UN TRYING TO CARRY OUT WASHINGTON'S AGENDA IN HAITI
The recent posture of the United Nations appears to be one that is
finally yielding to United States pressure to be more forceful and
"aggressive" in its "disarmament" efforts.
On March 16th, the Washington-based propaganda arm of Haiti's right-wing elite, the Haiti Democracy Project, released their "findings and recommendations" based on a February delegation to Haiti. With respect to MINUSTAH, the HDP characterized the UN mission as too "passive" and "neither aggressive enough nor sufficiently nuanced" in their approach to the occupation and in their ability to prop up the U.S.-installed regime of de facto Prime Minister Gérard Latortue.
Notably, the report calls for the UN to "pursue its mandate more
aggressively," suggesting that they "add an air-mobile, quick-reaction
force" to the mission. The HDP suggest that "Canadian or French assets
would be the first choice for such a force." They call for more arrest
powers for the UN Civilian Police (CIVPOL), a 1,600-strong force that is led by Canadian police who are already well-trained in counterinsurgency operations against Native peoples in Canada.
The HDP appears highly concerned with establishing a certain kind of
security for the elections slated for later this year, including the
possibility of hiring private "security professionals" to police the
countryside, "and to stay until the HNP [Haitian National Police] force reaches eight thousand."
The HDP report was well-covered by the mainstream media, providing the
Bush administration and Haiti's puppet regime with a much-needed
infusion of justificatory propaganda to offset the considerable stir
caused by frequent protests calling for the restoration of democracy in Haiti, as well as recent human rights reports by the University of Miami and Harvard.
The news coverage was not confined to the HDP report. Days after the
report was issued, an HD spokesperson, Timothy Carney (a former U.S.
ambassador to Haiti) is cited in an obscure AP article alongside retired U.S. general Wesley Clark. The AP claimed that Clark was visiting Haiti as part of a "UN task force on Haiti."
Only partly true, Clark was actually there with other members of a
congressionally established "Task Force on the United Nations," which is to be overseen and reported on by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), a right-wing think tank. Under the guise of UN reform, the task force is comprised of mostly hawkish former U.S. political, military, and corporate officials, such as former Congressman Newt Gingrich,former Senator George J. Mitchell, and defense industry executives. The task force is funded by U.S. establishment organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Brookings Institution, who also helped establish the HDP in 2002.
According to AP, Clark "says the roughly 7600 UN troops and policemen in Haiti need U.S. help." Reflecting on his recent Haiti trip in his
personal weblog, Clark refers to the USIP task force as a "study group
whose purpose it is to recommend reforms of the UN." Clark describes how he and other task force members met with "officials and military
leaders, as well as the Haitian government and many Haitians." Referring to what he calls the U.S.'s "compelling interest in Haiti," Clark put the task force into clearer perspective:
"We can't have a 'failed state' right off our own shores," he said. "It is in our interest to help the island recover, build jobs, and crack down on insecurity and narcotrafficking. This is not a problem we can ignore."
Lamenting that "Haiti and the UN are far from the American mind," Clark points out that Americans "should be grateful" that the "UN is trying to do our work for us there."
Speaking with Juan Gabriel Valdes at a March 23rd USIP conference,
"Reconstructing and Stabilizing War-Torn States," Clark reframes the
HDP's concern over Haiti's scheduled elections, saying "I'm sure it's on many of your minds whether you'll have ballots coming after bullets...these things aren't, unfortunately, as clear as they should be..."
Valdes, who had just attended on March 18th a ministerial conference on the reconstruction of Haiti in the French colony, Guyana, outlined some of the key challenges that the UN Haiti mission faces. Calling on the need for the "persistence" of the international community, he notes how the "Latin American presence," which comprises the bulk of UN forces, "makes it different" to the extent that all of these different militaries bring to Haiti "their own concepts... of human rights, ideas to deal with urban gangs or urban soldiers, what to do with security in the midst of poverty."
Valdes boasts that "it's clear that there is no armed group that can
challenge the UN or government." Concerning the Chileans, US and French, he also points out that while able to control the situation in the wake of Aristide's overthrow, "it's clear that they didn't modify the level of power and of confrontation of the [armed] groups." MINUSTAH, says Valdes, "had to continue with this task of preventing the worst from happening." That is, from permitting Haitians to exercise self-determination. Valdes further puts into context MINUSTAH's role in unequivocally supportingthe illegal Latortue regime and the increasingly militarized Haitian police. Overall echoing Clark and the HDP, he also calls for better intelligence to facilitate arrests in certain neighborhoods.
Added to this context should be the recent visit of U.S. Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Argentina, Brazil, and Guatemala, on March
22nd through 23rd. The LA Times reported that Rumsfeld's trip was "to
raise support for peacekeeping efforts in Haiti and to expand ties with Latin America." According to IPS, Rumsfeld expressed "particular praise for the role played by Brazilian troops in Haiti." Said Rumsfeld prior to departing: "We have had a good relationship with their efforts in Haiti, where the three [Brazil, Argentina and Guatemala] of them are involved." Guatemala received the most tangible reward for their efforts in Haiti, by way of a $15 million resumption of military aid.
Other news out of Chile - which has been a part of Haiti's occupation
since Aristide's forced ouster - suggests the U.S. is playing a more
direct military role in he MINUSTAH operation than generally known. On
March 24th, the Department of Defense U.S. Marine Corps News reported
that U.S. Marines "teamed up with their Chilean counterparts to exchange tactics with the Chilean Marines in preparation for their second deployment to the Caribbean state." The tactics focussed mainly on guerilla warfare, termed "Operations in urban terrain and urban
patrolling," with some training in "Close Quarters Battle techniques"
for good measure.
With these developments in mind, one can more easily decipher recent
headlines which describe an emboldened UN occupation force that is more intent on "disarming" elements in poor neighborhoods such as Cité Soleil and Bel Air. It is from these neighborhoods that increasingly large mobilizations have been taking place, demanding the return of deposed President Aristide. On March 29th, on the anniversary of Haiti's constitution, large demonstrations took place in Port-au-Prince, Cap HaVtien, Mirogoâne, Jérémie and Hinche.
But clearly, removing gus from the hands of Haiti's increasingly
polarized antagonists will not be easy. On April 3rd, MINUSTAH troops
patrolling the outskirts of Cité Soleil engaged in a fierce firefight
with armed men from that sprawling slum. A U.N. spokesman claimed that
at least five gunmen were killed or wounded, but that no MINUSTAH troops were hurt.
On April 5th, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Rigoberta Menchu and Adolfo
Pérez Esquivel visited Haiti to investigate the human rights situation. Starting at about 3 p.m., heavy automatic gunfire began in unison in different corners of the capital such as Delmas 18, Delmas 33, Nazon, Turgeau, Fort National, Champ de Mars, and Poste Marchand, sending the city's residents running for cover. A large vehicle was also burned on Nazon. While it was not clear at press time which political sector was behind the clearly coordinated fusillades, it augured ill for the MINUSTAH's much ballyhooed disarmament campaign.
Another twist found Gérard Latortue expressing frustration over the lag in lifting the embargo on U.S. arms and police supplies to Haiti. This is a possible sign that this embargo, put in place over a decade ago, will finally be lifted, better enabling the HNP to "establish security" for elections in autumn. According to the Haitian Press Agency, Latortue has mused that he might just purchase arms on the black market if the U.S. does not make good on its previous assurances.
Clearly, the noose it tightening on Haiti's poor neighborhoods where
support for democracy's return is strongest. Reminiscent of decolonization struggles such as in Algeria 50 years ago, Haiti's poor
will now face an even uglier UN acting primarily in the interests of
U.S. neo-con foreign policy and Haiti's right-wing elites