to remark that “Any decision to maintain recognition of Taiwan will be perceived in the arenas of international diplomacy, and pre-eminently at the United Nations, as inevitably temporary, the result of specific contingent circumstances and objectives of the Saint Lucian state, and therefore subject to change and lacking final certainty.”
In regards to thinking and acting differently, St. Lucia seems like it is embarking on a risky strategy that few others have undertaken. At the same time Prime Minister Anthony publicized the island’s ties with Taiwan—St. Lucian Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste was visiting China at the request of the Communist Party, with a delegation of SLP officials to China to “discuss issues of mutual interest to both parties.” It remains to be seen how the mixed signals will be viewed in Taipei, considering that the relationship between Taiwan and St. Lucia at the moment is largely one directional—and such unconventional protocol could be taken as an insult. Both China and Taiwan have historically avoided matters of shared diplomatic recognition, and if successful, this would be a first.
Despite the potential repercussions, Anthony remained hopefully, stating that “It would be both historic and helpful—indeed it would be perfect—if Saint Lucia could find a way to benefit from ties with both China and Taiwan, however defined. This is a dream many countries share and there has been no better time than now to engage China and Taiwan on this issue, as it relates to Saint Lucia, in the context of their increasing 'cross straits' mutual cooperation and understanding.”
However, with the growing economic and political influence of China in CARICOM countries, it begs to be asked what leverage does St. Lucia really have? Given the current economic climate facing small Caribbean countries such as St. Lucia and China’s aggressive financial plans for the region (China announced it will offer up to US$1 billion in preferential loans to Caribbean nations to support local and economic development), it appears that China is shifting from a policy of handing out gifts to a more strategic one of handing out loans. In such a scenario, who is really benefitting?
As pointed out by Stan Bishop in the St. Lucia Voice, “If both China and Taiwan see no problem with the current posture being taken by Saint Lucia as regards our foreign policy with the two nations, so be it. But if they do, who’s to say that either will not use us as a pawn for their own purposes? Only time will tell.”
Saturday, September 22, 2012
On September 21, Belize won a 60-day reprieve after a partial debt payment of $11.7 million, which avoided their descent into a full blown default. With a population of 330,000 people, the Central American nation known for its ecotourism has a government debt of $1.1 billion. Prime Minister Dean Barrow has laid out three proposals for rescheduling its bond payments, resulting in creditors being asked to write off 45 percent of their investment, or spread payments out over 50 years, with a 15-year grace period and interest of two percent, down from the current 8.5 percent. While this would hardly shake global financial markets, such a move would be unlikely for Belize, which has been hit hard by increasing poverty due to sluggish economic growth.
Ecotourism has come to dominate the majority of Belize's economy, providing the bulk of the country’s revenue. Despite tourism arrivals being at their highest ever levels, the tourism consultants (aka developers) are encouraging the government of Belize to lower their taxes to increase competitiveness. With Belize permitting 100 percent foreign ownership of properties and enterprises, 90 percent of the most desirable coastal properties are now foreign owned. Furthermore, 65 percent of the Belize Tourism Industry Association are not locals but rather expatriates from the United States. As a result, a great deal of the profits are funneled out of Belize, reducing the economic impact of the tourism industry locally, in addition to reducing the government’s ability to access sources of taxation.
In addition to the foreign ownership of the tourism industry, the descent of Belize’s economy is also in part due to the reaction of the international finance community to the recent nationalization of both the electric and telecommunications companies. These moves triggered Standard and Poor’s to further downgrade Belizean bonds, “citing concerns about the Central American nation’s debt”—and severely impacting investor confidence. The Heritage Foundation also criticized Belize for “dimming the lights on economic freedom,” calling for the Obama administration to act decisively to reverse the “assault by a Chavista government on the market of a NAFTA partner country.” In a shining example of their blind ambition for foreign control in Belize no matter the cost, the right wing think thank stated that the events in Belize “calls to mind the Administration’s weak response to a similar power grab in neighboring Honduras when Chavez ally and ex-President Manuel Zelaya tried to become president-for-life.”
Earlier this month, representatives from the International Monetary Fund met with Caribbean governments—including Belize—in Trinidad to discuss the challenges related to the low growth and high debt which plague the region. Once again preaching for more of the same economic policies which decimated the region, the IMF stated “Decisive reforms to boost competitiveness and private sector investment are of the essence. In particular, policymakers are encouraged to continue focusing on lowering relative (domestic vs. foreign) costs of goods and services to foster exports and reduce external current account deficits. Reforms to address structural impediments will also help in that regard. Although the implementation of such reforms is challenging in the short term, in the long run they could bring undoubted benefits for the economies of the Caribbean and help create jobs.”
Belize, like much of the Caribbean, is trapped between high debt and a foreign economic environment hostile to the implementation or increase of taxes or tariffs. As such, the only recourse is for already cash strapped governments to cut down on what little social services remain. According to the U.S. State Department, Belize is the sixth most dangerous country in the world and is now unfortunately breaking previous national records for violent crime year after year. As documented, the relationship between the IMF and Belize has been one where prior modest economic growth has not resulted in a decline in poverty or inequality.
Thus, without breaking from the IMF's plan through implementing any tax increases or a favorable renegotiation of their debt, the people of Belize will bear the burden of this crisis through declining living standards and opportunities. One has to think that with the failure of either option to materialize—given the makeup of Belize's economy being dependent on tourism, oil, and agriculture—would it be in the greater interest of Belize to default and focus on shifting money towards health and education? Would tourists place the honoring of loan conditions above snorkeling, jungle hiking, and drinking bottomless rum and cokes by the pool? It is doubtful. Perhaps after the 60 day reprieve passes the answer will become much more clear but no less easier to undertake.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
According to a report released on August 31 by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon regarding the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH by its French acronym), it appears that the renewal of the highly controversial mission will occur once again without any meaningful debate. Moon’s report effectively acts as a rubber stamp of approval for the occupation, stating that he was “Reaffirming my commitment to continue to focus the activities of the Mission, I recommend that the Security Council extend its mandate of one year, until 15 October 2013.”
MINUSTAH’s reputation and credibility as a stabilizing force has been shattered since the introduction of cholera into the island by the negligence of both the troops and shoddy base infrastructure in October 2010. Up until the deployment of Nepalese troops in the Artibonite Valley that October, Haiti had never experienced a cholera outbreak. According to the latest figures, the cholera epidemic has killed over 7,500 people, infecting another 590,000.
To date, the United Nations has refused to take responsibility for their role in the epidemic, despite "irrefutable molecular evidence" that the Haitian strain was virtually identical to the Nepalese strain. Reports from American medical researchers at the Center for Disease Control, in addition to separate French and Danish teams, have all confirmed that the MINUSTAH base in Mirebalais was the source of the cholera strain.
Even Bill Clinton, United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, confirmed that MINUSTAH troops were the source of the outbreak, albeit in a unique fashion. "First of all, the United Nations has spent a great deal of money in Haiti," remarked Clinton in March. "Secondly, I don't know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the UN peacekeeper, or soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus." He went on to state that "Unless we know that he knew or that they knew, the people that sent him, that he was carrying that virus and therefore that he could cause the amount of death and misery and sickness, I think it's better to focus on fixing it."
Despite this admission, the United Nations continued to deny any responsibility, stating that "The four-member panel (setup by Ban Ki Moon) concluded that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti, and that the cholera outbreak was caused by a confluence of factors, and was not the fault of, or deliberate action, of a group or individual....And in relation to former President Clinton’s reported remarks to the press yesterday in Haiti; we note that he emphasized the importance of focusing on improving Haiti’s sanitation system and the fact that the United Nations and others are working hard to do this.”
The lack of accountability and responsibility of MINUSTAH extends beyond the cholera epidemic and is in fact emblematic of how the force has dealt with previous accusations and charges of human rights abuses, ranging from political oppression, to sexual assault, rape, and extrajudicial murder.
In March of this year, three Pakistani members of the UN Police were sentenced to one year in prison after they were found guilty of rape. This is a small victory amidst a sea of impunity, such as the 100 Sri Lankan troops who were repatriated in 2007 for widespread allegations of engaging in “transactional sex with underage girls” but did not face any charges.
However, this precedent, no matter how disproportionate to the crime, did not last very long. Most recently, in August, five Uruguayan soldiers who videotaped themselves raping and sexually assaulting a young Haitian man on video in September 2011 have had the charges reduced from sexual abuse to coercion.
MINUSTAH’s mandate is up for renewal on October 15. As the statements of Ban Ki Moon indicate, the opinions and concerns of the Haitian people and government are not important in determining the future of the mission. A February Security Council Report argued that Haitian “Parliamentarians shared frank and mostly critical views on MINUSTAH. They called for the mission to compensate cholera victims and to swiftly punish those within MINUSTAH responsible for incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse of Haitians.”
Furthermore, MINUSTAH has an approved budget (July 2012-July 2013) which stands at $676,707,100. The mission’s previous budget for 2011 was over $853 million. Putting this into the perspective of the cholera epidemic, the allocated funding for MINUSTAH’s guns and soldiers could be put to much better use.
At one of the first post earthquake donor’s conference in March 2010, held in the Dominican Republic, Cuba made one of the most generous, necessary, AND underreported proposals related to reconstruction. At the conference, Cuba offered to completely reconstruct the Haitian healthcare system over a ten year period, with an estimated cost of $690.5 million. In one of the only articles on the topic, in April 2010, Emily Kirk, John Kirk and Norman Girvan reported the details of the three levels of the deal:
- The primary level will include 101 clinics to treat annually an estimated 2.8 million patients, perform 1.3 million emergency operations, deliver 168,000 babies, and provide 3 million vaccinations.
The secondary level will be provided through 30 community hospitals.
They will have the capacity to treat annually 2.1 million patients, and
provide 1 million emergency surgeries, 54,000 operations, 276,000
electro-cardiograms, 107,000 dental exams, 144,000 diagnostic
ultrasounds, and 487,000 laboratory tests. In addition, due to the high
numbers of poly-traumatized patients, the 30 rehabilitation rooms will
be included throughout the country and will provide 2.4 million
therapeutic treatments for some 520,000 patients.
The tertiary level of health care will be delivered by the Haitian
Specialties Hospital, staffed by 80 Cuban specialists. It will contain
various clinical departments and will be used for research and teaching,
as well as the further training of Haitian professionals who will
gradually replace the Cuban professionals.
Finally, 312 additional medical scholarships are to be provided for Haitian students to study in Cuba.
What MINUSTAH’s near certain renewal on October 15 essentially means is another year of impunity for MINUSTAH, whose mandate entrusts them with the protection of the Haitian people on paper—but routinely and unapologetically violates their human rights in practice. Better options are available but are not considered. Why?
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
August 23, 2012
Originally Published in Haiti Liberte
The international think-tank International Crisis Group has issued a lengthy report on the MINUSTAH military occupation regime in Haiti. Dated August 2, 2012, it runs 28 pages and its central recommendation is that the police/military regime should remain in Haiti for at least another five years. The report is titled, Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making An Effective Transition.
This is the sixth report the ICG has produced on Haiti since the earthquake of January 2010. The group has displayed a capacity for frank and unbiased opinion. Its study on shelter and housing issued in June 2011, for example, blasted the government of Haiti and its international sponsors, saying they were utterly failing to meet the desperate housing needs of Haitians.
In this latest report, however, the group accepts without question the presence of MINUSTAH and its claim to have the best interests of Haitians at heart. The report amounts to a political whitewash that misrepresents the political circumstances that brought the mission to Haiti in 2004 and has kept it there ever since.
MINUSTAH’s origins and achievements
As its name suggests, the ICG studies countries deemed to be destabilizing the international political order. It has 130 staff around the world. Its board of trustees is comprised of political, business and media figures, including Chairperson Thomas Pickering, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State and Ambassador to the U.N., and President Louise Arbour, a Canadian and Former Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Describing MINUSTAH’s origins, Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti says on page one, “MINUSTAH’s principal mandate was to establish a secure and stable environment within which Haitian constitutional and political processes could take place.” Toward this end, the force has supported the Haitian National Police, maintained “rule of law and public safety,” assisted in organizing elections, and the promotion and protection of human rights.
“MINUSTAH’s contribution to generally improved security conditions is recognized both in Haiti and abroad,” says the report. Further on, we read, “Political violence has significantly diminished” since 2004. The mission has assisted, “two national elections (2006 and 2010/11) which restored constitutional rule.”
Disaster relief is listed as one of MINUSTAH’s accomplishments, although the force has come under intense criticism in Haiti for its relatively feeble contribution to humanitarian relief. Most of its annual budget of some $800 million is spent on policing and other forms of “security.”
The report says the economic outlook for Haiti is “still encouraging,” with six per cent growth foreseen for 2012. But it notes that the “Open for business” policy of the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe “will take time and requires a broad political consensus.” The latter is patently absent.
A contrary view on Haiti’s economy was recently published (in French) by Haitian economist Camille Chalmers. Titled, “The Economic Balance Sheet of Reconstruction,” his article looks at the statistical trends in economic life in Haiti and concludes, “The figures show the impossibility of generating sustained growth” under the current economic and political regime in Haiti.
The real history
The International Crisis Group’s skewed interpretation of the origin of MINUSTAH goes right back to its first report on the subject, in November 2004. There, we read, “In early 2004, after several years of fruitless diplomatic efforts to bridge political polarisation, Haiti was again convulsed by political violence. Pressured particularly by France and the U.S., Aristide left the country on 29 February.”
This is a misleadingly polite description of a violent coup d’etat against the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and all the other institutions of elected government of the country. An illegal and unconstitutional regime (“transitional government of technocrats” in ICG-speak) was installed following the overthrow. In the words of a human rights study by U.S. attorney Thomas Griffin in November 2004, that regime proceeded to unleash a “whirlwind of violence,” fully backed by the military violence of the newly-created MINUSTAH, against those among Haiti’s poor majority that attempted to resist the coup.
The United States, Canada and France provided vital military and political assistance to the coup and the installation of the illegal “technocrat” regime. These three nations then proposed to the UN Security Council the creation of MINUSTAH to disguise as international “peacekeeping” their military takeover of Haiti. MINUSTAH has been in the country ever since. Composed of police and soldiers from more than fifty countries in the world, the majority of its foot soldiers are from Latin America.
The ICG report praises MINUSTAH for its role in facilitating elections in Haiti. Yet, this is precisely one of the more egregious acts of the mission and of the large countries that stand behind it. They have financed and provided essential technical backing to elections that have excluded many of the vital political forces of Haiti, most notably the Fanmi Lavalas party founded by Aristide in 1996. That party won a decisive victory in the last truly free election in Haiti, in 2000. It has been excluded from every election since.
What’s more, the elections of 2009, 2010 and 2011 for which the ICG has so much praise, scored the lowest participation rates in modern Haitian history and, indeed, in the modern history of the entire hemisphere.
The ICG report concedes some possible wrongdoing by MINUSTAH—notably its conduct in recklessly introducing the cholera bacteria via its Nepalese contingent in October 2010—but its overriding concern is for the reputation of the force. It cites an April 2012 report by UN independent expert on human rights, Michel Forst, that said further stalling on accepting responsibility for cholera’s introduction, “will do nothing to promote a good understanding of the activities of MINUSTAH.”
Echoing recent U.S., Canadian and European Union statements, the ICG says the next vital step for Haiti is the formation of a permanent electoral council to hold national and local elections. Most of Haiti’s parliamentarians and civil society have denounced this project, now championed by President Martelly. They call, instead, for a provisional electoral council, saying a permanent one would be arrived at by unconstitutional means. (It so happens a permanent council would also further entrench the politics of exclusion of Haiti’s poor majority from political life.)
The MINUSTAH record
It is difficult to square the ICG’s positive interpretation of the MINUSTAH’s record. It’s been more than eight years since the 2004 coup d’etat and more than two years since an international earthquake relief program that promised billions of dollars of aid to Haiti. Yet we read in the ICG report, “A strategy for the urban poor, including displaced persons in camps and post-earthquake informal communities, is still missing.”
The ICG also flags the “chronic failure (by successive Haitian governing regimes) to tackle poverty, inequalities and exclusion, which endanger most of the population...”
After expressing much concern over the cholera epidemic harming MINUSTAH’s reputation, the report says that accountability for cholera (including establishing clean water delivery systems) is now in the hands of the Pan American Health Organization. It reports the June 29 announcement at the OAS of a new, $2 billion, international fund for clean water systems in Haiti. But like so many other promises, this one is long on words and will be short on action unless decisive international pressure is brought to bear.
The ICG makes no other specific mention of compensation to Haiti’s cholera victims, though it notes the legal action pending against MINUSTAH that has been launched on behalf of 5,000 victims by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
While the ICG is happy to reach back into Haitian history to buttress its pro-MINUSTAH arguments, it conveniently ignores the voices that expressed concern for years about the threat of waterborne diseases to the Haitian people. Of note here is the 2008 report by Partners In Health that slammed, in particular, the coup-backing countries of 2004 for having blocked international loans sought by the second government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to build potable water systems. (See Woch nan soley: The denial of the right to water in Haiti.)
The ICG’s defense of MINUSTAH’s performance in establishing “security” it is not very convincing. The force’s first tasks, we read, were disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former soldiers of the Haitian army that was disbanded in 1995 (these were the core of the paramilitaries that staged the 2004 coup); neutralization of urban gangs; curbs on crime; and a purge of the Haitian National Police. “None of these goals have been fully achieved,” we read.
Nor has police corruption been tackled. The report says 137 cases of police corruption or misconduct have not been investigated. The body in charge of such cases, the Conseil supérieur de la police nationale, has been chaired by none other than the country’s succession of prime ministers, that is, the products of the supposedly successful electoral outcomes produced by MINUSTAH.
The ICG report’s lengthy Part Three is devoted to MINUSTAH’s “exit strategy”, but on pages 18 and 19 we read a long litany of failings of the force and the Haitian government in laying the necessary groundwork. Rule of law, prison and judicial improvements, legal aid services, social services—progress on all is deemed absent or lacking.
Concerning MINUSTAH’s accountability, the ICG notes that MINUSTAH never created a “Claims Commission” that would allow Haitians to seek redress for alleged wrongdoings. Yet this was one of the conditions contained in the Status of Forces Agreement that MINUSTAH signed with Haiti’s de facto regime in 2004.
“There is no transition or exit strategy as yet (for MINUSTAH),” the ICG concludes. “The UN will need to remain in Haiti for a long time.”
Contradictions in the ICG report
The ICG report is full of other internal contradictions.
We read that Haiti is undergoing five transitions—from violence to reconciliation and peace; non-democratic culture to a democratic society; a failed to a modern national state; poverty and social injustice to a thriving and equitable economy; and from a country destroyed by an earthquake to one “not only being rebuilt but ideally transformed.” (page 4)
“A humanitarian imperative amid ongoing political instability, sporadic violence and recurring natural disasters continues to suggest the need for a strong international presence,” says the report.
Further, MINUSTAH must, “ensure that a phased withdrawal is linked to stronger institutions and progress toward lasting stability and development...” The goal in post-earthquake Haiti is, “support for the holding of elections to put in place a government and thus speed up reconstruction.”
All of this makes clear that in the minds of the report’s writers, at least, human development is required before “security” can be achieved. But the ICG then incongruously acknowledges that MINUSTAH spurns all responsibility to assist human development. The report says it is a “popular misconception” to think that MINUSTAH can shift from being a policing agency to development agency: “…MINUSTAH’s mandate does not include development as its priority...”
So the MINUSTAH formula, visibly endorsed by the ICG, turn in circles—policing, and no development; and no development, but policing.
Another contradiction is the report’s strong praise for MINUSTAH’s assistance to elections. It says such support is “essential” (page 6). But on page 22 we read that the heavy international hand in financing and organizing elections undermines the credibility of electoral outcomes.
"International financing of more than half of the costs of elections, continuing technical assistance to the CEP and MINUSTAH's logistics involvement made it easy for some Haitians, particularly those unhappy about Lavalas' absence from several elections, to criticise MINUSTAH and the international community for interference in the country's politics."
The ICG calls President Martelly’s plan to revive the human rights-violating Haitian army “questionable.” It goes on to assert that “many Haitians” support the plan. Its cited source for this assertion is one, unnamed Haitian government official. But Robert Muggah, former director of the Small Arms Survey, found overwhelming opposition to resurrecting the army during extensive surveys he and other researchers conducted last year, the results of which were published in October 2011.
Finally, the report expresses a deeply biased assessment of the place of the Fanmi Lavalas party, which it calls one of three key “dangers” to “reconciliation” in Haiti. The other two dangers are “the Martelly presidency’s Duvalierist imprints”(!) and “the reappearance of former members of a once brutal army” (whose resurrection is politely termed “questionable” earlier in the report).
Furthermore, actions by Lavalas-inspired political representatives in Haiti’s Parliament are described as having “slowed government progress” in the first year of Martelly’s presidency.
In 2011, a transnational group of doctors, scholars and activists published a comprehensive review of the deeply troubling, post-earthquake human rights record of MINUSTAH, entitled MINUSTAH: Keeping the Peace or Conspiring Against It? It was published under the auspices of the Health Roots Student Organization at the Harvard University School of Public Health. One of the authors of this present article was a co-author of that review.
The review was a response to the premise that if MINUSTAH leaves Haiti, the country will collapse into a spiral of violence from which it will never escape. Former head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet, a Guatemalan, said the country would “just fall apart” if MINUSTAH were to leave. He described Haiti as “a society, community, a nation that has committed collective suicide” due its alleged political infighting.
The report noted there are higher levels of “insecurity” and violence in neighboring Caribbean states such as Jamaica, Trinidad and the Virgin Islands (and for that matter, in many U.S. cities) than in Haiti. That nullifies the principal justification for MINUSTAH.
In reality, much of Haiti’s instability is the direct result of MINUSTAH’s ongoing human rights abuses, said the authors. MINUSTAH’s sparking of unrest is then used to justify its presence. The Harvard paper noted that “MINUSTAH’s continued presence is justified by the levels of unrest, or potential for unrest, in Haiti… Since the earthquake, the only significant civil discord in the country has targeted MINUSTAH for introducing cholera or failing to respond to IDP camp conditions, or expressed anger over fraudulent elections. MINUSTAH responded to these peaceful protests with violence, including tear gassing students and IDPs, assaulting international journalists, shooting at children and even killing peaceful protestors.”
Thanks to WikiLeaked revelations published last year in the weekly Haiti Liberté newspaper and The Nation magazine, we have learned, in the words of former U.S. ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson that, “The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [U.S. Government] policy interests in Haiti.”
MINUSTAH is, she said, “a financial and regional security bargain for the USG.”
Furthermore, MINUSTAH’s definition of developing an environment of political stability is highly exclusionary and, indeed, it contributes to the destabilization of the country. In that revealing cable previously cited (Oct 8, 2008), Sanderson said, “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years”.
MINUSTAH has carried out a series of human rights violations resulting in a loss of Haitian sovereignty, stability, dignity and life. Its record of engaging in acts of extrajudicial murder, sexual assault, suppressing peaceful political protests, undermining democracy and introducing cholera into Haiti are more than enough grounds to revoke its mandate. Yet for geopolitical and economic reasons, this does not happen.
“At such a crucial point in Haiti’s history, and with years of failures, inaction, repression, and human rights violations documented, it is time that MINUSTAH respect the Haitian people’s wishes, and the wishes of many of its members’ citizens, and withdraw from Haiti,” the review says. “Arguments of greater instability cannot justify the current abuse and violence against Haitians.”
The Harvard-published review stands in sharp counterpoint to the ICG report and arrives at an opposite conclusion: “Just as concern of post-MINUSTAH instability cannot justify a single violation of a Haitian’s rights by an occupying force, no solution to Haiti’s problems can include foreign, armed military on its soil. If the UN and its members want to support Haiti, MINUSTAH’s nearly one billion USD yearly budget should be put toward sanitation, shelter, health, infrastructure, and education, not arms and soldiers that result in death, sexual assault, and the subversion of democracy.”
Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network in Vancouver BC and publishes on Rabble.ca. Kevin Edmonds is a graduate student at the University of Toronto and an author of the 2011 MINUSTAH: Keeping the Peace or Conspiring Against It? He writes a blog, The Other Side of Paradise on the NACLA website.