Sunday, May 29, 2005

Brazil's role in UN Haiti force becoming controversial

As I have written earlier, the United Nation's force in Haiti is headed by Brazilian forces. This force, often called MINUSTAH, has been accused by the Haiti Information Project of providing cover for summary killings and humans rights abuses by the Haitian Police employed by the coup government.

I have long thought that, under these circumstances, it would be good strategy to put pressure on Lula's government in Brazil to be accountable for human rights in Haiti. Below is the (unofficial) translation of a 26 May story in Folha de Sao Paulo, which some call "Brazil's most influential newspaper").

Folha de Sao Paolo 26 May 2005
(unofficial translation)
Thanks to BrianHaiti for pointing this out to me.


"Given that the last government of Haiti abolished the Armed Forces and the police, the defenseless people depend exclusively on the protection of foreign troops." That was how the special envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Seitenfus, justified the presences of Brazilian forces in Haiti. In his words, "for the first time in Haitian history there is a tacit acceptance of the foreign presence," because the Caribbean country faced a situation marked by the "simple absence of the State."

Seitenfus followed to the letter the role that had been given him-to deceive Brazilian public opinion. Haiti has a State that is a corrupt dictatorship dedicated to freeing from prison bloody figures and incarcerating opponents to ensure its perpetuation in power. Ex-dictator Raoul Cédras and his collaborators Philippe Biamby, Michel François, Emmanuel "Toto" Constant and Jean Tatoune, sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of committing a massacre in 1992, have been freed. In compensation, Yvon Neptune, the last prime minister in the administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, deposed by US intervention, has been in jail for eleven months without charges and without having been brought before a court. Former Minister Jocelerme Pivert, singer So Ann and hundreds of supporters of Aristide's Lavalas Party find themselves in similar circumstances.

The Haitian state relies on a murderous police force, which, on a daily basis, invades shantytowns firing at Lavalas supporters. This dictatorship has no national army, at least not for the time being. The UN forces, under Brazilian command, play the role of substitute army, offering military support for repressive police operations and judicial persecution. In March, James Cavallaro, of Harvard Law School, presented Brazilian authorities with a report on human rights abuses in Haiti. "This is an irresponsible and frivolous accusation with the intent of creating a diversion, " Marco Aurélio Garcia, international affairs assistant to [President] Lula, responded.

Seitenfus and Garcia, like their superiors in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the [Presidency] are active accomplices in these human rights violations. When the former visited Haiti, Neptune had been in prison for months. When the latter discarded Cavallaro's report, Neptune was engaged in his first hunger strike, demanding to be tried or freed. The second hunger strike, begun in mid-April, caught the attention of Thierry Fagart, responsible for human rights within the UN mission, who denounced the illegal detentions of the Haitian regime. Apparently, "irresponsible" Fagart joined "frivolous" Cavallaro "with the intent of creating a diversion."

With the cover of the deathly silence of the media and supported by the overwhelming disinterest of members of Congress, concerned only with transaction of nominations, the Brazilian government has played the role of hired gunman of the United States. But the mission is slowly sinking, together with the Haitian dictatorship, which appears incapable of preparing even a tolerable electoral farce. A recent meeting of the vice-Ministers of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile discussed the possibility of terminating the military operation in the Caribbean. The pretext, for public consumption, would be the shortage of resources afforded by the UN for social and development projects in Haiti. Humanitarian, no?

Demétrio Magnoli escreve às quintas-feiras nesta coluna.

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