In the News: Brazil delegation meets with Defense Minister, demands withdrawal of UN Troops from Haiti

by Kim Ives, published in Haiti Liberte (print weekly), July 25, 2012

On July 10, a delegation of parliamentarians, unionists and Haiti solidarity activists met with Brazil’s Defense Minister Celso Amorim at the Defense Ministry in Brasilia and grilled him about the continuing UN military occupation of Haiti.

Brazilian generals head the military component of the 9,000-member force known as the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Brazilian troops predominate.

Markus Sokol, a member of the national directorate of Brazil’s ruling Workers Party (PT), told Amorim that over 600 people, with representatives from seven countries, had gathered in São Paulo last November for a congress which launched a “Continental Day of Action” against the UN occupation of Haiti on June 1, 2012, the date of the eighth anniversary of MINUSTAH. There were anti-occupation actions in ten countries (including 20 Brazilian cities) on that date.

“What are we doing in Haiti?” Sokol asked Amorim. “Former [Defense] minister [Nelson Jobim] said that we were training to scale the hills of Rio; that can’t be!

“Demonstrations in Haiti continue to demand the restoration of national sovereignty and the withdrawal of troops. The situation has deteriorated, as exemplified by the invasion of the Human Sciences Faculty (FASCH) of the State University of Haiti on June 15 by Brazilian soldiers, protested by the university Rector himself. This must not be what the present government [of Brazilian President Dilma Roussef] is about.”

Fernando Ferro, a PT Federal Deputy representing Pernambuco, told Amorim that “eight years ago I understood the presence of troops for a specific period; but today I can find no justification for their staying.”

“Troops cannot mediate social conflicts,” said Adriano Diogo, a PT State Deputy representing São Paulo. “We oppose the idea of military intervention disseminated by the [U.S.] School of the Americas. We have to banish it from our history.” He concluded by asking simply: “What is the timetable for withdrawal?”

According to a press release by the Brazil committee ‘To Defend Haiti is to Defend Ourselves,’ which organized the visit of the delegation, Minister Amorim justified the deployment of troops (“to avoid chaos”) and disagreed that they were an instrument “of colonialist powers.” But he said that today, “our intention is to leave, only this has to be in agreement with other ministries as well as with other countries, particularly those of South America, and with the UN, because we cannot do anything unilaterally.”

Amorim argued that “the presence of troops was requested by the Haitian Government, and the UN Security Council is the only body that legitimizes this type of intervention. I think it has already dragged on longer than was intended, which could have generated some conflict or other, but every incident has been checked. We have to plan a gradual withdrawal and, I repeat, guided by dialogue with our partners of UNASUR whose countries have troops there.”

The minister acknowledged that “the claims for reparations for cholera merit examination by the UN.”

He said that he had not been informed about the June 15 invasion of FASCH. Barbara Corrales of ‘To Defend Haiti is to Defend Ourselves’ gave Amorim a dossier with a report by the International Commission of Inquiry on the Abuses and Crimes Committed by MINUSTAH, including a dossier on the incident at the university.

“Our position is that the troops be withdrawn,” said Alexandre Conceiçao of Brazil’s Landless Peasants Movement (MST). “For many years, we have maintained a brigade in that country, in a project of cooperation with the peasant movements, of exchange of experiences, while at the same time we have received in Brazil delegations of Haitians for training courses. This should be the model of cooperation with Haiti by Brazil.”

Haitian unionist Fignolé Saint Cyr was a member of the delegation and he told the minister, “After eight years, the so-called forces of stabilization have become veritable occupation troops, who have brought to Haiti a cholera epidemic and who violate our sovereignty.”

“Brazil could help by setting an example and withdrawing its troops. I went to the United Nations last year, but we were given no prospects, no date. But what the Haitian people want, what the union movement and popular organizations demand is: the withdrawal of the troops.”

Minister Antorim agreed to meet the delegation again in three months time.