BOLIVIA: What are we doing in Haiti?

Pablo Stefanoni*

Monday, April 21, 2008

La Paz - In recent days the Haitians have gone into the streets to protest against the brutal increase in the cost of food. The response of the Police — with the support of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH) — was repression that cost the life of at least five demonstrators and wounded about fifty others.

Haiti is not only the poorest nation in Latin America, it was the first country in America to declare its independence under the leadership of a heroic slave rebellion. But its economy was ruthlessly pillaged by the long-lasting dictatorship of the Duvaliers (1957-1986), first the father then his son, supported by France and the United States.

In 1991, the former priest and popular leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president. But after an initial overthrow and his return to power — now much further from his initial progressive positions — he was overthrown and kidnapped by a military coup supported, once again, by France and the United States.

Although it is located in the midst of the Caribbean, Haiti is a great desert, a product of criminal deforestation, and its mass barrios have become huge garbage dumps. Twenty years ago, according to a report by Serpaj [an Argentine human rights organization], Haiti was producing 95% of the rice it consumed; today it imports 80% from the US. To this point, this could be the history of any small impoverished nation occupied by international peacekeepers, accomplices in the interventionism of the big powers. However, there is a difference: this time, the mission is led by a government of the left, Brazil, with the participation of various other progressive governments — Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador... and Bolivia.

Which raises the question: Should our troops be in Haiti shoulder to shoulder with the occupation armies of the United States and France firing on mass demonstrations with the excuse that they are just criminal gangs (which some obviously are)? Shouldn’t there be some other form of support by progressive governments to our fellow peoples of the continent? Haven’t we rightly praised Cuba for sending doctors to save lives and not soldiers to end them? Finally, is it the role of the left to “humanize” the international missions devised by the great powers?

So far the only response to these questions has been silence.

*Former advisor to Bolivian President Evo Morales, currently Director of Le Monde Diplomatique-Bolivia

Translated from La Razon by Richard Fidler

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