Via: Workers World.
Rebellion grows against occupiers
For more than a week, mass protests against the U.N.’s occupation have broken out throughout Haiti, especially in Cap-Haïtien on its northern coast and Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital. Protests have also taken place in southern cities like Cayes and in the center of the country in Gonaïve.
What fueled these protests, which involved burning barricades, trenches, trees and rock piles placed across National Route 1 and city streets, as well as militant marches, were the raging cholera epidemic and the widespread belief among the people that U.N. troops have introduced the disease into their country. By Nov. 20, more than 1,100 Haitians had died of cholera, and nearly 20,000 were hospitalized.
However, it was clear from the protesters’ slogans, such as “Down with American imperialism! U.N. and cholera out of Haiti!” that there is an understanding that while the troops on the ground wear blue helmets embossed with ‘U.N.,’ it is the U.S. which calls the shots. (French TV5 news, Nov. 18).
The U.N.’s official role in Haiti has been to ensure stability, which is why its 12,000-member armed force, the Minustah, is officially called the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
Minustah has been the main military force in Haiti since June 2004, when it took over from a coalition of U.S., French and Canadian imperialist troops that occupied Haiti two months earlier. This was after the second coup against democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, when U.S. Special Forces kidnapped him to the Central African Republic. (See “Haiti: A Slave Revolution.”)
When the U.N. command structure was crushed by its headquarters’ collapse during the January earthquake, the U.S. rushed in more than 20,000 troops and seized control of Haiti’s air- and seaports. This kept many emergency supplies for aid organizations from arriving quickly and made a coordinated relief operation harder. Most land-based U.S. troops were withdrawn by mid-March.
When Hurricane Tomas threatened Haiti in early November, the Pentagon moved in the helicopter carrier Iwo Jima with “emergency supplies” and a brigade of Marines. Since Tomas spared Haiti from a major catastrophe, the country was spared another U.S. invasion. Both the act of sending the Iwo Jima and the U.S.’s so-called “humanitarian” troop invasion in January make it clear that the U.S. not only directs the work of Minustah, but is prepared to back it up militarily at the drop of a hat.
Thousands just came out in Cap-Haïtien, the country’s second-largest city. They threw rocks and blocked streets. After riot police fired on demonstrators, police stations at Barrière Bouteille and Pont Neuf were burned. A World Food Program warehouse in the city’s southeastern section was liberated.
Stanley Jean-Mary, a reporter for France 24 news service who is also a leftist and a community leader in Cap-Haïtien, writes, “For two years, we have had to deal with an irresponsible government, which was not prepared. After the earthquake, it gave up. Then there was Hurricane Tomas, followed by the cholera epidemic. The situation was falling apart but the government did not come to the aid of the people.
“When my neighbors learned that three people infected with cholera died overnight, we had a spontaneous mobilization to bring the whole neighborhood into the movement. A few blocks from here, another demonstration ended in a confrontation with the riot squad. A police station was burned and Minustah began firing tear gas. We defended ourselves by throwing rocks and building barricades.”
He continues, “We organized a mass meeting to discuss the significance of our independence gained Nov. 18, 1802, in the current context. Because Haiti is still occupied by foreign powers and by the U.N., which they direct.” (observers.france24.com, Nov. 19)
Minustah claimed that six of its soldiers were injured and that armed protesters fired on troops in Quartier Morin, on the outskirts of Cap-Haïtien. Two Haitians were killed, one protester and a passerby. Also, 19 people were injured in Cap-Haïtien. Fifteen people were shot at with bullets.
“We’d rather die from bullets than be decimated by the cholera epidemic,” Cap-Haïtien protesters shouted, while throwing rocks at the Minustah base. (AlterPresse, Nov. 15)
French TV5 on Nov. 18 and videos posted on AlterPresse, a Haitian Internet site, showed groups of 200 to 400 youth confronting Minustah in Port-au-Prince, using the tarp-camp on the Champs des Mars as a base. The Minustah were very aggressive, breaking out and tear gassing crowds of protesters. The youth running and dodging didn’t appear willing to leave the streets, except under major pressure.
The videos showed parents grabbing their children when tear gas was shot into their tents, running and dodging through the warren of tents in front of the collapsed National Palace and then ducking their heads in buckets of water to wash the tear gas out of their eyes and hair.
One demonstrator told TV5, “Down with U.S. imperialism! U.N. and its cholera out of Haiti.” Another demonstrator angrily said that foreigners want to impose neocolonial slavery on Haiti, turning back the clock before 1804 — the year Haiti proclaimed itself the first Black republic in the Western Hemisphere after a glorious and hard-fought struggle against Napoleon’s army.
At a recent forum in Harlem, Ray Laforest, a Haitian-American labor organizer and longtime political activist, called for all progressive forces to support the growing national uprising against the U.N./U.S. occupation of Haiti. This event, held at St. Mary’s Church, was sponsored by the Black is Back Coalition and the Harlem Tenants’ Council.