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.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Update on Haiti: Three killed at May 18 Flag Day Protest

According to the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, three people were killed by Haitian police at the recent Flag Day protest.
They have a Media campaign action site that is very useful. Let's make the mainstream media comment on this news, one way or the other.

Below is an interview with an eye witness from the Ezil Danto Witness Project
ML: I need to write something on how the demonstration was in general and I would also like for you to address the facts regarding deaths and injuries. You wrote to say that two people died yet other sources only mention one. I would like for you to confirm whether or not you have the victims' names and what happened?

Jean: Well, it's during the Solèy demonstration. First of all Solèy went to Bèlè and on the way, behind HASCO, around Brant's factories, the men in black were standing on rooftops, automatic weapons at the ready, they were (....) at the demonstrators. While the MINUSTHA armored vehicle protected the demonstrators, they moved on indeed, going through St Martin, on to Bèlè. There was a first incident where a child was protected by MINUSTHA, preventing bloodshed. Indeed the men in black were on the warpath since Delma 3, they were aiming at the demonstrators, but since MINUSTHA soldiers hurriedly moved to an adjacent position, they did not shoot. When the demonstrators reached the Airport crossroad the same scenario was played out. When they got to Christ Roy and again aimed at the demonstrators, Kevin Pina (a journalist) had his camera. They stopped him and threatened him...

ML: They who, MINUSTHA or the Haitian Police?

Jean: Both the police and MINUSTHA threatened him. We continued on and when we reached Christ Roy the men in black arrested 5 people. They arrested 5 people that they took away to an undisclosed destination.

ML: Who arrested them?

Jean: The men in black...

ML: So they were there?

Jean: MINUSTHA was protecting the demonstration, but at every intersection the men in black would get there first and be waiting and forced MINUSTHA to hurriedly join them. This game went on and on where they would leave for the next intersection where the people had to call MINUSTHA to come and offer some protection. When we were going down from Christ Roy to Lalue, there were some MINUSTHA soldiers more interested in some young ladies than their duty. As they were chatting, and distracted, some "demonstrator" helped themselves to some MINUSTHA arms. They took one or two (rocket launchers?), (3 Q65 ?), and 1 Uzi. When the MINUSTHA soldiers appeared to realize what was happening, they stopped chatting, but it was too late. The perpetrators had already disappeared among the demonstrators, for it was a big crowd.

As the demonstration moved on Lalue reaching the traffic signal of Rue Lama, the original protection was offered by MINUSTHA that had stopped traffic all along Lalue in order for the demonstrators to move towards Bèlè. When we continued towards Bèlè, we continued by the former National Archives, pass Lycee Petion we stumbled onto the CIMO Police along with (...), (as they were masked) only the top of their head was not camouflaged. They had occupied the whole area of the Cathedral, threatening to harm demonstrators. As Kevin Pina was at the very front of the demonstration, in a car, he hurried to their position and used his camera to again film the action. They shouted: "white man get out of the way!" He responded: "I am a journalist", to which they said: "We don't give a damn about journalists!" They proceeded to tell him: "sooner or later we will find you..."

Kevin Pina proceeded to remind them that during the international press day commemorations, the colonel guaranteed protection to all journalists practicing their profession and that they could not stop a journalist's reporting; your threatening stance (...) At this very moment, we saw four cars coming full speed towards the action. Since a few more journalists had joined Kevin Pina and myself, MINUSTHA had to follow suit, forcing by their presence the CIMO Police to stop.

At that point, the demonstration engaged on the hill to bèlè and that is where the Solèy demonstrators allowed the demonstration to end and started to walk home to Site Solèy. As they were reaching Solèy, there is a very well known Police Officer named Sovè. I don't know his last name but will look for it, once I can reload my cell of minutes. He is attached to the Portail St Joseph local police precinct, near the market Tèt Bèf. He seems to belong to any and all police units. At times he will wear the black uniform, the blue or the (brown?); no one can figure out where he belongs. He came with his group and right away opened fire on the demonstrators, killing Joseph, whose last name I forgot, age 30, he died leaving to children, he lived in Solèy 19,...

ML: What is Joseph's last name?

Jean: Yes, I forgot the last name, but I will find it for you. If you call back later I will then give you the name. He left 3, 2 children and resided in Solèy 19 in the interior.

ML: How exactly did he die, was he walking...

Jean: He was part of the demonstration. He was leaving Bèlè reaching St Martin, around the gasoline station on St Martin. The perpetrators were hiding around the market Tèt Bèf. As the front of the demonstration was turning towards the old airport, they opened fire on the crowd. The victim was hit in the eye and fell on a pile of garbage. Right away, the Solèy demonstrators grabbed him and ran with the body all the way to Site Solèy. The other victim, according Rue St Martin witnesses, he resides in Rue St Martin. He as home, standing on his porch, looking at the demonstrators, he was hit by a \r\nbullet and killed on the spot.

ML: Do you know his name?

Jean: No, I don't know his name, I can only find the name for the victim from Solèy

ML: So the second victim resides at rue St Martin?

Jean: Yes, Rue St Martin...

ML: Where was the MINUSTHA contingent when these people were shooting at the demonstrators on their way home?

Jean: Well, when the demonstrators were going to Bèlè MINUSTHA protected them. However, once they started home, back to Solèy, MINUSTHA was no longer protecting them. They went home unprotected for MINUSTHA left them. Indeed, once they reach the Gonaive \r\nstation, the men in black were about to start searching the demonstrators. As MINUSTHA was getting close the men in black let the demonstrators go.

ML: OK, Thank You! Also, have you heard from the other parts of Haiti where they staged demonstrations?

Jean: (brief silence) I did not hear you...

ML: (repeats question)...

Jean: Well, according to the reports, it was Fanmi Lavalas in large numbers that demonstrated throughout Haiti yesterday. If it had not been for what they did to the demonstrators form Site Solèy, there would have been no arguments. MINUSTHA had stopped the traffic from Delma 2, as the demonstrators from Solèy reached Delma 2, the mood started to change. You heard shouts of: "Here comes Solèy!" The demonstrators from Bèlè who from afar were waiting for Solèy, as the front of the demonstration appeared exclamation of joy could be heard. Statements like: "Now we feel Solèy!" Indeed, the demonstrators were bravely chanting daring slogans such as: "If Drèd Wilme falls, Haiti as a country will crumble!" The slogans also targeted the National Police spokes woman, Mrs. Coicou. The people of Site Solèy explained that though they are held hostage, though they put them in quarantine, they expressed their conviction and determination to take to the street in spite of the imminent danger! They will accept death if they must, but will take to the street.

ML: About how many people were at the demonstration? Do you have a number... an approximation? Compared it to the demonstration of the 28 or April 27? How did you evaluate the crowd?

Jean: Of all the demonstrations stage since Aristide's departure, yesterday's demonstration was the only one that took over Port-au-Prince. There has been no bigger demonstration than the one staged yesterday!

ML: Well, thank you, thank you Jean. We will talk later to try and find out the name of the second man who died, as well as Joseph's last name. I will call you a little later.Jean: I will get the information...ML: Thank you. We'll talk...

*******Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network

Friday, May 20, 2005

Update: Killing of protester in Haiti on May 18

The message below was sent out on the Let Haiti Live! list serve, i have not yet found coverage of it in major media. Though Haiti Action covers the story in some depth. Any help in verifying and publishing more widely this revelation would be appreciated.

Police execute at least one protester in May 19 Flag Day Protest

One person participating in a May 18 Flag Day protest was executed by agents ofthe Haitian National Police while protesters from Cite Soleil were returninghome from Bel Air following the conclusion of the protest route. The May 18 protest began as two separate marches, one beginning in the neighborhood of Bel Air that moved in the direction of Delmas 2 and another originating in CiteSoleil that traveled in the direction of Delmas 2.

The groups converged at Delmas 2 at approximately 12 pm, at which point they marched in the directionof Route de Delmas. The march turned right at Carrefour Aeroport (Route deDelmas and Avenue Martin Luther King) and proceeded through Nazon, down AvenuePoupelard, down Lalue, and back into Bel Air. The march concluded at PlacePerpetuelle in Bel Air.Military and CIVPOL units of MINUSTAH provided heavy security at both the frontand end of the protest as well as in several key intersections. HaitianNational Police officers were only observed in scattered locations of theroute. MINUSTAH's presence prevented the police from entering in the protestroute and from firing on protesters during most access points of the main pointof the route.Two police vehicles, one containing CIMO officers in light khaki uniforms, andanother with officers dressed in black, were parked in the area of the cathedral at the bottom of Bel Air, out of sight of MINUSTAH (Photo Available [editors note: where is photo available?]).

A few officers were out of the vehicles, one with a gun pointed in thedirection of the protesters. A foreign journalist present at the sceneconfronted those were out of the vehicles by filming them at very short rangeand following them with his camera in hand. After another car with a foreignjournalist and an IJDH investigator arrived, a police officer was seen sendinga radio message to announce the presence of foreign observers. Approximatelytwenty hooded police officers appeared moments later from several differentlocations and quickly left the scene in police vehicles that had appeared witht hem. No police were observed following this confrontation. The actions ofthe foreign journalist and presence of foreign observors are likely to haveprevented police from firing on protesters at this time.

After the protest concluded in Place Perpetuelle, the group of protesters from Cite Soleil left Bel Air to return home. Protesters and a resident of Rue Saint Martin reported that upon arriving at the exit of Rue Saint Martin to Boulevard JJ Dessalines, a car with around 6 CIMO police officers pulled up tothe protest. Witnesses say that police officers removed at least one protester from the group and shot him in several places in his body.

He died while being transported to Cite Soleil in a wheelbarrow. IJDH later located the body onthe ground in Cite Soleil 17. Family members identified the body as that of Sanel Joseph, a resident of Cite Soleil in his mid-twenties. Bullet holes wereobserved in both of Joseph\'s arms, torso, and head. Protesters reported thatat least two other protesters were shot, one of whom was killed immediately and the other of whom was wounded. These two individuals are reported to have been transported by the police in a police vehicle."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Update on Haiti

"While much press was garnered by the peaceful protests in Beirut that helped achieve the resignation of the Syrian backed president there, another peaceful protest for Democracy was largely ignored by the press. In Port-Au-Prince on March 1st, the Haitian people called for the return of the elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide and for the unelected leaders to respect their freedom of speech.
The police responded to the non-violent march on the anniversary of the most recent coup with live ammunition from U.S. made rifles, killing five.
Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a pattern of political killings in Haiti, and the origin of these rifles is not the only connection between that violence and the U.S. government...."

-excerted from Democracy For Haiti by Simon Fitzgerald
Below is an update on the situation in Haiti

Special Thanks to Dan Beeton for keeping me up to date on developments in Haiti.

As many people know, the Haitian people suffered a coup over a year ago in which former military and paramilitary leaders with U.S. military training crossed over the border from the Dominican Republic to overthrow (for the second time) Haiti's first democratically elected leader, the former priest, Jean Bertrand Aristide. In the lead up to the siege on the capital, the paramilitary leaders had to free their other paramilitaries that were in jail for mass murder convictions. The coup was finalized when U.S.-American forces lead Aristide onto a plane where he was taken incommunicado to perhaps the most obscure dictatorship on the planet, the Central African Republic.

Since the coup, there is been a reign of political violence that seems designed to destroy the popular Lavalas political party, Aristide's supporters. A University of Miami human rights report details much of this violence. The report is available as a pdf file.

The U.N. has troops in Haiti, but it seems that their only translators to Haitian Kreyole are Haitian military/police, so the U.N. soldiers are often witnesses or accomplices to political violence. Haiti Action details this phenomenon focusing on a recent pro-democracy demonstration where a handful of peaceful pro-democratic protesters were shot and killed in front of U.N. troops. The Haitian police are then seen planting weapons on the dead bodies in these photos (Warning: these photos are graphic, photos 12-15 detail the planting of the gun). U.N. soldiers and Haitian police in U.N. blue helmets (photo # 18) are seen filming the protesters before the attack occured.

The international press has been largely silent about this political violence. Instead they blame violence on stability, gangs or "the shadow of Aristide," following the line of the pro-coup Haitian media and the official U.S. statements.

Recent reports on the release of convicted murderers who took part in the coup failed to mention the summary executions, disappearences, and detentions without trial of pro-democracy forces.

For example, the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Yvon Neptune has been held without trial for nearly a year. He is on hunger-strike and is near death, but is not mentioned in, for example, BBC's discussion of the Haitian judicial situation. The Miami Herald (often the U.S. paper most interested in Latin America) has called for Neptune's release, as has a group of U.S. congress people led by Maxine Waters. However, his situation is deteriorating while the world media continue to have little interest in Haiti.

The African National Congress (once the party of Nelson Mandela) has called for a campaign to Free Haiti from the tyranny of dictatorship, while activists in Washington are discussing a plan of action to support the next Haitian protests for democracy so the activists in Haiti will not be murdered in relative silence.

One of the problems, described in the University of Miami report, is that most of the violence is directed towards the poorer neighborhoods like Cite Soleil (often called the poorest neighborhood in the Western hemisphere). Meanwhile the western media is concentrated in wealthy neighborhoods like Bel Air, where the situation is relatively controlled except for non-violent resistance actions like the downing of powerlines earlier this month.

Cite Soleil remains under seige and there are signs the government is preparing to wipe-out the neighborhood and evict its residents. The Association of University Graduates Motivated for a Haiti with Rights has a more detailed discussion of the violence directed toward Cite Soleil.

Pro-democracy organizing in Haiti continues despite the difficulties.

The question for journalists is, Why are these voices being blacked-out in the mainstream media? How is the instability due to the democratically elected leader and not the coup-leaders and those committing acts of violence (and ordering acts of violence to be committed)?

The question for the American people is, How bad will we let the violence against our neighbors get? I ask all who care to follow up this research, join with democracy advocates, and not let the situation get as bad as El Salvador during the height of its (U.S. sponsored) civil war repression (if Haiti is not already that bad, its hard to tell).

Monday, May 16, 2005

War On One's Conscience

...[W]ords from conscientious objectors remind me of friends who fought in wars they disagreed with strongly. So when i see the war’s toll on my friends' conscience, i ask, “Have you considered not going?” I do not encourage them, because a decision of conscience can only be made by the individual, but I let them know that if they have a moral objection to unjust orders, at least one friend will stand with them in their refusal.

excerpted from
War on One's Conscience by Simon Fitzgerald and Pablo Paredes
04 May 2005

Since the publication of the letter excerpted above, Paredes was convicted of missing movement and sentenced to "two months restriction, three months hard labor without confinement, and reduction in rank to E-1." Though Paredes was unable to literally "put the Iraq War on trial" as a defense strategy, he was able to bring it up during sentencing.

Professor Marjorie Cohn testified that the Iraq war was illegal under international and United States law. After lengthy cross-examination by the prosecution, the "exasperated" judge commented ""I think the government has successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal. "

-note: all quotes taken from

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Aztlan Vietnam and Iraq

A special investigative report on the National Day of Action to Support GI Resisters by Simon Fitzgerald

Special thanks to Jorge Mariscal

As published in Left Turn

From May 10th to 12th peace advocates are holding rallies around the United States to "Put the Iraq War on Trial." This National Day of Action for GI Resisters, organized with ex-soldiers like Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Aidan Delgado, is set to coincide with the beginning of Paredes' court martial ( ) in San Diego for his refusal to serve in the Iraq War. The prominence of Latinos among war resisters is enough to remind Californians and other Americans of the prominent Vietnam era Chicano anti-war movement. Indeed, the similarities of today's activism with the Chicano Moratorium go much deeper.

The Relationship with Iraq

While Latinos now comprise a lower percentage of the military than in society at large, this group suffered a disproportionately large number of casualties and fatalities in the invasion of Iraq. One possible explanation is that these soldiers are more concentrated in the lower levels of the service than any other ethnicity. There are, of course, many reasons that these youth join the military: national pride, educational opportunities, or a fast track to citizenship in some non-citizens' cases. Unfortunately they are getting a close look at the reality of the Iraq conflict and an intimate understanding of the horrors of war.

The current wave of moral refusers of war such as Paredes, Delgado and Mejia have joined in with the active organizing of military families. Lead by Mejia's mother Maritza Castillo, a Florida group of soldiers’ relatives called "Latino Military Families" wrote a letter to military and civilian leaders in September 2003 to "fight for the return of our soldiers" in the Florida National Guard whose tour of duty was repeatedly extended. In San Diego itself, soldier support networks have sprouted up like the bilingual Proyecto Guerrero Azteca. The group, founded by Fernando Suarez del Solar after the death of his son Jesus in Iraq as a "voice against wars," works closely with Military Families Speak Out and the San Diego Military Counseling Project to offer moral and economic support to the families of soldiers and war fatalities. Another prominent goal is to find alternatives to military service for working class Latino youth.

Similarities with the Vietnam Era

This cast of characters is very much like the anti-war youth and ex-soldiers that became central to the fight against the war in Vietnam. The language of the May 10 events to "put the war on trial" echoes the sentiments of Chicano draft refusers such as Rosalio Munoz who announced in a Speech Refusing Induction (Chale con el Draft) "I accuse the government of the United States of America …, the draft, the entire social political and economic system of the U.S. of creating a funnel which shoots Mexican youth into Viet Nam to be killed and to kill innocent men, women and children." Furthermore, the growing movement against recruiters on high school campuses and current criticisms of “the poverty draft” mirror the Vietnam era rebellion against conscription.

Paredes and other former soldiers also follow on the heels of a previous generation of Latinos who survived war to produce anti-war poetry, essays, books and plays including Chicanos like Charley Trujillo, Ralph Molina and Luis Valdez and Nuyoricans like Pedro Pietri and Archie Menendez. In fact, the satirical set of theatrical "trials of the Iraq war" that are central to the May 10 events are very much based on the darkly humorous “Soldado Razo,” a staple of Chicano anti-war culture during the Vietnam era.

While Paredes credits ex military thinkers like Howard Zinn and Chalmers Johnson in the formation of his political character "men like Luis Valdez are inspiring how I (Pablo) choose to protest. We will soon be putting on a mock trial, … very Teatro Campesino, Luis Valdez style."

This mock trial shows the American people realizing that "Mr. Iraq WarOccupate" is guilty in the jury of Public Opinion with judge Howard Zein presiding. It is also not the only reincarnation of Teatro Campesino against the Iraq war. Vietnam veteran Ralph Molina has brought “Soldado Razo” up to date, featuring the music of anti-war Latino rockers Ozomatli and incorporating characters such as Paul Wolfowitz (Lobowitz), General Rumsfeld, and a recruiter. The new version is published on the University of California at San Diego website

Why are the movements simliar?

The similarities in protests are more likely due to the similar effects of the Iraq War and the Vietnam War. The unfortunate circumstances that drove much of the Chicano community to active resistance against the Vietnam War are replayed today in working class communities around the country. The issues being dealt with by soldier support groups such as San Diego Military Counseling Project are very similar phenomena to what Vietnam veterans and their communities had to overcome as Lea Ybarras records in "Vietnam Veteranos." These problems include unnoticed emotional trauma of returning GIs, the pain of military families "pending notification" after the Iraq body count rises, and the thousands of desertions since the beginning of the invasion.

It should not be surprising that much of the same themes, symbolism, archetypes, and actions that arose in the Vietnam era are currently coming out of Latino anti-war literature. This is not only because of the legacy of work passed on from the previous generation, but because much of the same pain, betrayal, loss, and violence that motivated communities into open resistance against the Vietnam war is being felt due to the invasion of Iraq and current militaristic policies.

The May 10th events will certainly not draw the crowd that National Chicano Moratorium did at the height of the Vietnam War in August of 1970. However, that rally ended with a police attack on the crowd and the assassination of active Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar as he sought refuge in a local business. It almost seems as if the government was opening an anti-Chicano offensive as part of the war effort. Hopefully, the National Day of Action to Support GI Resisters will signal the rapid growth of a unified movement of soldiers and military families working to end the occupation of Iraq by refusing immoral orders to carry it out.