A recent Haiti Action Committee action alert called for letters responding to the Dec. 3rd San Francisco Chronicle article which praised the strong hand UN troops exert in Haiti's poorest neighborhoods. Among other things, the article dismissed eyewitness reports of UN "peacekeeper" killings of Haitian civilians, stating, "In the past, some human rights activists have accused U.N. peacekeepers of firing indiscriminately during anti-gang crackdowns....U.N. officials, however, deny firing on civilians and argue that an early exit would leave Haiti vulnerable to gang resurgence."
As is often the case with mainstream coverage of Haiti, some of the more glaring problems with the piece are what it didn't say: why the UN mission was put in place (to legitimize the 2004 coup), who is responsible for the overwhelming majority of violence against poor people in Haiti (UN troops, police, paramilitaries, thugs freed from jail by coup figures), and the overwhelmingly pro-Lavalas nature of Cite Soleil and other poor neighborhoods.
Not a single letter to the editor was published. Haiti Action Committee presents the following letters submitted to the Chronicle:
The article "New president in Haiti liberates citizens with crackdown on crime" (Dec. 3) suffers from a narrow view of violence in Cite Soleil. The vast majority of guns in the country belong to wealthy elites. These rich Haitians, and their gunmen, despise popular democracy and supported the U.S.-backed 1991 and 2004 coups against the democratically-elected Aristide governments.
Much of the alleged "gang violence" in Port-au-Prince's poorest neighborhoods since the Bush Administration and its Haitian allies ousted President Aristide in February 2004 has been self-defense against death squads and the notoriously brutal Haitian police.
It is to the eternal shame of the UN that the international body's mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has launched military attacks on poor pro-Aristide neighborhoods but has left well-heeled rightist militias untouched. I myself spoke to different sets of family members of unarmed civilians killed by Brazilian UN troops in the summer of 2005 and 2006.
If it was serious about fighting crime, misery and providing a peaceful future for Haiti, the UN would encourage the sorts of social programs the Aristide governments were advancing. But if the UN was on the side of Haiti's poor majority it wouldn't have legitimized the 2004 coup in the first place.
The piece "New president in Haiti liberates citizens with crackdown on crime" (Dec. 3) overlooks many factors contributing to crime in Haiti.
Prominent among them is the legacy of the 2004 Washington-backed coup which ousted the democratically-elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Instead of attacking poor neighborhoods with military assaults, as the UN regime in Haiti has done since 2004, Aristide engaged in dialogue with youth and worked doggedly on social programs to provide jobs and opportunities for Haiti's poorest.
The paramilitary thugs who carried out the 2004 coup freed imprisoned right-wing death squad operatives locked up during Haiti's brief democratic interval. These killers still roam free, along with many criminal deportees sent back to Haiti from the United States. They form a core of ready recruits to do the bidding of Haiti's notoriously ruthless elites.
Strangely, amid its innumerable crackdowns on poor neighborhoods since 2004, the UN has never made a serious attempt to challenge the paramilitary armies of the rich. And when it comes to defending the rights of those in misery to organize in trade unions free from elite persecution the international presence remains disinterested.
Could it be that the UN is not on the side of the poor at all?
The article, "New President in Haiti Liberates Citizens with Crackdown on Crime," serves to promote the Bush administration lie that the main problem in Haiti is Haitians.
Cite Soleil is not a center of gang violence but of resistance to US hegemony over Haiti's affairs. It is the economic and political agenda of the Haitian elite and the United States that UN troops defend in Haiti. There are local Bay Area eyewitnesses to UN troops' indiscriminate firing on civilians in Cite Soleil.
To suggest UN troops promote stability ignores the big picture – the US-sponsored destabilization campaign against Haiti's sovereign democracy which ended in the violent overthrow of the elected government. A new economic order dominated by privatization is rapidly under construction, which will only mean further impoverishment for the people of Haiti.
Thank you for giving the experiences of Haitians in your article: In Haiti following the 2004 Coup. There are other stories. I heard many testimonies of violence, murder, rape, injury of family members, destruction of property, terrorism following the Coup of 2004 . That terrorism was clearly directed toward the popular Lavalas party, which had overwhelmingly elected President Aristide twice. It was following that second Coup, in 2004, that the UN mandated MINUSTAH; thousands of UN soldiers, tanks and guns were sent to Haiti, a little late to protect the democracy of the people! Personally, I can say in the times I have been there, it is unnerving to have a tank roll by with UN soldiers pointing guns directly at you. Haiti is an occupied country. Who decides that Haitians are unable to govern themselves?
Haitians imprisoned on false charges continue to be held without hearings. This means being subject to beatings, hunger, disease, sometimes resulting in death. The criteria for the detention seem to be membership in the party of former President Bertrand Aristide.
December 12, will mark four months since widely-respected human rights advocate, Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, was “disappeared” in Haiti.
Stella Goodpasture, OP
I was dismayed to read your article about violence in Haiti on Monday. The purported "gangs" that are often referred to as they were in your story are more the poor victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
I am glad that violence is down in their neighborhood, and I suppose the government and UN deserve some credit for the decrease, but not because they're stopping people from committing violence, but because they're not attacking people there, the majority of whom were sympathetic to the ousted government before it.
Your writer is giving credit to a government that jails nonviolent activists including priests in the midst of feeding poor children. What chutzpah!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON UN IN HAITI:
Eyewitnesses Describe Massacre by UN Troops in Haitian Slum
July 11, 2005
October 4, 2007
The UN Occupation Continues
By Ben Terrall
Thousands march in Haiti demanding end to reign of terror
by Dave Welsh - Haiti Action Committee
Haiti: Revelations of UN's role in massacres
Flashpoints Radio transcript — January 23 2007
2 minute trailer for Kevin Pina's documentary Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits:
Eyewitnesses Describe Massacre by UN Troops in Haitian Slum